Taking action on climate change

Carl Sargeant outlines how the Welsh Government is committing to tackle climate change.

2015 is a crucial year for mobilising international action on climate change and sustainable development. That’s why I am very pleased the Welsh Government will be supporting WWF’s Earth Hour on March 28th, turning out the lights at many of our buildings and Cadw monuments across Wales to show our support for our planet.

I’m proud that Wales is joining this global celebration as a symbol of our support for the environment. Yet again we expect hundreds of thousands of people in Wales to take part, joining many millions around the world. Our iconic landmarks, including the Senedd, will join famous buildings from New York to Sydney in switching off the lights.

But of course Earth Hour is about more than joining in on the night. It’s also a reminder that we need to take action throughout the year to secure a brighter future.

In September this year, 193 United Nations member states will be agreeing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In December, governments from around the world will meet in Paris to agree a new global treaty on climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process. Securing these agreements is vital if we are to keep global warming below the agreed upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius, support equitable and sustainable use of resources, and tackle poverty.

It is therefore vitally important that Wales, in this momentous year, continues to demonstrate international leadership.

The recent passing of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill is a huge achievement. We are one of the first countries to have legislated to put sustainable development at the heart of our government and our public services to help us safeguard the interests of future generations. We have also sought to align the seven well-being goals in the Bill with the emerging UN international Sustainable Development Goals. . The world has been watching us along this journey and I have no doubt it will be celebrated. We should be very proud of what we have achieved, but the work now starts to deliver the Wales we want.

Wales faces a number of long-term challenges, including climate change, which in particular will impact the most vulnerable here in Wales. It will also have very  real  human  impact   beyond  our  borders  –  for  example  through  famine, drought and damage to the precious forests, rivers and oceans on which many communities depend for their survival.  The seventh goal in the Well-being of Future Generations raises the importance of Wales’ global responsibility.

Climate change is very much a people as well as planet issue. Recognising the social justice impacts of climate change continues to underpin our work internationally with partners, including our work in Africa.

I am proud of Wales’  record. We were one of the first  countries  to  have  a sustainable development duty, the first Fair Trade Nation and one of the first countries to legislate for Active Travel.

Of course there is still a long way to go. That is why I have committed to climate targets in Environment Bill – to better evaluate our progress, provide certainty to help drive investment for a low-carbon economy and confirm achievable targets to work towards, with the overall target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% in 2050 against 1990 levels. I want to make sure Wales is doing all it can to take full accountability of its global duty.

Ultimately though, no government can tackle climate change alone. It requires collective action.  Our aim is therefore also to enable and empower people to act. That is why Earth Hour is so important as an accessible way for people to show they care for our planet, and to inspire them to take positive action.

Carl Sargeant AM is Minister for Natural Resources. This piece originally appeared on the WWF-UK blog site.

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