Welsh routes to sustainability


Rescue Mission: Planet Wales


In May 1997, the manifesto of the new Labour Government included a commitment to holding a referendum on Welsh devolution. A White Paper, A Voice forWales, was published in July 1997. It outlined the UK Government’s proposals and, on September 18, a referendum was held. Following the referendum, which was narrowly in favour of devolution, the UK Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act 1998. The Act established a 'National Assembly' for Wales as a corporate body – with the executive (the government) and the legislature (the Assembly itself) operating as one. The first elections to the new institution were held on 6 May, 1999. In September 2000 the Welsh Government’s Environment Secretary, Sue Essex backed a UK-wide draft climate change programme as an important contribution of the new Welsh Government's stance on sustainable development. It effectively endorsed the Welsh Government's commitment to working in partnership with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations in the development and delivery of a new climate change programme aimed at achieving both the Kyoto and the UK's domestic targets on gaseous emissions. In Wales it was envisaged that government would help consolidate community initiatives in this direction, whether local or international.

Linking with African communities

A team from the Countryside Council of Wales visited Uganda to help prepare a conservation management plan for the Kidepo National Park. The starting point of the plan was that local communities will only commit to habitat and species conservation when their socio-economic well-being is assured. Therefore, where there is conflict between people and conservation, the aims should be to provide communities with sustainable economic alternatives to unsustainable harvesting and land use practices. This was part of the Kidepo management plan to resolve conflict through sharing of benefits from conservation and the involvement of stakeholders in decision making as an essential element of integrating the economic development of people into conservation management.


PONT - Partnerships Overseas Networking Trust - was set up to twin the town of Pontypridd with the Ugandan town of Mbale, by linking professionals and organizations in Pontypridd with their counterparts in Africa. Not long after, the whole of Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough was twinned with the wider Mbale District, expanding the partnership to a regional level of 750,000 people.


From 2007 living sustainably became the main thread of Welsh governance. It was one of the eight pillars written into the 'government of 'progressive consensus' agreed by a coalition of the Welsh Labour Party and the nationalist party, Plaid Cymru.

One Wales Coalition Statement

Mind Map of 'One Wales Agenda'


One Planet

In 2009 the government publication 'One Wales: One Planet' set out an ambition for Wales to only use its fair share of the Earth’s resources. The policy and guidance set out in 'One Planet: One Wales' was aimed at making an important contribution to reducing the ecological footprint, whilst delivering sustainable development and tackling climate change. It took a view that the current human ecological footprint shows that, if everyone on the Earth lived as do the people of Wales, 2.7 planets worth of resources would be required. The aim is to reduce the Wales' ecological demand to the global average availability of resources, i.e. to 1.88 global hectares per person within a generation .

Wales in Africa

At the climate change conference in Copenhagen (2009) the First Minister of Wales announced a project that would build on the already close links between Wales and the Mbale region of Uganda. It would provide Welsh expertise and knowledge to help Mbale prepare its own plans for future sustainability and adapt to climate change. He said,

"For many in the developed world, climate change can seem as a far away threat, but in Mbale they are already seeing its impact on their way of life at first hand. Industrialised countries like ours have a moral duty to help these regions prepare their own plans to adapt and prepare for our changing environment."

This link is now running as the Mbale Coalition Against Poverty'

Planning for sustainability

In the same year planning for sustainability was taken up by government in recognition that the planning system has a fundamental role in delivering sustainable development in Wales. It must help in the process of balancing and integrating all planning objectives in order to meet current development needs while safeguarding those of the future. In particular the planning system, through both development plans and the development control process, must provide for homes, infrastructure, investment and jobs in a way which is consistent with the urgent need to tackle climate change.


In 2010 the Welsh Government,agreed on a set of 5 shared UK principles for planning for sustainability that will help achieve sustainable development purposes:

• living within environmental limits: by setting out a pathway to using only our fair share of the earth’s resources and becoming a One Planet nation within the lifetime of a generation;

• ensuring a strong, healthy and just society: our focus on how a sustainable approach will improve the quality of life and well-being of the people of Wales and especially those in our less well-off communities;

• achieve a sustainable economy: by setting out how we want to transform our economy so that it is low carbon, low waste;

• promoting good governance: through confirming sustainable development as the central organising principle of the Welsh Assembly Government and through encouraging and enabling others to embrace sustainable development as their central organising principle; and

• using sound science responsibly: through the use of our sustainable development principles as part of our evidence-based approach to policy making


The Welsh word ‘Cynefin’, translates best as ‘habitat’ but also means a place that you belong to. Cynefin is an initiative that brings together different parts of a community – local residents, community groups, local businesses, youth groups and organisations that deliver services – to help to improve the place in which they live or work, making it cleaner, safer and generally nicer to live in as well as more flourishing in terms of opportunities for business and for people to work and improve their incomes.


Cultural Poverty

From 2014 tackling cultural poverty entered the mainstream of community development.

Deep place

The Deep Place Study is an attempt to develop a complete understanding of a single disadvantaged location, in this case the South Wales valleys town of Tredegar. The study has identified all current weaknesses which constrain that location, as well as opportunities which could be exploited to establish a sustainable future for the community.

The study is not limited by current practice, policy or contemporary austerity constraints, but does instead aim to explore cutting-edge opportunities that could help lift the community out of poverty to become a fully sustainable location by 2030. As such it has the potential for application in other places undergoing post industrial or post colonial regeneration.


The 'Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act' was passed, which is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. It will make the public bodies listed in the Act think more about the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach This new law will mean that, for the first time, public bodies listed in the Act must do what they do in a sustainable way. Public bodies need to make sure that when making their decisions they take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future.

It will expect them to:

  • work together better

  • involve people reflecting the diversity of our communities

  • look to the long term as well as focusing on now

  • take action to try and stop problems getting worse - or even stop them happening in the first place.

The Act establishes a statutory Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, whose role is to act as a guardian for the interests of future generations in Wales, and to support the public bodies listed in the Act to work towards achieving the well-being goals. The Act also establishes Public Services Boards (PSBs) for each local authority area in Wales. Each PSB must improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of its area by working to achieve the well-being goals.