Responding to the Welsh Government’s ‘Well-being of Wales’ report published today, Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said:

“I welcome the second ‘Well-being of Wales’ report as it provides a picture of how we live, learn and work in Wales.  It includes the latest data and offers a wide-ranging insight on how Wales is progressing towards the achievement of the 7 well-being goals set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

“The report shows a number of areas where positive progress has been made, an increase in renewable energy generation and evidence suggesting homes are becoming more energy efficient.  I welcome the work on narrowing of the gender pay gap in wales and overall the labour market performance in Wales has continued to be strong, with gaps in employment and inactivity rates between Wales and the UK remaining low in historical terms, and well below the gaps that were observed prior to devolution.

“Wales is continuing to punch above its weight on recycling rates with 64% of local authority municipal waste now being recycled.  I am also encouraged by the increase in the number of people participating in the arts as this can have a positive effect on well-being and development of new skills.

“The statistics however bear out a number of challenges I have made to the Government on the need for them to be more progressive in their decision-making an in ensuing that they are considering the long-term impact of their decisions and act to prevent problems from occurring or getting worse.

“The report shows that overall biological diversity is declining and there was an increase in greenhouse emissions in 2016 compared with 2015.  This provides further weight to my argument that an investment of £1.4bn on a Black Route proposal for the M4 is not in the best interest of current of future generations.

“Wales is already falling behind on meeting carbon reduction targets; the Government must focus investment in public transport over roads if it is to get anywhere near the target of 43% reduction in transport emissions by 2030.  Building the Black Route will result in an emission of 500, 000+ tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents which will not be removed from the atmosphere until at least 2072 and will irreparably damage nature and wildlife at the Gwent Levels.

“The report also further emphasises why the Welsh Government and other public bodies should take a targeted preventative approach to tackling some of the social factors that affect people’s health and well-being.  The figures released today show almost one in five people feel lonely and a third of secondary school pupils feel lonely some of the time.   With evidence suggesting loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  There is an urgent need for the Government and local public services to invest in services to prevent loneliness.

“Local authorities and health boards across Wales are developing services to do this but these services must be supported by investment and prioritisation from government so that we can move away from an unsustainable approach of treating people when they are ill to focusing holistically on the things that keep people well in the first place.

“The Well-being of Future Generations Act provides an opportunity for us to be more innovative and ambitious in tacking some of our greatest difficulties. I expect to see the Welsh Government setting milestones required by the legislation to put a focus on the areas in which biggest progress is needed.”