How can Wales harness international momentum in tackling climate change?

PhD student Katharina Hone discusses how the UN Climate Summit and global protests can impact on climate change policy in Wales

This weekend and early next week, two big events on climate change action will take place in New York. On September 23rd the UN Climate Change Summit will take place on the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 122 heads of government are expected to attend. Two days earlier, the streets of New York and other major cities across the world will be flooded with the People’s Climate March which the organisers call “a weekend to bend history.” The urgency behind the two events stems from the need to negotiate a binding global agreement on emission reduction and support for developing countries by the end of 2015.

However, despite the crucial importance of a global deal, two things should not be forgotten. First, regional and local partners have a place at the global negotiation table. Second, all action happens locally; there is no substitute for the implementation of climate goals through the activities of people living their lives and managing their businesses. From this perspective, Wales is a partner in the fight for climate action as well as an important actor.

At the global negotiations on climate change and sustainability, Wales acts as para-diplomat. For example, at last year’s UNFCCC negotiations in Warsaw, First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones said that he wants ”Wales to continue to lead by example. The UN event is an opportunity for us to learn from others and to share our own experience and our own vision with people from across the world.” While diplomacy is a game dominated by sovereign states, one aspect that should not be underestimated is the possibility to acquire symbolic capital through attending and speaking at high-level diplomatic events. It is this symbolic capital that can then be brought home to galvanize further action.

However, with regard to the upcoming summit, it seems that Wales is missing out as it will not be represented at the UN Climate Change Summit. The First Minister will not be attending and there not will be any other involvement from the Welsh government. It is hard to judge whether or not this is a missed opportunity.

Yet, there is ample reason to look ahead. As world leaders are meeting in New York, the Climate Change Commission for Wales will be holding its next meeting on the 24th and 25th of September. Two of the main points will be The Well Being of Future Generations Bill and the Climate Change Strategy Refresh undertaken by the Welsh Government. Especially the latter is a much needed and much awaited document at this time.

But just like the global stage, political will needs to be galvanized. Wales has a non-legally binding target of 40% emission reduction, compared to a 1990 base level, by 2020. However, the First Minister recently announced that Wales is lagging behind.

Yet, it seems that there is potential to remedy this situation. Recent studies show that the most economic growth is coming from the energy and environment sector. Further, there is a clear recognition in Wales that climate change is a threat. The destructive coastline flooding this Winter serves as a crucial reminder of that.

If we had to take two ingredients from what is happening in New York this weekend and the coming week, what is needed is high-level political commitment and a march on the street. Maybe, as the former Welsh Minister for Environment said upon returning from Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in 2012, “[n]ow is the time to take action and recognise that regional governments really can make a difference.”

Katharina Hone can be found tweeting at @kathone.  She studies International Relations at Aberystwyth University.

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New term, new Minister, same challenges

This blog was published on the Click on Wales site on September 17th, the original can be read here .

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.

Haf Elgar, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru

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An open letter to the Welsh Government

[Scroll down for Welsh]

Dear Minister

We all love different things that will be affected by climate change. It could be our family, our beautiful coastline or even a nice cup of coffee.

And we’ve already seen things that we love damaged and hurt. Here in Wales, winter storms and floods have harmed our communities and our wildlife. In developing countries, we’ve seen harvests destroyed, leading to hunger.

Through the IPCC reports, scientists made it clear that we need to act quickly. We must make major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to tackle this threat.

Yet according to recent figures, Wales’ emissions went up in 2012.

We have a target to cut our emissions by 40% by 2020, based on 1990 levels. But with just a quarter of the time remaining, we are less than half way there.

If we continue like this, we will break the commitment of cutting our emissions.

On 21st September, people will show support for action to tackle climate change at demonstrations across the world, including London. These take place ahead of the world leaders’ summit on climate action convened by Ban Ki-moon.

He has asked these leaders to use the Summit to announce bold actions to address climate change. He wants them to set out how they will reduce emissions, make us more resilient to the effects of climate change and mobilise political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

The people of Wales have spoken too. The recent “The Wales We Want” report put climate change at the top of public concerns for the wellbeing of future generations.

So we want you to take action.

In the next few months, the Welsh Government can show leadership on climate change. It can follow the rhetoric with firm action.

Your Climate Change Strategy ‘Refresh’ must show renewed commitment. It must include a clear plan, across all government departments, to reduce emissions. We want you to set climate targets in law, based on science. And the Well-being of Future Generations Bill must make tackling climate change a key part of public bodies’ decision-making and future planning.

For the love of Wales, and the world, we call on you to show leadership and deliver on your commitments.

Haf Elgar, Chair, Stop Climate Chaos Cymru

Kieran O’Brien, CAFOD Wales

Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes – Wales

Anne Meikle, Head of WWF Cymru

Kirsty Davies, Head of Oxfam Cymru

Gareth Clubb, Director, Friends of the Earth Cymru

Cathrin Daniel, Head of Christian Aid Wales

Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive Officer, Wildlife Trusts Wales

Jane Lorimer, National Director, Sustrans Cymru

Paul Cook, Advocacy and Media Director, Tearfund

Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive Officer, Wildlife Trusts South West Wales

Sharon Thompson, Head of Conservation, RSPB Cymru

Paul Allen, External Relations Director, Centre for Alternative Technology

______________

Annwyl Weinidog

Rydyn ni i gyd yn hoff iawn o bethau y bydd y newid yn yr hinsawdd yn effeithio arnyn nhw. Yn eu mysg gall fod ein teulu, ein harfordir hardd neu hyd yn oed cwpanaid bach da o goffi.

