Floods underline need for Welsh climate change policy

David Nussbaum previews today’s launch of the ‘National Conversation’ on the Assembly’s Future Generations Bill

While we can’t attribute individual events to climate change, the Met Office has recognised climate change is likely to be a factor in the extreme weather that has hit much of the UK in recent months. The storms and floods are therefore a stark reminder of the risks that lie ahead – not just for communities, but also for businesses.

The costs of failing to act on climate change would be staggering, both in terms of lives affected and investments lost. The World Bank recently outlined how, globally, weather-related losses and damage have risen from an average of about $50 billion a year in the 1980s to close to $200 billion a year over the last decade, making climate-resilient and disaster-resilient development a critical challenge.

As climate change is likely to result in increased damage and costs due to more intense and more frequent extreme weather events, we need substantially to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the risks of a changing climate, and to build an economy resilient to the impacts that are, by now, inevitable.

Our economy is also facing future risks from depletion of resources. All economic activity is ultimately dependent on the natural world, yet we are using the earth’s resources far more quickly than they can be replenished.

There are encouraging signs that Wales is waking up to this agenda. Rather than burying their heads in the sand, government and businesses are taking steps to ensure that the Welsh economy is proofed for  the 21st Century  – one that is  both resilient and prosperous. We now have the prospect of Welsh legislation that will provide forward-thinking investors with a business environment they’d struggle to find elsewhere.

Today the Welsh Government launches its ‘National Conversation’ on its Future Generations Bill. It is vital that the voice of business is heard as part of this conversation. Properly crafted and implemented, this legislation can help deliver a ‘One Planet Wales’ – a low carbon, resource-efficient country that uses its fair share of the earth’s resources, creating jobs and tackling poverty in a truly sustainable way.

The Bill should also provide businesses with greater certainty. By putting sustainable development at the heart of government and public services through legislation, business people should feel confident that Wales is serious about creating a resource-efficient, low carbon, 21st Century economy, and that the support and investment will be there to help them succeed.

A strong Future Generations Act should, for instance, have a positive impact on public procurement. This will mean that the billions spent each year by the Welsh NHS, local councils and other bodies are geared around both meeting the immediate needs of Wales’ citizens and driving bigger changes for the longer term. That would include creating jobs that have a future, in businesses that are resilient in the face of scarce natural resources – and the need to cut emissions so as to provide a safe climate for future generations.

It also means innovation – with Wales developing the goods and services that we and the rest of the world will need in this changing landscape. WWF’s ‘Green Game-Changers’ report showed that western companies should look to the green innovation in the east in order to keep up. Asian innovations are already sending ripples across the globe. China, for example, is bringing integrated electric vehicles, renewable energy and battery technologies to the west.

But business opportunities are opening up in Asia for western firms that can help tackle social and environmental challenges alongside the rapid economic growth across the continent. The increasing desire for on and off-grid renewable energy, car-sharing services, clean cooking stoves and other cleantech services present opportunities for western firms that can complement home-grown solutions.

There is also the opportunity, through the forthcoming Environment Bill, to embed Wales’ target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions into legislation. This would give a green light to businesses that are committed to sustainability to invest in Wales and would mean support for those businesses already working to reduce their emissions.

WWF recently secured the backing of over 100 organisations – from Ikea to the TUC – to support the UK’s 4th carbon budget. This shows the appetite on the part of businesses for governments to provide clarity and certainty for them to reduce their carbon emissions. Wales is well positioned to be at the forefront of this.

Of course, there is already a strong foundation upon which to build. There are already over 40,000 low carbon and environmental jobs in Wales – from the company in Swansea building houses from recycled plastic, to the wind turbine factory in Monmouthshire. There are also many examples of businesses in other sectors which are changing how they operate so they are more future-proof, such as by reducing their energy demand or shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

The legislative opportunities that currently exist in Wales are rare. While the strong laws we need are not yet a done deal, I hope that in the next few years, Wales will be seen as the land of opportunity for those of us who want a 21st Century economy.

David Nussbaum is Chief Executive of WWF-UK. He is speaking today to Welsh business representatives at an event organised by the Carbon Trust.

