After much preparatory work, I am delighted to be able to take this opportunity to confirm the recent publication of Wales’ Climate Change Strategy, a document that articulates the measures that the Welsh Assembly Government and its partners in the public, private and third sectors will undertake to tackle this most profound of challenges.
Our principle target is of year-on-year reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 3%, which taken with the cuts already made should lead to a reduction of at least 40% by 2020 against 1990 emission levels.
Targets and commitments are crucial in conveying the level of our ambition and the importance of both benchmarking progress and ensuring that Government is held to account.
In addition to outlining a comprehensive approach to behaviour change, the Strategy confirms the leadership role to be played by the Assembly Government and wider public sector, and emphasises the importance of increased energy efficiency and low carbon transport.
Attention is paid to the skills needed by the low carbon economy, and we grasp that our approach to research and development, technology and innovation must be tailored to help Wales gain maximum benefit from climate change related business and research.
It is our intention that land use and spatial planning fully promote the importance of sustainable development, and that we as a nation, a society and economy are well placed to adapt to climate change impacts.
Before I address the issue of how best to facilitate the exchange of best practice, I would like to briefly outline our approach to emission reduction.
Designed on a sector-by-sector basis, specific measures have been set against six distinct yet inter-related areas: transport, business, residential improvements, agriculture and land use, resource efficiency and waste, and the public sector.
Specific actions include: ∙
- The development of Sustainable Travel Centres, and promotion of eco-driving, walking and cycling
- Investments in bus and rail services, improvements to traffic management and the promotion of electric and hydrogen vehicle infrastructure
- Enhanced support for businesses, including Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
- Support for Green Jobs
- Better sharing of good practice across businesses
- The minimisation of waste and its use as a resource
- The installation of cost-effective energy efficiency measures in all households and area-based approaches to domestic energy efficiency
- Agriculture and land management schemes targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Additional woodland creation
- Advice and support to farmers and land managers
I am of the firm belief that the success of policy which accurately identifies the problem at hand, and the opportunities posed, wholly depends on securing the input of stakeholders with a vested interest and those agencies and organisations with related expertise.
The Climate Change Strategy is no different, and it reflects the outcomes of two wide-ranging public consultation exercises and the input of both Wales’s Climate Change Commission and the UK Committee on Climate Change.
It would be derelict for Government to discount such opinion in proposing a way forward. The exchange of expertise and best practice is the indispensable pre-condition of effective policy development.
While we do not believe we have all the answers, we can state with some confidence that we have identified certain key actions that will facilitate the low carbon transition, and we are keen to disseminate our findings to as wide an audience as possible.
With that in mind, we have published a suite of summary booklets highlighting the actions and contributions of the transport, public, communities and third sectors, in addition to a separate booklet tailored for our international partners.
Similarly, many of those contributed to the consultation exercises leading up to the publication of the Strategy offered instructive examples of work to reduce emissions, encourage meaningful behaviour change and adapt to climate change impacts. To preserve and publicise this work, it is our intention to establish an online directory of best practice.
An effective response to climate change needs action at all levels – and while international action is of indisputable importance, we are committed to demonstrating what is possible domestically, sparking interest and encouraging new thinking.
For example, while delivery of our 3% target will require concerted effort by the Assembly Government, we have also been explicit in stating that action by communities, by businesses and by the wider public sector is as crucial.
Networks such as communiversity bring together the leaders of a number of inspirational projects across Wales, all determined to enhance the wellbeing of their communities and to contribute to the climate change agenda.
The Low Carbon Communities Challenge that we are delivering with the UK Government identifies and funds community-based capital projects testing different approaches.
By studying the initiatives funded by the Challenge – permaculture techniques, low carbon manufacturing and community-owned hydro- and wind-turbines – other communities might be inspired to take action. Going forward, it is important that these voices continue to be heard.
Access to advice and good practice is the hallmark of Wales’ Ynni’r Fro programme, an initiative designed to expand community-based renewable energy projects. By making available the support of expert technical development officers, community groups are trained and supported to undertake related feasibility studies.
As a developed nation and one committed to the principles of sustainable development and social justice, I believe that Wales has a moral duty to aid those somewhat less able to respond to the challenges that lie ahead. Nothing better exemplifies this than our Territorial Approach to Climate Change partnership project with the Mbale region of Uganda, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UK Department for International Development.
Formally launched in October, the TACC partnership will help Mbale to assess its climate change vulnerabilities, measure changes in weather patterns and work out how it can adapt to changing weather and environment conditions. Once complete, Mbale will be well placed to access international climate change funding streams. The project may also provide new opportunities for Welsh environmental businesses.
The next stage of the TACC will be a Project Inception meeting, bringing together all the partners involved to talk about practical implementation.
I'm very pleased to say that a Project Manager, who will co-ordinate and lead the activities in Mbale, was appointed only last Friday and should be in place very soon. We are all keen, but especially our partners in Mbale, to begin the core activities of this project. We will also be involving Oxfam in Uganda to help facilitate the process and particularly our engagement with local communities. I am also delighted that the Danish International Development Agency DANIDA has just agreed to co-fund the project. Running alongside this important work is support and funding by the Wales-based Waterloo Foundation to plant a million trees in Mbale and nearby districts. The planting has begun and actively involves three local NGOs and a social enterprise. Each has some experience of tree planting but the partnership has made possible for the first time the means to share this expertise and to maximise all available resources to ensure that as many people as possible in the region are equipped with the necessary skills. We can only hope that this work will have a practical and direct impact in slowing the rates of deforestation on Mbale’s mountainous slopes. It was this that served to compound the devastating rainfall earlier this year that led to landslides resulting in the deaths of over 300 people.
The Welsh Assembly Government also directly funds another scheme that sends volunteer managers and leaders from Wales on eight-week placements to sub-Saharan Africa, to help build the capacity of public service organisations.
Health Service managers from Wales have already supported the development of the local NGOs in Mbale, and at the beginning of the New Year Environment Agency professionals from Wales will begin placements in Mbale in support of the TACC project to develop engagement and reporting systems for the TACC project within Mbale, a plant to address the issue of water within the Mbale region, and monitoring and evaluation systems. Mbale is of course but one region in one developing nation, but our work there is a foundation that we fully intend to build upon.
We see our partnership project as the important first step in a wider programme of support for those countries in which impacts of climate change are likely to prove severe.
While there is much that we in Wales and others might do to learn from others, we should recognise that great strides have been made in recent years. Although self-congratulation must be studiously avoided, there is much of which we can be proud, particularly the networks in agencies that are already in place and which are uniquely able to raise the profile of climate change and to propose innovative responses. With that in mind, I would like to recognise the achievements of nrg4SD, which has done much to promote collaboration and raise awareness of sustainable development. A founding member of the network, Wales has been a keen and active supporter of its work and, I would hope, in the future.
Alongside organisations such as The Climate Group - which has brought together states, regions with businesses to add impetus to government commitments, and to develop and share good practice - nrg4SD has accomplished a great deal in raising the profile of the invaluable work being taken forward by regions across the globe to keep the climate change and low carbon agendas at the forefront of policymakers’ minds. It is absolutely fundamental that this work continues. Thank you.