Women and Climate Change

2015 is a special year for the  Women’s Institute as it celebrates its centenary.  To mark Climate Change week, Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes-Wales revisits some of the WI’s environmental campaigns and projects and calls on the Welsh public and governments to get behind the urgency of tackling climate change.

The first Women’s Institute in Britain was formed in Llanfair PG on 16 September 1915.  Since then, the organisation has grown to become the largest women’s voluntary organisation in the UK with over 212,000 members in 6,600 WIs.  In Wales, we have 16,000 members belonging to about 500 WIs.

Since its formation in 1915, the WI has campaigned on a wide range of issues that matter to women and their communities. Protection of the natural world has long been a priority for the WI.  As far back as 1927, WI members lobbied for action on pollution in the seas. In 1988, the WI added its voice to the debate about CFCs and their effect on the ozone layer, pressurising the government and manufacturers to take action. The UK government signed up to binding international targets the following year.  How many are aware that a WI anti-litter campaign in the 1950s was behind the formation of Keep Britain Tidy which continues to operate today to protect  and enhance our environment?

The threat of climate change is a concern to our members and in research conducted by YouGov for the NFWI ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York last September, 74% of the women surveyed in Britain said that they believed that responsibility for addressing climate change was in their hands and that action was needed now. This finding does not surprise us as it is women and children who suffer first and hardest from the effects of climate change around the world.  Challenges for future generations was also a top concern for women when considering the threat of climate change.  Although we in the UK may escape the worst of the effects of environmental changes  in our generation, it is our future generations which will be hit – our children and grandchildren – as well as those living in more vulnerable nations around the world.

Climate change is an area in which women are uniquely placed to make a difference; as consumers, educators and change agents in their homes and communities, encouraging the adoption of lower carbon lifestyles and passing on green values to the next generation.

Our members have shown their commitment to protecting the environment and tackling climate change over the years through engagement in a range of projects and campaigns led by the NFWI.

A 2005 resolution on protecting natural resources inspired a nationwide action day that saw WIs return excess packaging to supermarkets, encouraging retailers to reduce waste.  Back in 2007, I became one of 13 WI EcoTeam leaders in Wales.  The EcoTeams comprised of small groups of WI members and others who came together once a month for four months to learn more about climate change and share fun, easy and practical ways to make their daily lives more environmentally sustainable – while making friends and saving money, in the knowledge that they were doing their bit to help the planet.  More recently, our Women Reaching Women project educated members and their wider communities about world poverty and climate change, with a focus on how women are affected. Our projects have shown that through making small changes to our everyday lives, we can all make a difference in reducing our impact on the planet.

2015 is an important year for climate change and we need to see strong commitments by decision-makers.  NFWI-Wales is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru; through the coalition we have been calling on the Welsh Government to show leadership in tackling climate change by implementing an ambitious cross-governmental climate action plan and setting climate targets into legislation. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill presents a unique opportunity for politicans in Wales to pass ground-breaking legislation to tackle climate change and protect the enviroment; the inclusion of strong climate goals and targets will be crucial for it to make a difference to our future generations.  NFWI welcomes the recent pledge by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to work together to tackle climate change and in December we very much hope to see governments across the world unite in demonstrating their commitment by pushing for ambitious climate targets at the United Nation Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris.

Find out more about the WI at www.thewi.org.uk 



Press release from WWF Cymru: Welsh Government climate plans lack detail

Responding to the statement by Carl Sargeant, Minister for Natural Resources, on the Welsh Government’s Climate Change Strategy, Jessica McQuade, WWF Cymru Policy and Advocacy Officer said:

“We’re glad that the Minister recognises that Wales is not on track to meet its target of cutting emissions by 40% by 2020 and we welcome his ambition to deliver. However his statement today shows he has much work to do in his new role to rectify this.

“The statement relied heavily on repeating previous announcements rather than outlining new programmes and extensive cross government actions that we must see to drive the scale of change needed.

“WWF and Stop Climate Chaos Cymru want to see a proper action plan which shows how each Government department will contribute to reducing emissions.  Ministers also need to assess the impact of all their decisions on emissions reductions. And we are calling for statutory emission reduction targets to drive forward action in the public sector.”

“There is strong public support in Wales for action on climate change. Today’s debate also shows all parties want the Government to go further. We look forward to working with the new Minister to build on this.”


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.


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