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Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

First published:
22 November 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

2015 was a momentous year where we saw the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and agreement on a binding international framework for tackling climate change at COP21 in Paris. The historic Paris Agreement on climate change was ratified this month and I welcome the UK Government’s announcement of ratifying the Agreement last week, confirming its commitment to action on climate change.  

The Welsh Government has always fully supported these Agreements and has actively pushed forward these global agendas. This year’s Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) took place in Marrakech last week and this year’s focus was on delivery of the commitments in the Paris Agreement.

I attended this important event as part of the UK delegation and I took the message that whilst Wales may only be a small country, we are ready to play our part and recognise our global responsibility.  

At the Conference I focused on:

  • showcasing Wales achievements in terms of our innovative legislation and action in areas such as waste, natural resource management and our Wales for Africa work
  • promoting the role of State and Regional Governments in taking action on climate change, and
  • playing our part in tackling the global challenge of climate change. 

I took part in a number of formal events. I opened an inspiring workshop for the Foundation of Environmental Education, focusing on the role of young people as ambassadors of change. I also presented in formal sessions along with others, such as the Premier of Quebec, Sir David King, the UK Government’s Climate Change Envoy and Ministers from other leading States and Regions. In my talks, I highlighted our strategic and innovative approach to delivering on the United Nation’s objectives around climate change, sustainable development and biological diversity through our legislation.  The Environment (Wales) Act sets solid foundations for delivering the Paris Agreement and puts in place clear statutory targets and a robust monitoring reporting framework. Over the next year, I will continue to work with Cabinet colleagues to develop our statutory interim targets, our first two carbon budgets and the policies and proposals across Government that will support the delivery of our legislative commitments.

With a global challenge as great as climate change, collaboration is key.  COP22 reinforced the historic and ongoing role that states and regions play in tackling climate change. Wales currently holds the Vice Presidency of the international Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) and is a founding signatory of key agreements, for example, The Climate Group’s Compact of States and Regions and Future Fund. At the General Assembly, Wales was announced to be a Steering Group member of the Alliance.

The work of this network will help us to deliver on our own and international commitments through the sharing and learning from one another.

I was pleased to welcome 29 further members to the network around the Memorandum of Understanding on Subnational Global Climate Leadership (also known as the Under 2 MoU) demonstrating the strength of the coalition in both highly industrialized regions and across developing and emerging economies. Wales is a founding signatory to the Under 2 MOU, which is a commitment by sub-national governments to at least 80% emissions reductions.  

The new signatories comprise the Australian Capital Territory, South Sumatra, and the Mexican states of Tabasco and Michoacán. In addition to them, 23 city members of the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer cities including Beijing, have also endorsed the coalition. The network now covers 33 countries spanning six continents and collectively represents more than US$22 trillion in GDP, equivalent to more than a quarter of the global economy, showing Wales along with others, can make a real difference.

At the Conference, Wales also signed up to be a founding signatory to a 2050 Pathways Platform to support states, regions, cities, nations and businesses to develop long-term 2050 planning models.  Short and long-term decarbonisation goal-setting and strategies will be key to achieving our 2050 target and the Paris Agreement’s goals. The platform will help us and others develop the evidence base and share learning, leading to a long term sustainable pathway with a portfolio of opportunities.

I also undertook a series of bilateral meetings with States and Regions including California, South Australia, British Columbia, Scotland, Rhone Alpes and Oslo, to strengthen partnerships and share learning about how each of us are taking action. I was struck by how other administrations are planning for the future and seizing the opportunities a low carbon society presents around key areas such as transport, energy and buildings. I will be looking to discuss this learning with my Cabinet Colleagues.

Government action is, however, not enough in tackling climate change. I was inspired to hear about the work around key activities from cities, Local Government and communities were taking in tackling climate change. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy represents 605 cities and 445,581,500 people worldwide.  It establishes a common platform to capture the impact of cities’ collective actions through standardized measurement of emissions and climate risk, and consistent, public reporting of their efforts. I would like to see cities and Local Government in Wales take up this challenge and learn from others.

Although Wales is only a small country, we have had a longstanding commitment around our international action on climate change. In order to truly make a difference, it is essential to have action from states and regions in developing and emerging economies.  Wales fully recognises our global responsibility and contributed $20,000 to the Future Fund, focusing on developing and emerging economy regions, who are already vulnerable and being affected by the impacts of climate change.

This type of activity builds on our existing Wales for Africa Programme, which is celebrating its 10 year Anniversary this year. In Marrakech, I was pleased to meet the project manager of our 10 Million Trees Programme in Mbale, who told me about the work he is doing. The funding from Wales provides trees to communities, which helps to provide a food source, stabilizes the soil to reduce runoff and landslides.  I was moved by the life changing work the Programme is doing which also shows true collaborations between countries.

In summary, I was inspired by the people I met at the Conference and the actions many are taking to transform their economies in the face of this global challenge. I look forward to working with my Cabinet Colleagues to deliver on our legislative and international commitments, ensuring Wales has a low carbon society that is resilient for the future.