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New legislation has today (Tuesday, November 28) been passed in the Senedd, giving the Welsh Government greater powers to improve air quality and reduce noise pollution across Wales.

First published:
28 November 2023
Last updated:

The World Health Organisation has described air pollution as the world’s largest single environmental health risk and noise pollution as the second largest risk in Western Europe.

The Bill, which was introduced to the Senedd in March 2023, implements measures that contribute to improvements in the quality of the air environment in Wales and reduces the impacts of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and our economy.

The Bill further supports delivery of a crucial package of measures set out in our Clean Air Plan for Wales to improve the air environment in Wales.

It also gives the Welsh Government powers to make policies that tackle unwanted noise and protect sounds that matter to people, like the relaxing calls of birdsong and nature, or the welcoming hum of a vibrant town centre.

The Welsh Government is the first government in the UK to bring forward legislation that requires governmental consideration of soundscapes, and the Bill places a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution and to publish a progressive national soundscapes strategy.

Climate Change Minister, Julie James, said:

“I am delighted the Bill has been passed by the Senedd. This demonstrates a collective commitment to support preventative action in relation to air, noise and soundscapes to achieve public health and environmental improvements.

“This Bill enables us to deliver enhanced air quality targets for Wales, with strengthened duties for Welsh Ministers to set out how we will improve our air environment. It also improves our legislative powers to better manage air quality at the local and regional level. Finally, it sets out important new duties for Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution, alongside ways of reducing its impact.

“We must empower this generation and future generations with knowledge of the impacts of air pollution and the steps they can take to minimise their exposure to it.

“Now is the time for action. I look forward to the continued collaborative working with delivery partners, stakeholders and the public to implement the Bill.”

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, said:

“Wales already has a strong track record of leading the way on protecting the health of the public. The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill shows the dedication and commitment across government to improve the air we breathe and promote healthy soundscapes.

“We know exposure to air and noise pollution can increase the risk of serious illness, impact our wellbeing, and reduce our quality of life. This is why I am delighted this legislation has become law. By making our air cleaner and our sound environment better we can improve public health for current and future generations.