COP21 is unprecedented opportunity to accelerate global action: Welsh Minister Sargeant

Reading time: 6 minutes
18 November 2015

Ahead of the COP21 global climate talks Paris, Minister for Natural Resources, Welsh Government - which is a member of The Climate Group's States & Regions - writes about the unprecedented opportunity to accelerate global action that the negotiations represent for sub-national governments around the world. 

The importance of the Paris COP - bringing the countries of the world together to secure an international climate agreement and act on the overwhelming scientific evidence - is well documented.  The momentum for change that is now being generated, in particular by the strength of engagement from businesses and cities and the action being taken at a local level, is increasing the likelihood of the step change needed.  However what we, as Ministers and Premiers representing state and regional governments from across the world, will be coming to add to the Summit is not just our desire that an agreement is reached, but more fundamentally our examples of leadership, ambition and collective commitment to grasp the opportunity to accelerate delivery.

I’m proud of our track record in Wales, in working for more than 10 years to highlight the role that state and regional governments can play if we are to tackle climate change and make sustainable development a reality.  The responsibilities of governments at our level cover areas that directly impact people’s everyday lives - like housing, land use planning and transport.  They also encompass areas that directly regulate many of the key issues - like pollution and waste.  This means that we are responsible for many of the functions and oversee many of the policies that need to change to bring about a global transition.  The fact that the Summit in Paris will see the largest representation of state and regional governments to date is therefore significant; particularly as we already bring a track record and commitment to ambitious action.  

We have taken what we believe is a game-changing step to lay the foundation for our future.  By passing a law earlier this year, called the Well-being of Future Generations Act, we have formally placed sustainable development at the heart of our public services and legislated for a set of goals – linked to the UN’s Global Goals – that set a clear path to a sustainable future.  In addition, our action in areas like waste and energy efficiency, not only demonstrates progress on climate change, but is underpinned by a focus on economic, social and environmental benefit.  Our aim though is to go further. In our Environment Bill, which is currently before our National Assembly, are provisions that put the requirement to manage of our natural resources sustainably into legislation and move beyond climate change targets to carbon budgeting. 

Wales is certainly not alone in taking innovative action and our partner governments also have impressive achievements to showcase.  Even more significantly, the collaboration by state and regional governments is demonstrating the ability to deliver at a global scale.  The Under 2 MoU developed by California and Baden-Württemberg, to which we are a founding signatory now covers 57 jurisdictions from 19 countries.  The Compact of States and Regions committing to transparent reporting and accountability now covers more than 325 million citizens and 10% of the global economy and brings together commitments with a potential to save more than the combined annual emissions of the US and EU by 2030. These two initiatives have already caused a stir in the corridors of the global discussion, but there is more to come…

In representing Wales at Paris, I will be focused on seeking to build on our partnerships to further accelerate action – particularly in our role as Vice Presidents of the international Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) and as members of The Climate Group’s Alliance of States and Regions.  That said, I am pleased to be heading to Paris as part of the UK delegation.  As Government’s we share a common desire for an ambitious global agreement that recognises and delivers against the scientific imperative.  Going forward, it is vital that there is a partnership approach between nation states and regional governments - as well as cities, local governments and other sectors – that recognises each other’s respective responsibilities in order to give the best possible chance of delivering against an agreement.    

 
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