The Future is Still Green in Wales
The UK Government’s decision that it could deliver its commitment to be the “greenest Government ever” without the need for independent advice and scrutiny brought my role as Commissioner for Wales on the UK Sustainable Development Commission to a premature end. A sad occasion as we had built the UK Commission to reflect the realities of devolved Government, with each administration having an equal ownership, providing a capacity to work on areas of common interest.
With the withdrawal of Whitehall from that arrangement it was left to the devolved administrations to shape their own governance structures. Wales was alone in making a commitment to maintain an independent role, with the Minister establishing the role of Commissioner for Sustainable Futures “to provide leadership and authority to the delivery of the Assembly Government’s vision for a sustainable Wales.” I was delighted to accept the invitation to take on this new role, which will be supported by Cynnal Cymru, for the remainder of the period of my public appointment to the SDC until July 2012.
So what does this mean? In the short term it will combine the strengths of the old SDC with those of Cynnal Cymru, providing a stronger connection between policy advice and local delivery. In the longer term it gives us the option to shape new governance structures that ensure we are taking decisions that meet the long term, providing a check and balance to the inevitable tendency to short termism in Government
There are 4 key areas of focus for the new role as set out by the Minister
- establishing the practical actions that Welsh Assembly need to take to deliver its legal duty to promote sustainable development.
- building consensus on the action that is needed across all sectors and communities in Wales
- reporting back to the Assembly Government on the blockages and recommending solutions for the delivery of policies and programmes to make Wales more sustainable.
- providing advice on the long term arrangements for the provision of independent advice on sustainable development
The priorities for the detail of the work programme will be agreed with the new Minister following the May 5th election but will be informed by the work carried forward from the Sustainable Development Commission in Wales , feedback from the Cynnal Cymru network and other stakeholders, reports of the National Assembly’s Sustainability Committee and the work of partner organisations across the UK and internationally. Critically the new role will have a formal link with Wales Audit Office in supporting their role by incorporating sustainable development principles into their mainstream audit work.
Undoubtedly the work programme will have a clear focus on economic renewal and specifically future energy supplies – as the new administration will face the economic, social and environmental implications of an energy crunch over the next 5 years, with increasing costs and security of supply, impacting on economic performance, levels of fuel poverty and our carbon reduction targets. This will include the need to unblock the barriers to community led localised energy supply, to deliver on our capacity to generate at scale from wind, marine, biomass etc through stronger engagement with the energy sector and ensuring a relentless drive on retro fitting existing buildings to the highest levels of energy efficiency across all sectors.
Above all the new role sends out a message that Wales is a nation committed to shaping a sustainable future for current and future generations. We now stand alone in the UK in having the independent capacity to convene Government, business and the community in pursuit of this common goal
Sustainable Futures Commissioner
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