Easy living in low carbon Wales

Peter Davies reports on an initiative aimed at reducing our CO2 emissions

Wales is in a difficult yet in many ways promising position when it comes to tackling climate change. As a country which emits high amounts of CO2 by global standards and has done for many years, we have a long way to go to become a low carbon society. On a more positive note, we are now starting to make some of the substantial changes that we need to become a low carbon nation in a way that also delivers a better quality of life.

The Welsh Government is taking this agenda seriously and the Sustainable Development Commission has been working with them to turn its ambitions into reality. Last year the Commission launched the Low Carbon Wales report, the culmination of the first phase of the Low Carbon Regions project, giving advice on how each region of Wales can make the necessary emissions cuts. So, for example, transport is a higher priority in the South-East, where tens of thousands of workers commute to Cardiff every day, whereas in Central Wales there is huge potential for generating renewable energy and the protection of soil carbon stores.

Two core messages came out of the report:

  • A need to make low-carbon living ‘citizen easy’ so that people are able to make choices such as taking the bus instead of the car, or stay warm in winter without using a lot of fossil fuels.
  • The need for collaboration – different organisations working together across local boundaries in each region of Wales.

The Sustainable Development Commission is now working on the second phase of the project for the Welsh Government. While the first phase concentrated on research and producing advice, phase two is about turning the advice into reality. The project is aimed at the Wales Spatial Plan Area Groups. These bring together the public, private and third sectors in each region.

Over the past few months workshops have been held in St Asaph, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Trefforest. They began with presentations and discussions of how well each region is doing on reducing carbon emissions so far, looking at what actions are currently taking us in the right or wrong direction and what can be done to improve things. Participants looked in more detail at what needs to happen in each region in different fields, for example land use or transport.

Cutting carbon emissions involves a wide range of changes. Topics discussed at the workshops included marine renewables, skills for builders, tourism and forestry. The sessions ended with identifying what the next steps need to be and who should take them forward. Suggestions were gathered for membership of the Low Carbon Working Groups that are being established in each region.

The Sustainable Development Commission wants to see emissions cut in a way that is good for society, the environment and the economy. Using a sustainable development approach, the transition to a low carbon society can bring many other benefits such as jobs, less poverty and better health.

The Low Carbon Regions project is central to turning government ambitions into low carbon lives for ordinary people, by involving the organisations that have it in their power to make a difference. Alongside the forthcoming national Climate Change Strategy, this regional work demonstrates that carbon reduction is being taken seriously right across Wales.

It’s clear that the commitment is there to make Wales the low carbon country it needs to become. We are also fortunate to have a high level of expertise in many different fields.

Peter Davies is Commissioner for Wales for the Sustainable Development Commission. To obtain or download a copy of ‘Low Carbon Wales’, please visit www.sd-commission.org.uk/wales or email Dr Gavin Bunting on [email protected]

Also within Politics and Policy