“This is about living within our resources while improving people’s well being. It will require radical changes in Welsh society,” said Rhodri Morgan, first minister for Wales, which is currently celebrating 10 years of devolution.
The report sets out a series of ambitious goals:
• to produce more electricity from renewables than the nation consumes within 20 years
• increase recycling rates from 36% today to over 70% by 2025
• send just 5% of Welsh waste to landfill sites by 2025
• phasing out free plastic bags
• developing new marine and biomass energy plants
“Waste will be taboo. Heavy industry and power generation will greatly improve their energy efficiency,” says the report, “there will be a consistent drop in energy and water demand.”
Jonathan Porritt, the chair of the UK Sustainable development commission, said: “Wales will set an example for the rest of the world to follow. [Its] government is showing a serious commitment to making Wales a truly sustainable country.”
Communities in south Wales will become part of one of Europe’s few “low carbon regions”, with 40,000 social housing homes equipped with solar, wind and heat-saving equipment.
Davidson said that £623m was expected to be spent in the next three years on improving energy efficiency in homes in Wales, which has some of the highest rates of fuel poverty rates. Most of the money will come from energy companies.
Plans for a 3% annual cut in greenhouse emissions from 2011 were questioned as being below the 6% needed to hold climate change emissions to just a 2% rise. “The figures were adopted before the latest estimates of what was needed,” said Morgan.
Some of the plans are likely to run into opposition in rural areas, where there are fears that large swathes of mid and north Wales will be turned to wind farms. Davidson said that roughly 2% of Welsh land would be devoted to wind farms, mostly in areas currently forested.
The plan commits Wales to becoming possibly the only “one planet” country in the world, ie a nation whose use of resources could be sustained for the entire global population. The Welsh ecological footprint has been estimated to be over 5.2 ha per person today. The intention is to reduce it to under 1.9ha within 25 years.