Wales leading the way with Future Generations Legislation – UN plans to adopt Welsh Approach
Wales is leading the way to protect future generations, the United Nations has said.
Following the success of the UK’s first Future Generations Commissioner appointed in Wales in 2016, the UN has announced its support for the establishment of a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations, a Futures Summit in 2023 and a UN Declaration for Future Generations.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, has been advising the UN on the need to establish future generations governance throughout the UN institution and has engaged with UN senior officials and departments including the UN Climate Change Envoy, UN Environment Programme, UN Women and the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth.
She is currently attending COP26 in Glasgow and has called on other countries to adopt similar Future Generations legislation and approaches.
This week, the commissioner is calling on countries to establish governance mechanisms for future generations, building on the leadership in Wales and at the UN. With concerns from some youth delegates that political leaders and systems are only paying ‘lip service’ to their interests, the commissioner is highlighting the importance of placing future generations at the centre of decisions and ensure that they have a voice at the policy level.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, said:
“Action across the world is slow to protect the needs and interests of future generations.
I am calling on governments to adopt future generations legislation to ensure decisions taken today meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“The climate and nature crisis is here, it’s now – that’s why every country in the world needs a future generations act to limit the impact. We all have a duty to protect people not born yet, from the harm they’ll suffer without serious climate action.
“The announcement from Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General is a significant step towards the rest of the world adopting this made in Wales approach to protecting the interests of future generations. It shows that as a small nation we really can provide leadership to the rest of the world.”
Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said:
“The UN Secretary General’s landmark report ‘Our Common Agenda’ recognises that young people must be at the heart of political processes at national and global level in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our vision for a UN Special Envoy for Future Generations is inspired by the progress being made in some countries around the world, including Wales, which demonstrates that it is possible to legislate and take action to put the interest of future generations at the heart of government.”
Lord John Bird’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill is currently going through parliament. Inspired by Wales, it would require UK public bodies to make decisions in line with the interests of future generations. He said:
“With COP26 happening right now and as my Bill enters committee stage, it would be the perfect time for Westminster to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by being the first UN country to enshrine a duty to protect future generations into law – following the lead of our progressive counterparts in Wales.”
The Welsh legislation has also inspired other countries across the world.
In August, the Scottish Government announced plans to establish a Future Generations Act and Commissioner.
Ms Howe, who has just published a report highlighting the link between the climate and nature emergencies and inequality, met with Scottish Minister Patrick Harvie this week to share learning from the Welsh approach. Mr Harvie later tweeted: “Scotland has a lot to learn as we follow in your footsteps.”
Earlier this month, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Welsh ministers on a visit to Wales that the Well-being of Future Generations Act was inspirational and that the Irish Government would be keen to replicate it.
Today (November 10) at COP26, Ms Howe will take part in a youth-led event with the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales – a group of 15 young climate voices from across Wales.
The event, Connecting Wales and COP26: action, lessons and future generations, supported by Size of Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) will also include representation from key policy makers and influencers, and indigenous voices.
Notes to Editors:
What is the Well-being of Future Generations Act?
Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act is a world-leading piece of legislation which puts a legal obligation on public bodies in Wales (including Welsh Government, local councils and health boards) to act today for a better tomorrow via seven interconnected national well-being goals.
Passed in 2015 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the WFG Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. Each public body covered by it must carry out sustainable development – by meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
Public bodies should think more about the long-term, work better with people and communities and each other, seek to prevent problems like climate change and inequality and take a more joined-up approach.
Wales is the only country in the world to have put the UN’s SDGs into statute and in September 2021, Scotland announced it was joining Wales and appointing a Future Generations Commissioner.
The commissioner is making a number of recommendations to the Welsh Government and other countries at COP including:
- investing in key infrastructure projects in green industries and nature restoration.
- Putting in place a longer-term plan for funding the decarbonisation of homes, providing funding for tackling fuel poverty and decarbonising social housing, and working the UK Government to secure additional funds.
- Supporting the establishment of a National Nature Service for Wales.
- Setting out a long-term investment plan of how it will fund the climate emergency and support more ambitious commitments and targets for sectors within their control.
Achievements of the Well-being of Future Generations Act include the commissioner’s key intervention in Welsh Government scrapping plans for a £1.4bn, 13-mile M4 relief road that would have torn through a nature reserve and a new transport strategy focussed on public transport and active travel; a new future-focussed curriculum framed around well-being, and providing a framework for how public services work together to respond to the challenges of Covid-19 – for example, National Museum Wales working with local health boards, as well as helping to put a basic income trial on Welsh Government’s agenda.
The Our Common Agenda report was published on 10th September 2021 by the UN Secretary-General and sets out the vision on the future of global cooperation and reinvigorating inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism.
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