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New powers to tackle air and noise pollution will lead to a ‘cleaner, healthier and greener future’

Bydd pwerau newydd i fynd i’r afael â llygredd aer a sŵn yn arwain at ‘ddyfodol glanach, iachach a gwyrddach’

Climate Change Minister Julie James has said new powers to tackle air and noise pollution will lead to a cleaner, healthier and greener Wales.

The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill was introduced to the Senedd on Monday 20 March, giving the Welsh Government greater ability to tackle air and noise pollution.

The new Bill is part of a package of measures to improve the quality of the air environment in Wales.

It will give powers to Welsh Government to introduce new long-term targets for air quality under a national framework taking account of the latest scientific knowledge including the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines

The Bill will help create low emission zones on Welsh Government trunk roads where needed and will give local authorities more power to tackle vehicle idling.

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “Our Programme for Government sets out a commitment to introduce a Clean Air Bill for Wales and I am delighted we have reached the first stage in our legislative journey which will lead the way to a cleaner, healthier and greener future.”

“By introducing this Bill, our ambition is to further improve air quality and soundscapes by bringing forward new measures to reduce the impacts of air and noise pollution on human health, biodiversity and the natural environment.”

“The scale and scope of the Bill reflects our commitment to improving the quality of our air environment at a Wales-wide level, at a local and regional level and throughout society.

The Bill also proposes a progressive obligation on Welsh Ministers to introduce a national soundscapes strategy. Wales will be the first nation in the UK to make this commitment.

This will put onus on Welsh Government to make policies that not only tackle unwanted noise, but also protect sounds that matter to people, like the relaxing calls of birdsong and nature, or the welcoming hum of a vibrant town centre.

The soundscapes strategy is in response to emerging science on the impacts of sounds on our health and well-being, as well as that of animals. If passed, Wales will be the first country in the UK to introduce such plans.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, said: “There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of serious illness and unwanted or harmful noise can not only cause hearing damage but also reduces our quality of life.

“Across government we are already taking action to improve the air we breathe and promote healthy soundscapes.

“The Bill goes further and aims to make our air cleaner and our sound environments better. This is why I fully endorse the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) Bill for Wales.”

Joseph Carter, Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Head of Asthma + Lung UK Cymru, said:

“We should be able to walk down the street knowing the air we breathe is safe and healthy. The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, introduced to the Senedd today, is the crucial next step in making this happen.

“Air pollution is one of the most pressing public health issues we face, contributing to the deaths of over 2000 people a year in Wales. It affects the most vulnerable in our society who have done the least to cause it, and it is especially damaging to our children’s developing lungs. Furthermore, it is bad for the planet, since some of the air pollutants emitted by our vehicles are causing the climate to warm up.

“This clean air legislation is not only a huge win for Welsh lungs but also an important milestone in our journey towards a greener, fairer, and healthier future, where we walk and cycle more and use the car less. We call on all parties to work together to make this Bill as strong as possible.”

Notes to editors

Notes to editor

Why is the new Bill important for Wales?

The World Health Organisation has described air and noise pollution as significant environmental risks to public health.

Air quality

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk, globally. Long-term exposure over several years to air pollutants, including fine particles and nitrogen dioxide, can reduce life expectancy, contribute to the development of heart and lung disease and may cause lung cancer.. In children, it can reduce lung growth and aggravate asthma symptoms. It is estimated that the mortality burden of long‐term exposure to outdoor air pollution in Wales is equivalent to 1,200 to 2,000 deaths of people aged 30 years and over. It is important to note that these are not actual deaths; the estimate relates to air pollution being regarded as contributing to mortality.

So, where are these harmful pollutants coming from? They come from a range of sources, including our transport choices, the way we heat our homes, generate power, and the way our factories produce our goods. Air pollution can also contribute to climate change and is harmful to wildlife and the natural environment, including our plants and trees.


Unwanted or harmful sounds can disrupt sleep and increase levels of stress, irritation and fatigue, as well as interfering with important activities such as learning, working and relaxing. They can reduce people’s quality of life, and exposure to loud sounds can cause immediate or gradual hearing damage.

Exposure to noise in the long term can increase risk of high blood pressure, and its related illnesses including cardiovascular disease.

The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill

The Bill covers eight different topics.  In summary, it will:

  • provide a framework for setting national air quality targets;
  • amend existing legislation relating to:
    • o the national air quality strategy,
    • o local air quality management,
    • o smoke control,
    • o trunk road charging schemes; and
    • o vehicle idling;
  • place a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution;
  • place a duty on Welsh Ministers to publish a national soundscapes strategy, and
  • give the Welsh Ministers a power to amend existing legislation relating to noise.

The Bill is a crucial part of a package of measures set out in our Clean Air Plan to reduce airborne pollution and improve the air environment in Wales.

As part of this package of measures, the Bill will facilitate improvements in the quality of our air environment at a Wales-wide level, at a local and regional level and throughout society. It will also contribute to our response to the climate and nature emergencies, alongside efforts to reduce inequalities.

We will continue working in partnership with local authorities as we take this Bill forward.  On 21 March, the Welsh Government will announce the launch of a Local Air Quality Management Support Fund. The fund will make £1m of funding available in financial year 2023/24 to support local authorities in improving local air quality. This is in addition to the £450,000 we have awarded over the past two financial years through pilot phases of the scheme.

By introducing this legislation, we also aim to maximise our contribution to the sustainable development principle of the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 (WFGA) to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.