We are the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. Through advocacy, advice and
appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy

Wales Can Lead Change, says Commissioner Peter Davies

6 September 2007

September 2007

The imperative for sustainable development grows day by day. Dramatic examples of breaching of environmental limits such as the evidence of climate change point to the need for a step change in the scale and speed of transformation needed in society here and worldwide.

Wales has the vision and potential for a sustainable future, where action for social, economic and environmental improvement work together to create positive change. Ministers are justly proud of the fact they operate one of the few administrations in the world that has a duty to promote and ensure sustainable development. This duty marks Wales out as being different and should ensure all policy takes account of the needs of future generations and is designed to establish a just, healthy society that lives within environmental limits

The Sustainable Development Commission in Wales intends to play its full part in contributing to this change. The Sustainable Development Commission was established in 2000 as Government’s independent advisory body, reporting to the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with a remit is to provide evidence based advice to Government on issues relating to sustainability, advocate sustainable development across all sectors and deliver an independent review of progress.

This remit is delivered through evidence-based public reports on critical issues, such as nuclear power, wind and our current review of tidal energy, which incorporates the Severn Barrage; drawing on expert opinion to advise key ministers, policy makers and stakeholders across Wales; and responding openly to Government policy initiatives
stimulating debates on controversial subjects.

Our work is based on the recognition that sustainable development is not a trade off - actions which breach global environmental limits cannot be sustainable, but neither can initiatives which respect those limits but are socially divisive or economically unviable. Climate Change is the most graphic and pressing example of what happens when we breach environmental limits, yet a response based on principles of sustainable development can provide lasting solutions. A well designed zero carbon development can foster community cohesion, improve health, reduce crime, minimise environmental impact and reduce the long term costs for its citizens - a vision that can become a reality if we meet the Assembly Government’s aspiration that all new buildings are zero carbon by 2011. Equally the Government’s commitment to a green jobs strategy a can provide high quality jobs in growth sectors, that can deliver a low carbon economy

This is an exciting time for Wales, with the Government of Wales Act conferring Ministers with new powers to address Welsh issues in new ways. The new Government has rightly identified climate change as being top priority, as it represents the most evident impact and symptom of our unsustainable society. The agenda for Government, set out in the “One Wales” document provides a clear framework for action including targets for reducing CO2 emissions by 3% per year in areas of devolved responsibility by 2011. The proposed new Climate Change Commission will play an important leadership role across Welsh society to ensure that we all play a role in tackling the underlying root causes of climate change.

Government alone cannot make the change, we need to work together in communities across Wales to build on our distinctive strengths to work towards a sustainable future for Wales. The lessons from our work show that for this to happen Government needs to build trust through setting an example, support people in working together, build on practical examples that work and ensure that change is based on social justice.
Wales led the world in the first industrial revolution that was based on exploiting our resources of carbon in the form of coal, we must now play a leading role in creating a new low carbon future which will be vital to ensuring a future for generations to come.

< Back