Did you turn off your lights for WWF’s Earth Hour last month?
If you did, you were in good company. I lead our Welsh team and it was great to see the event gain such support here, across the UK and around the world. We estimate around half a million people in Wales and many more millions globally joined the biggest celebration of our planet.
A record breaking
158 162 countries and over 7,000 towns and cities took part. Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Empire State Building were among the many iconic landmarks that joined in around the world.
I was at the Senedd (Welsh Assembly building) in Cardiff Bay where we watched the home of the National Assembly go dark as we created an LED image of the world as a reminder of the need to protect our home planet.
It was part of a huge body of support across Wales.
Dozens of landmarks, from Caernarfon Castle to Newport Transporter Bridge, went dark. An incredible 235 Welsh schools joined Earth Hour, along with businesses including Ikea, St David’s Hotel and John Lewis.
But Earth Hour was a special one in Wales this year, because we are about to see a new law introduced that could help us lead as a sustainable nation.
The Future Generations Bill is an amazing opportunity to make a real difference for the health of our planet. The first law of its kind in the UK, the Bill is due to be introduced in the Welsh Assembly this summer. If successful, it will change the way government and public services work, so that all decisions are designed to benefit people and nature both today and in the long term.
For that reason, we launched our ‘Welsh Wish’ campaign as part of Earth Hour – for people to show their support for a ‘One Planet Wales’ – making our country one that thrives, while using our fair share of the earth’s resources. It’s designed to complement the Welsh Government’s ‘National Conversation’ on the future of our country, ‘The Wales We Want’.
Launched in early March, by the day of Earth Hour we were celebrating over a thousand wishes on our campaign website. We’ve had support from members of the Wales rugby squad, actor Michael Sheen and two Welsh Government Ministers. Its wider reach has been huge – #welshwish reached over a million Twitter accounts and we’ve had coverage in newspapers, TV and online. 22 Assembly Members – from all four parties – have added their support and joined our online community.
This support is important because if we get the Future Generations law right, it will help us achieve a ‘One Planet Wales’ and inspire other countries with a great example of how to be truly sustainable.
Today, we’d need more than two planets if everyone in the world lived as we do in Wales. Globally, we’re using the earth’s resources too quickly which means we’re facing massive threats to people and nature, such as from climate change and the loss of forests and marine life.
If, like me, you care deeply about our planet, then this is a time of mixed emotions. While each day seems to bring news of damage or threats to the natural world, there is also the feeling of optimism that we in Wales could be about to make a positive difference.
The world is now watching – can Wales really live up to the expectation that we will lead as a sustainable nation? Leading thinkers such as Jonathan Porritt, Sir Stuart Rose and Earth Hour Co-Founder Andy Ridley have all expressed hope that our Future Generations law can be a positive force in the world.
I also chair an alliance of over 20 organisations – including the Bevan Foundation, RSPB Cymru and Oxfam Cymru – which has put forward its own proposals for the Bill, following our concern that initial proposals for the law were too weak.
Over the coming months, we’ll be watching closely. Important questions will need to be answered: Will the law place a strong enough duty on government and public services? Will it set up a powerful and truly independent commissioner who can speak up for future generations? Will it change how public money is spent to support a sustainable future?
The success of Earth Hour and Welsh Wish give me added confidence that we have broad support – for making the changes we need to make sure our planet thrives for future generations.
Furthermore, in a poll of Welsh adults conducted by Beaufort Research, 68% of people agreed that ‘Welsh Government should take responsibility for making policy changes that will protect the planet for future generations’, with just 11% disagreeing .
We have the will to act – so let’s do the right thing and make future generations proud of our legacy.
What do you think of what is happening in Wales? Can it lead as a sustainable country? Let us know in the comments below.