Wales: building on a solid legislative program and taking bold climate action

Reading time: 5 minutes
10 November 2016

by Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Welsh Government

The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) is well under way, which for many signals frantic preparations for negotiations, full days of intense meetings and a show of leadership and collective action around climate change. For me, it’s an opportunity to take an active part in a number of events and meetings highlighting the significant impact we are making in Wales, as well as having a chance to learn from others.

This builds on lasts year’s COP21 in Paris. 2015 was a momentous year; two historic global agreements were made around sustainable development and action on climate change and the time has now come for us to deliver on these commitments.

As the global community is continuing to create a shared vision for the world we want, in Wales we are securing, in law, actions to achieve the Wales we want.

Over the last year, we have been putting in place the UN’s objectives around Sustainable Development, Biological Diversity and Climate Change through our legislative program.

Wales was one of the first countries in the world to have, in law, a reference to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Our innovative Well-being of Future Generations Act sets ambitious and long-term goals to reflect the Wales we want to see, both now and in the future. The goals include a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales with cohesive communities. Alongside the goals, we have now set objectives and an indicator framework to ensure we can measure our progress.  We have also uniquely appointed a Future Generations Commissioner, providing advice and scrutiny on all aspects of sustainable development and climate change.

We have also strengthened our legislative commitments around climate change through the Environment Act, where we have set a long term goal for a minimum of 80% emission reduction by 2050, as well as a series of interim targets and 5 yearly carbon budgets at the state level. For example, we are committed to encouraging the use of renewable energy and in 2017, all electricity bought by our National Procurement Service for the Public Sector will be 100% renewable. The acts were purposely designed with the international context in mind recognising, although we are a small country we still have a global responsibility.

So where are we now?

Over the last year we have worked hard to set the legislative framework in place. However, the challenge really begins now, amidst a changing national and international landscape. The decision for the UK to leave the EU will have a profound impact on our agricultural and environmental policy in Wales, which has been devolved for the last 17 years and one of my priorities is to look at how we continue to safeguard our rural and environmental interests. There has never been such an important and opportunistic time to do something different. If we are to succeed and deliver on these agreements, we need to work together globally to deliver collective action and, more importantly, to share knowledge, resources, ideas and innovation. 

In Wales, our sustainable development act requires us to work by thinking about the long term, prevention, integration, collaboration and involvement.   These principles are not just important for our decisions in Wales but also for our work with international partners and key networks around sustainable development and climate change such as nrg4SD and The Climate Group.  Earlier this year we worked with The Climate Group, which along with the support of the States and Regions Alliance helped highlight our Green Growth program on an international stage. These networks show what collective action can achieve.

Wales and other members of The Climate Group’s States & Region Alliance have made a commitment to ambitious mitigation through the Memorandum of Understanding on Subnational Global Climate Leadership (also known as the Under2 MoU), which covers 32 countries spanning six continents and collectively represents more than US$22 trillion in GDP - equivalent to more than a quarter of the global economy.

At COP21, the Welsh Government became a founding signatory of the RegionsAdapt initiative, which focuses on the adaptation actions we can deliver as state and regional Governments. This highlights how partnerships working at state and regional level can deliver action on a global scale. More widely, the agreement continues the commitment to help developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Our Wales for Africa program is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and over the past five years, over 4.2 million trees have been planted in Mbale, Uganda. The project focuses on poverty alleviation and climate change adaptation and mitigation. As a result of this project, dozens of community-based tree nurseries promoting agri-forestry across the Mbale region have been created, which has raised the awareness of climate change for thousands of people, both in Uganda but also at home in Wales.

These networks are some of the most progressive states and regions, acting as catalysts for innovation and delivery, focusing on different areas. The collective knowledge through these networks gives us an opportunity to succeed. The Paris Agreement not only united countries to commit to global decarbonization, but businesses and citizens also came together calling for further action. Never has there been an issue that requires such ambitious and collective action from everyone. The Paris Agreement has now been ratified, it is time to come together and deliver, and Wales is very ready to play its part.

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