Eisoes rydyn ni wedi gweld pethau rydyn ni’n eu hoffi’n cael eu niweidio a’u brifo. Yma yng Nghymru, mae stormydd gaeaf a llifogydd wedi niweidio ein cymunedau a’n bywyd gwyllt. Mewn gwledydd datblygol, rydyn ni wedi gweld cynaeafau’n cael eu difetha, gan arwain at newyn.

Trwy adroddiadau’r Panel Rhynglywodraethol ar y Newid yn yr Hinsawdd, mae gwyddonwyr wedi nodi’n glir bod angen i ni weithredu ar fyrder. Rhaid i ni leihau allyriadau nwyon t? gwydr yn ddirfawr i fynd i’r afael â’r bygythiad hwn.

Eto i gyd, yn ôl ffigurau diweddar, cynyddodd allyriadau Cymru yn 2012.

Mae gennym ni darged i leihau ein hallyriadau 40% erbyn 2020, ar sail lefelau 1990. Ond gyda dim ond chwarter y cyfnod hwn ar ôl, rydyn ni lai na hanner y ffordd ato.

Os byddwn ni’n mynd ymlaen fel hyn, byddwn yn torri’r ymrwymiad i leihau ein hallyriadau.

Ar 21ain Medi, bydd pobl yn dangos cefnogaeth i weithredu i fynd i’r afael â’r newid yn yr hinsawdd mewn gwrthdystiadau ledled y byd, gan gynnwys yn Llundain. Bydd y rhain yn digwydd cyn uwchgynhadledd arweinwyr y byd ar weithredu ar y newid yn yr hinsawdd, sydd wedi’i chynnull gan Ban Ki-moon.

Mae ef wedi gofyn i’r arweinwyr hyn ddefnyddio’r uwchgynhadledd i gyhoeddi camau gweithredu beiddgar i fynd i’r afael â’r newid yn yr hinsawdd. Mae eisiau iddyn nhw ddweud sut y byddan nhw’n lleihau allyriadau, ein gwneud yn fwy cydnerth yn wyneb effeithiau’r newid yn yr hinsawdd, a sicrhau ewyllys gwleidyddol i gael cytundeb cyfreithiol ystyrlon yn 2015.

Mae pobl Cymru wedi llefaru hefyd. Yn yr adroddiad diweddar “Y Gymru a Garem” y newid yn yr hinsawdd oedd prif bryder y cyhoedd o ran llesiant cenedlaethau’r dyfodol.

Felly rydyn ni eisiau i chi weithredu.

Yn ystod yr ychydig fisoedd nesaf, gall Llywodraeth Cymru ddangos arweiniad ar y newid yn yr hinsawdd. Gall ddilyn y rhethreg gyda gweithredu cadarn.

Rhaid i’ch diweddariad ar y Strategaeth Newid Hinsawdd ddangos ymrwymiad newydd. Rhaid iddo gynnwys cynllun clir, ar draws pob un o adrannau’r llywodraeth, i leihau allyriadau. Rydyn ni eisiau i chi osod targedau hinsawdd yn y gyfraith, wedi’u seilio ar wyddoniaeth. Ac mae’n rhaid i Fil Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol wneud mynd i’r afael â’r newid yn yr hinsawdd yn rhan allweddol o waith cyrff cyhoeddus wrth wneud penderfyniadau a chynllunio ar gyfer y dyfodol.

Er mwyn Cymru, a’r byd, rydyn ni’n galwch arnoch chi i ddangos arweiniad a chyflawni’ch ymrwymiadau.

Haf Elgar, Cadeirydd, Atal Anhrefn Hinsawdd Cymru

Kieran O’Brien, CAFOD Cymru

Ann Jones, Cadeirydd Ffederasiwn Cenedlaethol Sefydliadau’r Merched – Cymru

Anne Meikle, Pennaeth WWF Cymru

Kirsty Davies, Pennaeth Oxfam Cymru

Gareth Clubb, Cyfarwyddwr, Cyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru

Cathrin Daniel, Pennaeth Cymorth Cristnogol Cymru

Rachel Sharp, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol, Ymddiriedolaeth Natur Cymru

Jane Lorimer, Cyfarwyddwr Cenedlaethol, Sustrans Cymru

Paul Cook, Cyfarwyddwr Dadleuaeth a’r Cyfryngau, Tearfund

Sarah Kessell, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol, Ymddiriedolaeth Natur De a Gorllewin Cymru

Sharon Thompson, Pennaeth Cadwraeth, RSPB Cymru

Paul Allen, Cyfarwyddwr Cysylltiadau Allanol, Canolfan y Dechnoleg Amgen

 

 

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Stop Climate Chaos Cymru Response to the Environment and Sustainability Committee inquiry on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill September 2014

SCCC response Stage 1 FG Bill

Click the link above to read our submission to the Environment and Sustainability Committee Inquiry into the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill

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