New Future Generations Commissioner reflects on first month as the new guardian for people in Wales not yet born
Imagine a person born 50 or 100 years into the future - how is their life going to be made worse or better by what you do today?
In Wales, that’s an obligation on everyone who works for councils, Welsh Government, health boards and other public services, and it’s my job to speak up for those relying on people to do the right thing today, for the sake of tomorrow.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act is, essentially, a law in Wales that protects our environment and our children and grandchildren.
I’m the second ever Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and I wanted to share some of what I’m learning just one month into the job.
You don’t need me to tell you that people in Wales, like many countries all over the world, are suffering with the effects of problems that require a whole system change. We’re all united in the commitment to a future where people in Wales are well, both mentally and physically, are involved in society, and in creating a liveable future for our unborn children, neighbours, and future leaders.
At the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner, our job is to support public bodies to make connected and long-term decisions as they provide the essential services from health and housing to transport, so that people in Wales and all over the world live better lives.
It’s an urgent challenge. This month, the IPCC declared a ‘final warning’ on the climate emergency. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said we need to “massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe…Everything, everywhere, all at once.” The 1.5 degree limit is currently still achievable but, he said, we need a quantum leap and drastic action.
Yet, people are struggling with the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis – how do we get people to think about the future when they’re worried about how they’re going to pay this month’s bills? We firmly believe that getting to net zero will help us with the cost-of-living crisis.
And in the Well-being of Future Generations Act, we have a framework to ensure people’s lives are improved as we get there.
As a team at the OFGC, we’re working with organisations such as public bodies, community groups and more, on some of the sticky challenges we’re facing, and we’ll be sharing what we’re finding.
We’re calling this Our Future Focus, a chance for us all, everyone involved in leaving a better Wales for future generations, to maximise our impact on that mission.
I’m so energised by the stories I’ve heard and the incredible work I’ve seen, from meeting directors from Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Wales and Natural Resources Wales on my first day, to giving my first speech at the community launch of Ynys Enlli’s Dark Sky Sanctuary status. That is what the well-being legislation is about – coming together in our communities and preserving our natural environment, in this case, an unspoiled view of the night sky, vital for wildlife, for the people thousands of years after we are gone.
I’ve also met with the Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners that make up the All Wales Policing Group, where we talked about collaboration, community partnerships and prevention and early intervention. I’ve spoken out about river health (you can find out more here) and visited Government ministers, Public Services Boards and council leaders and businesses who are doing their part to embody the well-being goals, and took part in my first panel event with Community Housing Cymru.
Some of our team has also taken the Eurostar to France for the launch of Welsh Government’s ‘Wales in France’ year, meeting with UNESCO, the OECD and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote Wales’ well-being goals and to understand the work these organisations do on a local and regional level, to share with Welsh public bodies, and attended a Senedd event on the 4-day Work Week, supporting findings from the UK’s largest trial and calling for the Welsh public sector to initiate its own pilot.
We also worked with the UK Government Climate Change Committee, who will publish information on Wales’ progress on climate action this summer and pressed the need to build on the good work happening in Wales by better joining up policy on things like sustainable transport, homes fit for the future and closing skills gaps in the green economy. Our research found that in construction of buildings like social housing and greening homes, for example, just 27% of the workforce is female and only 5% of people are of non-white ethnicity.
Everything I have learned will be invaluable as my team and we set Our Future Focus.
This is just the first month of seven years in my role, so my part in ensuring the Well-being of Future Generations Act works hard for everyone in Wales is only just beginning. We’ll be sharing what we’re hearing from conversations and events with people from across Wales.
In the meantime, you can email me at email@example.com and follow us @futuregencymru on Instagram and Twitter.