Wales is the only UK attendee at global sustainable development summit
Post Date: 30 August 2011
Quebec is hosting a three-day global conference from August 29-31 on climate change and sustainable development, that is being attended by environment ministers and other representatives of subnational governments from over 35 countries - but Wales is the only attendee from the UK.
The nrg4SD (network of regional governments for sustainable development - it works better if you says "energy for SD" - was co-founded by Wales following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.
Its mission is to promote the role of sub-national and regional governments in helping to ensure that people around the world adopt a more sustainable way of living, in order to protect the world’s precious resources. It does this by fostering cooperation, partnerships, projects and exchange of expertise and best practice among its members and with other international actors.
Its members include some 50 subnational governments from 30 countries and 7 associations of subnational governments. 19 are from Europe but the only British member is Wales - although Scotland and Northern Ireland are eligible to join. Altogether, nrg4SD represents around 600 territories in the world.
Wales' environment and sustainable development minister, John Griffiths, is attending the organisation's General Assembly. In a statement he said this was partly "to promote and develop Wales’ work on sustainable development and climate change".
His attendance has been criticised by Welsh Conservative shadow environment minister, Russell George, who said: “Taxpayers will be seeking reassurances from Welsh Labour ministers that this trip to Quebec will result in the development of new policies to cut greenhouse gases in Wales rather than simply adding to Wales’ carbon footprint.”
“The Welsh Labour government was nowhere near meeting its pledge to contribute to the UK government’s target of a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2010, and the latest figures show Wales is being outstripped by England and Scotland, having reduced emissions by a measly 2.6% below 1990 levels."
On the agenda in Quebec are the international UN negotiations on climate change and related financing arrangements, helping to ensure that devolved and regional states have a say in the development of the global deal on climate change.
The Assembly will also discuss the role of forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation in this, the International Year of Forests, especially through implementation of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Action Plan.
Also being discussed, following World Water Week last week, is the protection and sanitation of water supplies.
Quebec was the first state government in North America to join the Network, followed by Alaska.
Opening the meeting, the state's minister of sustainable development, environment and parks, Pierre Arcand, claimed that by acting as host it "confirms once again the leadership of Quebec in the environment.
"The progressive policies we have implemented in recent years aroused the interest of our partners, and we gradually become a hub for world-class sustainable development."
He said the discussions will also focus on an action plan for electric vehicles, creating a carbon market "and our objectives for protected areas and biodiversity protection".
Wales' environment minister is keen to spread the word about the fact that the principality is one of the few places in the world to have a legal obligation to promote sustainable development and "embed sustainability into all our government programmes and policies.
"This includes work such as our strategic energy programme, arbed, which was designed to address environmental, social and economic challenges in a joined up way.
“I will be working hard to build links with regions from across the globe so that we can ensure the exchange of best practice," he said.
Whilst in Quebec Griffiths is meeting individually with ministers and officials from Brittany, Quebec and Catalonia to speak in more detail about their ongoing work and opportunities for joint working.
Wales has in the past acted as Co-Chair and provided secretariat for the Network, including during the run up to the UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting in December 2009.
The Welsh government's current aim is to achieve 3% emission cuts each year until 2020 with a public investment of less than £1bn. This compares to Scotland, which estimates an £8bn cost for reaching its carbon emissions reduction target over the same period.
The General Assembly will issue a final Quebec Statement of its conclusions tomorrow evening.