Achieving a low carbon Wales – an inspiring visit to Cardiff's Coal Exchange
As much as I love having my head in a spreadsheet, sometimes it’s nice to have a day out. And days like the one I had last week help to reaffirm why we [Ricardo] do the work we do, and why working in the environmental sector is so important to me personally and many others. On Thursday 21 March, I travelled to Cardiff with John Harvey from our Energy practice to take part in an exciting event.
It was the launch day for the Welsh Government’s low carbon plan ‘Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales‘. In true Welsh style, this isn’t just a dry policy document laying out potential plans to move towards a distant target, but is a cross-government transformative shift in thinking.
It lays out policies and measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it also marks the incorporation of climate change consideration into every aspect of Welsh decision-making. The plan builds on the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which is something that I think sets Wales apart. The Act’s legal definition of prosperity was referred to throughout the launch event – it’s all about a low-carbon society, rich with opportunity.
The launch was held at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff – once the heart of the global coal trade – a symbolic demonstration of Wales’ commitment to move forward and become a leader in clean energy technologies. It was led by Dr Jane Davidson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement and Sustainability at the University of Wales. To mark the occasion, she asked the 300 or so delegates to recreate a picture from 1912 of traders on the floor of the Coal Exchange (but with rather more women this time). It was moments like this, combined with some passionate addresses from the new first minister, Mark Drakeford; Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe; and, especially, Sion Sleep from UpRising’s Environmental Leadership Programme that made the day feel particularly important. Sion’s emotive speech about the damage being done to the planet by our actions earned a standing ovation.
Prys Davies, Head of Decarbonisation and Energy at the Welsh Government, presented Welsh GHG emissions data produced by my team at Ricardo alongside new Welsh carbon budgets and current projected emissions. He gave us a few headlines from the low carbon plan then used the Welsh rugby team as an example of individuals pulling together, everyone having a role, making an incredible team to achieve a goal – I believe using the Welsh rugby team in every presentation is a particular talent of his.
Clearly, there is a long way to go to reach full decarbonisation. But, if any country can lead the way – and do it with social, environmental and economic justice in mind – it is Wales. The launch made me want to get involved. As Mark Drakeford said, ‘The first question to ask is always “What contribution can I make?”’