This week we start a new Assembly term with a reshuffled Welsh Government team, with Carl Sargeant taking on responsibility for climate change, on the eve of a UN summit challenging world leaders to cut climate emissions and tackle climate change. The first time in five years global leaders have met to discuss this issue.
There is a strong cross-party commitment in Wales to tackle climate change and for Wales to play its role by cutting our carbon emissions. Wales led the way in introducing an annual carbon emission reduction target of 3% in the One Wales programme for government and followed it a few years later with a cross party commitment to cut all our emissions 40% by 2020. And there has been action from the Welsh Government, such as the Arbed home energy efficiency programme and statutory recycling targets.
But, as the recent Assembly Research paper shows, emissions in Wales as a whole went up 5% in the last year we have records for (2011-2012), and emissions for the things we use and consume – which the 3% annual cuts relate to – only reduced by 2%.
If we continue like this we’ll break the promise to cut our emissions and lose our reputation for leading the way on green issues.
This is despite the most rigorous scientific evidence, produced by the IPCC earlier this year, confirming unequivocally not only the science of climate change but the urgency and scale of action necessary to keep us within a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius and mitigate against some of the worst impacts of climate change.
We’re badly in need of a revived and re-energised approach to climate change in Wales – a recommitment to the targets unanimously agreed by the Assembly, and a definite action plan for how to achieve it, including assessing the carbon impact of major strategies, projects and the annual budget. We have previously set out the case here for these measures, and for climate targets to be put into law in Wales. The Well-Being of Future Generations Bill provides an ideal opportunity.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st century and we must take immediate action to tackle this. Otherwise we face environmental, economic, cultural and social impacts which will affect future generations, and disproportional impact people in poverty within Wales and across the globe.
Yet despite the seriousness, twice in three months the Welsh Government has postponed its promised policy refresh.
This could be a real positive for Wales, not just environmentally but for tackling poverty and developing a low carbon economy, as the new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate shows.
In a survey of public perceptions of climate change in Wales published by the Climate Change Consortium of Wales last year, 84% of respondents were concerned about climate change, 73% of respondents agreed that Wales should aim to set an example to the outside world when it comes to addressing climate change, 80% were concerned about the effects of climate change in developing countries and 90% were concerned about the effects on wildlife and the natural world.
And tackling climate change is vital to ensuring the well-being of present and future generations. The report prepared as a result of the National Conversation ‘The Wales We Want’ earlier this year identified climate change as being the most critical issue for the well-being of future generations.
Last week a wide range of influential Welsh organisations signed Stop Climate Chaos Cymru’s open letter to the Welsh Government, calling for leadership and firm action to tackle climate change for the love of all the things we care about and will be affected by climate change – our family, our coastline or even a cup of coffee. Many of those organisations will be representing Wales at the London Climate March this Sunday.
We have high hopes that the new Minister can grasp the work started by his predecessors and deliver a plan of action. It’s vital there isn’t further delay.