Still heavy on the carbon footprint

Ann Meikle reports on progress with embedding One Planet Wales in the Welsh Government’s policies

In 2007 WWF Cymru produced a report called One Planet Wales, which identified how Wales could reduce its ecological footprint to a One Planet level by 2050. Last year, we were was delighted when the Welsh Government published their commitment to this goal in their document One Wales One Planet.

Taken alongside the commitment to reduce Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 and 3 per cent per annum, this demonstrates a real understanding and commitment to limiting Wales’ negative impacts globally and being an exemplar to others on good global citizenship.

Further commitment to these goals has been displayed through adopting our ecological footprint as a key headline indicator of sustainable development and later through commissioning research into how to stabilise the footprint or reduce it by 10 per cent by 2020.

As we are nearing the end of the lifetime of this government, it was important to us to assess how much progress had been made against these goals. It is important that we know what is working and where further action is required in order to make progress on these most challenging of targets. WWF Cymru commissioned this report to ensure those lessons are learned and any gaps addressed so we can truly make progress. This is important for the current Government which had the courage to set us on this important path, but also for the next Government of Wales, no matter what political make up it has. The full report can be found here.

The report further substantiates the findings of the Welsh Audit Office about the patchy nature of progress in embedding sustainable development as the central organising principle of Government. The report shows many areas where opportunities have been missed to achieve carbon and ecological footprint reduction. For example, there are policy areas, such as food, agriculture and energy, where there appears to be excellent progress and others, such as economic renewal and public sector housing where there is not.

It is also clear that, in most cases, it is impossible to tell whether Government action will be sufficient to achieve the necessary reductions or not.

The Welsh Government has a very difficult and immediate challenge to meet their own supporting principle that, “all of our policies will show how we will reduce Wales’ Ecological Footprint to work towards our vision”. To this end, there are some key recommendations in the report on business processes, including:

  1. The Welsh Government should measure footprint reduction and carbon abatement for all of their relevant strategies and policy mechanisms in any given policy area in order to achieve an insight into progress towards One Wales One Planet.
  2. One Wales One Planet footprint reduction and carbon abatement should form part of the performance management frameworks for Welsh Government, Sponsored Bodies, and local government-funded initiatives in different policy areas.
  3. Welsh Government reporting should highlight good practice, comment on the cumulative impact of initiatives, and the scale of the intervention that is still required to meet the One Wales One Planet aspiration.
  4. One Wales One Planet should be embedded in high level strategy and partnerships for each policy area.

Two further recommendations are made to help align One Wales One Planet and financial mechanisms in Wales to achieve greater accountability for the role of the public purse in progressing the aspiration. These are:

  • Welsh Government and the public sector should, as part of their procurement powers, demonstrate how effectively the ‘Welsh Pound’ and the Euro (via WEFO and EU Structural Funding) are delivering on footprint and carbon reduction and publish an annual account alongside financial reporting requirements.

  • The Welsh Government should explore, with the Climate Change Commission, the potential for a system of national carbon accounting to sit alongside financial reporting systems and form a central part of the Wales performance management framework. This would include an assessment of the effectiveness of the Carbon Reduction Commitment.

The Welsh Government’s own Sustainable Development Scheme target is for footprint stabilisation by 2020 followed by reduction thereafter. 2020 is now less than ten years away. Many of the key policy documents hardly have footprint reduction on the agenda, let alone a method of analysing where the biggest investments and efforts should be made to reduce the footprint. As the report’s author, Dr Alan Netherwood, states:

“What is clear from this report is that Welsh government has a wealth of tools at its disposal to influence ‘Team Wales’ in the right direction towards a One Planet Wales, and to exert its influence beyond Wales’ borders. This report highlights that we need measures, strategy and governance arrangements to judge whether these tools are being used effectively enough, soon enough.”

Ann Meikle is Head of WWF Cymru.

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