Decarbonisation is a cross-cutting issue central to all our work and vital for future generations.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing future generations. A landmark report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes published in 2018 warned us that we had less than 12 years (now 10) to avoid climate breakdown.
The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2020 clearly shows that climate change is the stand-out long-term risk the world faces, with failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change as the key concern. Adapting to climate impacts will need to be a priority including how we respond to the risks of increased flooding, severe weather events and increased temperatures on people, ecosystems and the built environment.
The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 introduces a duty on Welsh Government to develop carbon budgets for Wales, and to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 although this target is likely to be increased to 95% based on advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change
Progress to date has not been fast enough, which means we need to reduce our emissions dramatically in the next decade to achieve the target of 45% reduction by 2030. This is a considerable challenge as over 50% of emissions are produced by a small number of industrial sites.
Welsh Government monitors the level and sources of emissions in Wales at a national level, but there isn’t sufficient focus on how all sectors, organisations and individuals across Wales can support our carbon reduction targets.
Young people have made a significant impact on securing action on climate change in Wales, and across the world. They, and wider society, are now demanding greater action and climate justice, calling on global leaders to take urgent action.
Over the last few years we have worked with Welsh Government and other stakeholders to support, challenge and provide forums for practical sharing of good practice to assist public bodies in moving towards decarbonisation, with a particular focus on transport, housing, planning and the built environment.
This has led to:
- A policy commitment from the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030.
- A significant focus on the well-being goals and the five Ways of Working within Low Carbon Wales, published in March 2019 including a focus on climate justice
- The Welsh Government aligning their financial budget cycles with their carbon budgets which means that decisions about where money is spent can have a greater focus on achieving carbon reduction targets. They are the only government in the UK to do so.
In recent years I have challenged public bodies on the issue of pension fund divestment and have had a focus on how the Welsh Government budget is supporting decarbonisation in line with their declaration of a Climate Emergency. In 2019 I published a Ten Point Plan for funding the climate emergency outlining areas where greater investment is needed. The 2020/21 budget that followed included an additional £140 million of capital spend to support action to address the climate and nature emergencies.
A key recommendation within my Future Generations 2020 Report is for Welsh Government to set out a long-term investment plan of how they will fund the climate emergency and support more ambitious commitments and targets for sectors within their control.
Below are the areas I recommend that all public bodies, including Welsh Government, should focus on:
- Understanding our emissions and where to prioritise action
- Tackle the climate and nature crises through a holistic approach, capitalising on the role of young people
- Deliver a just transition
- Implement solutions at scale to achieve multiple benefits
- Invest more in tackling the Climate Emergency
For my full evidence, assessment, key findings and advice please see the section on Decarbonisation on our future generations 2020 report website.