Building a Sustainable Future through “Creating a Climate for Change”

The Science Policy team yesterday attended the final day of the annual Environment Agency conference, which saw Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing at the Welsh Assembly Government, Ed Milliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, deliver keynote addresses.

Jane Davidson set our her vision for ‘One Wales, One Planet’, a new scheme which commits Wales to become a ‘one planet nation’. The Government aims to reduce the ecological footprint of Wales to 1.88 global Ha per person, from 5.16Ha pp at present. This will involve an 80-90% reduction in the use of carbon-based energy, plus an associated reduction in carbon emissions, a reduction in waste and in travel. Wales is committed to a 3% year-on-year reduction in emissions from 2011.

Ed Milliband, delivering his first speech as Secretary of State at the new Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), emphasised the need to “up the pace”, with respect to tackling climate change, calling on the public sector to play a greater role in energy generation. He stressed that carbon emissions from aviation can no longer be overlooked, with an amendment to the UK Climate Change Bill meaning that emissions from aviation will be taken account of in carbon targets. Mr Milliband also highlighted the opportunities for creating “green jobs” which a switch to renewable energy and development of ‘green’ technologies could bring: “greening the upturn” in the economy which would mark a climb out of recession.

Boris Johnson used his speech to announce a new ‘priority parks’ initiative, allowing the public to vote for 47 green spaces which they would like to receive investment. The top-10 parks will receive a £400,000 award for improvements. Mr Johnson stated that he had has his ‘mind changed’ over climate change, based on the ‘huge body of scientific evidence’. It was his duty as Mayor, he said, to create a city which is tree-lined, enjoyable and above all, a ‘nice’ place to live. London could be the centre of a green revolution. The cornerstone of this is the Mayor’s recently announced plan to introduce 6-10,000 bicycles to the streets under a cycle-hire scheme, and the introduction of cycle ‘super-highways’.

A business forum saw corporate figures questioned by the Chair and audience over their sectors’ plans for mitigating and adapting to climate change. One speaker, Mike Barry, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Marks and Spencers, highlighted the need for organisations such as M and S to pay heed to ‘sound science’ when making decisions regarding ‘greening’ their supply chains, and the importance of gathering multiple stakeholders together to discuss potential solutions based on this.