When the National Assembly for Wales was established in 1999, Wales became one of the few countries in the world with a legal duty relating to sustainable development.
This is often described as: 'Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'
In recent years, Welsh Governments have been working to put sustainable development at the heart of decision making.
We hope that this will put Wales at the forefront of helping people and nature thrive, setting an example to other countries.
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
In 2015, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill 2015 became an Act of the Assembly, meaning that it is Welsh Law.
The Act presents an amazing opportunity. It enshrines in law the principle that we should "act in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
We believe that the Well-being of Future Generations Act is a radical and ground-breaking piece of legislation, which we hope will encourage other countries to focus on sustainable development.
The Act sets out a number of goals. The three of most significance for us are:
- A prosperous Wales: An innovative, productive and low carbon society which recognises the limits of the global environment, and therefore uses resources efficiently and proportionately (including acting on climate change)
- A resilient Wales: A nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example to climate change)
- A globally responsible Wales: A nation which, when doing anything to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, takes account of whether doing such a things may make a positive contribution to global well-being
We helped establish a community of more than 20 Welsh charities, social enterprises and community groups whose work supports people and nature to thrive, called the Sustainable Development Alliance. The Alliance successfully campaigned for a strong piece of legislation.
Our supporters have also played an important role. Through the Welsh Wish campaign, people from across Wales told decision makers they care about a future where we live in harmony with nature. Having campaigned for the Act to be passed, we are now focused on making sure it is delivered.
WORKING WITH WELSH GOVERNMENT
The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is a groundbreaking law, which has huge potential to make Wales a sustainable nation, setting a strong example to other countries.
But passing this law is not the end of the story. It’s now essential that Welsh Government and public bodies put the legislation into practice.
We want to see the Act bring about real change, ensuring that decisions are made to help people and nature thrive, both now and for the long term. This means a joined-up approach which brings together a healthy environment with thriving culture, economy and society.
To succeed, we need major changes to how Government and public bodies work. This will mean a cultural shift which will take time, but for some issues facing our country and the globe, such as the threats to nature and climate change, there is no time to wait, immediate action is required.
To make this happen we need political leadership and commitment. The civil service will also need to work effectively to change how it does business including working with others and to develop examples of how sustainable development works in practice.
Following the passing of the Act in 2015, we commissioned research into the extent Welsh Government is delivering the Act across various departments and programmes. You can download this report here.
It became clear that there were good examples of where the Act was being used but there was much work to do to turn this law into action, to ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of all Government decisions.
Following discussions with Welsh Government, in 2018 we worked with Government officials explore how to effectively deliver the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. We decided to jointly design and run a set of workshops for civil servants and third sector organisations.
The aims were to achieve:
- A better understanding between Welsh Government and stakeholders on perspectives and experiences of applying the Well-being of Future Generations Act
- Understanding of the expectations for effective delivery at both “whole Government” and programme/project levels
- Identified areas of good practice and areas for change
- Agreed next steps in areas for improvement.
You can download the workshop report, produced jointly with Welsh Government, here.
These workshops and the report were a big step forward in understanding what effective delivery of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act should look like, both in terms of working in partnership and in the generation of shared ideas of successful implementation.
Following the workshops, we’ll continue to press Welsh Government to significantly step up action for nature. This includes implementing the ideas in the workshop report to make the most of opportunity provided by the strong sustainable development legislation Wales has in place.
This action is even more urgent in light of the of stark warnings coming through the most recent evidence on the state of our planet. The Living Planet Report 2018 revealed that plummeting populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish around the world are an urgent sign that nature needs support, with population sizes of wildlife falling an average of 60 percent globally since 1970. The global trends are echoed in Wales, with one in 14 species here at risk of disappearing. Meanwhile the IPCC has warned that climate change is already happening and that unless we act now, a climate catastrophe is inevitable.