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Carl Sargeant Minister for Natural Resources

First published:
15 December 2015
Last updated:

This was published under the 2011 to 2016 administration of the Welsh Government


The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) took place in Paris between 30 November and 12 December. The summit had been hailed as our last chance to secure an international agreement to limit global climate change to two degrees Celsius, above which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that the impacts pose a threat to humanity and could lead to irreversible climate change. Due to its importance COP21 was on an unprecedented scale with 20,000 official delegates in attendance, 195 governments and with nearly 150 world leaders represented at the summit.

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government sets out our commitment to leadership on climate change and in doing so to contributing to a global deal on climate change, with Wales acting as an exemplar to other smaller states and regions. In line with this I attended COP21 between 2 and 8 December to contribute as part of the UK delegation and to build on the significant momentum of the work of State and Regional Governments and add to the overwhelming drive for an agreement. I also showcased the work we are undertaking here in Wales.

For the first time, the crucial role played by subnational governments – those tiers of government beneath the nation state - was recognised as part of the formal UN summit proceedings, including a specific day dedicated to delivery at the subnational level. For Wales, this follows more than 10 years of work at the heart of the State and Regional Government movement. As Vice Presidents of the international Network of Regional Government for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) we have a key role in binging partners together, driving collaboration and representing the key leadership role that State and Regional Government are already playing globally. Collectively we are able to demonstrate drive, reach, leadership and scale of delivery that makes the role of State and Regional Governments crucial to delivering climate action. For example, Wales and other State and Regional Government have made a commitment to ambitious mitigation through the Memorandum of Understanding on Subnational Global Climate Leadership (also known as the Under 2 MoU), which covers 65 jurisdictions from 20 countries and five continents and collectively represents more than $17.9 trillion in GDP and 588 million people – this is bigger than the United States of America. In addition the total emissions reduction pledges we have made as State and Regional Governments (and reported through the Compact of States and Regions) are now greater than the annual emissions of China.

At COP21 we also became a founding signatory to the RegionsAdapt initiative, which focuses on the adaptation actions we can deliver as State and Regional Governments and which complement our existing international commitments.

These examples not only underline that partnership working at the state and regional level can deliver action on a global scale, contrary to the myth that our action in Wales has no impact globally, but increasingly current evidence suggests that it can be done at this level more effectively and more rapidly.

It was an honour to be invited to a private meeting with Ban Ki-moon, along with a small group of other State and Regional Governments who are acknowledged as global leaders. The meeting was convened in recognition of the global leadership of those governments present and to discuss how further progress can be made. During this meeting Ban Ki-moon referred to our collective impact as a game-changing. The UN Secretary General taking the time, at the most significant summit in decade, to speak to a select group of State and Regional Governments underlines the global impact Wales and our key partners are having.

In addition to highlighting the collective impact of State and Regional Governments, I also discussed the work being delivered here in Wales. I not only showcased Wales’ achievements in areas such as waste and energy efficiency, but also highlighted the pioneering legislation we have brought forward through the Well-being of Future Generations Act, the Planning Act and the Environment Bill. With the attendance of so many states and regional governments and business I was also keen to learn from the experiences of others and I therefore held a series of bilateral meetings with other key partner State and Regional Governments such as South Australia, Quebec and California. In addition, however, given the significant role played by the private sector at this COP and the call from business for an ambitious agreement I also held bilaterals with the European Investment Bank and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

On Monday 7 December I launched an historic international Memorandum of Understanding on Nature Based Climate Action at the States and Regions Alliance General Assembly. I am proud that the Welsh Government has developed this Memorandum, which draws on the policy work we have undertaken in developing the Environment Bill and supporting the delivery of the UN convention on Biological Diversity and UNFCCC. In addition to Wales, five other leading governments signed the Memorandum at COP21 (Catalonia, Basque Country, Manitoba, Sao Paulo and Quebec).

The Memorandum of Understanding commits signatory Regional and State Governments to ensuring that along with mitigation and adaptation, a nature based approach is acknowledged as a key pillar of climate action. This means it will build on the other key international memoranda signed by Wales (the Compact of States and Regions, the Under 2 MoU and the RegionsAdapt initiative) to put in place a strong suite of commitments that will be the foundation of State and Regional Government action going forward. In taking forward this Memorandum we have further added to our track record on international action and our goal to be a globally responsible Wales.

The global climate agreement struck in Paris means that we have taken a significant step forward, with all countries committing to act together to combat climate change, with State and Regional Government, like the Welsh Government, playing a critical role in its delivery.  It is therefore an historic and momentous deal that sets a clear direction to a sustainable future, demonstrating that the shift to a clean economy and low carbon society is now global, inevitable and irreversible.  In Wales, through the Well-being of Future Generations Act, the Planning Act and the Environment Bill we have already set about placing that transition to a low carbon future at the heart of our legal framework.  In doing so we are setting out a clear pathway for investment whilst acting to ensure that we reduce the risks associated with climate change and their impact on the most vulnerable.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed.  Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.