7 thoughts on “Floods underline need for Welsh climate change policy

  1. Ah that totally impartial Met Office! Would you like a list of 500 and growing totally independent scientists who say climate change is a myth? Yes man is to blame but that is down to the mismanagement of the land in Somerset and fewer trees and fields, making for concrete housing and industrial estates in the south east. Nothing to do with the climate change nonsense.

  2. This is another example of an other wishy washy would be Do Gooder citing non proven examples and quoting them as if they were gospel. Of course the trade winds travelling further North this year have caused heavier flooding in the UK. But who is to say that the latitudes of the trade winds are affected by man’s carbon and green house gas use? To my mind it makes no sense to pay taxes on carbon use in addition to footing the bill for flood damage because of the pontifications of the green lobby on a non proven thesis.

    Lets just see if things will improve if the Environment Agency spends more money dredging reens and rivers instead of spending funds on gay bunting and frolics!

  3. Weren’t the recent storms caused by our old and largely misunderstood friend the jet stream? That was certainly the view of one of the Met Office’s senior experts Professor Matt Collins. And hasnt the flooding experienced by the south east and west of England largely been attributed to those clueless buffoons at the Environment Agency, who stopped dredging rivers in England a few years back?

    What exactly would be wales ‘fair share’ of the earth’s resources? something tiny like 0.00000000001 percent I suspect. Indeed so small is Wales’ contribution to any man made climate change that our entire population s could revert to a stone age existence tomorrow and it wouldn”t make an iota of difference to the world’s climate, not while the countries responsible for 60 percent of world CO2 emissions – the US, China and India – continue to burn fossil fuels at the rate they are… Indeed. despite its aforementioned ‘innovations’, in some areas China still continues to build new coal fired power plants every week …..oh and China has 20 nuclear power plants with plans to build dozens more. So I don’t think we in Wales can learn very much from China when it comes to being more environmentally friendly.

  4. You cite the UK Met Office as the source for your climate predictions – well the UK Met Office predicted a drier than average winter back on 21/11/2013


    and what we got is one of the wettest on record! If you choose to use as an information source a campaigning organisation with no proven skill in long range forcasting and no proven skill in climate modelling beyond about 5 days (when low pressure is in charge) then the rest of your entire climate-based thesis falls flat on its face. It is not acceptable to base public policy on predictions of no proven skill.

    The Met Office is now so incompetent in its predictions and in the reasons it ascribes to weather patterns that its own experts are beginning to break ranks – prominent amongst them this time being Mat Collins, Professor in Climate Systems at Exeter University.

    Professor Collins told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’


    This series of Jet Stream driven lows was predicted a month in advance by WeatherAction.com based on largely predictable solar-lunar factors which drive the earth’s weather patterns. The same is true of the record cold and snow cover in the USA this winter. At the risk of repeating myself, this has NOTHING to do with carbon dioxide concentrations. The evidence that the Northern Hemisphere is entering a ‘Little Ice Age’ weather pattern based primarily on a solar grand minimum of the Dalton or Maunder type is growing clearer. An erratic wild Jet Stream is part of this process and the government needs to plan for a great deal more of the same.

    This winter we were extremely lucky – the record rain could have been record snow and ice as in the USA but that is coming and the UK is neither prepared for it nor preparing for it. The collasal sums squandered on carbon mitigation could and should have been spent on infrastructure, but time is running out…

  5. Paul, yes please, I would like to see the list of 500 independent scientists who regard climate change as a myth. It would be very interesting.

  6. Meanwhile in the real world, between 1991 and November 2012, out of 13,950 peer-reviewed articles (not opinion pieces and the such-like, but hard science) on “global warming” or “global climate change” 24 explicitly rejected the theory of man-made global warming.

    Does it get better? Hardly. Between November 2012 to the end of 2013, out of 2,258 peer-reviewed articles, one article, rejected man-made global warming.

    Don’t worry. The nay-saying article was published by the doubtless redoubtable Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Using the same criteria as adopted by the science / climate change denialists, similarly compelling cases can be made for the following:

    [1] Heliocentrism is plain wrong
    [2] The earth is flat (reconciling [1] and [2] can be fun)
    [3] The moon is made of cheese

    The recent climate events and their consequences are actually rather important.

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