Welsh Government Climate Change Conference October 16th – the Role  of the Third Sector

I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring this morning’s session to a close in my roles as chair of WCVA, Size of Wales and also last but not least chair of Community Energy Pembrokeshire

I do though also have a relevant back story founder member of Climate Change Commission in 2007; speaking at the launch of the fist climate change strategy in 2010; being independent chair of Climate Change Commission from 2011 to 2015; and of course helping to shape WFG Act as Commissioner for Sustainable futures, particularly though leading the national conversation on the Wales we Want.

It is important to spend a moment to reflect on that past experience - the struggle to get climate change taken seriously as a priority across Govt against competing short term priorities, the undermining of policy shifts from UK govt; the retreats from ambition for Wales to lead in areas such as efficiency standards in housing; a range of short term often top down initiatives – doing good work but not on the scale needed often leaving little in terms of legacy; the confusion caused by mixed messages from different parts of Government and above all an approach that did not putting the community front and centre.

We must make sure we now apply the lessons from these false starts – for me summed up as

the importance of a collective action on the issues that matter with a focus on the “how” to make changes happen as opposed to statements of intent - and specifically the need to invest in bottom up community led action that builds ownership and long term change.

There have been a lot said and written in the climate change strategies over the past 10 years but in my view the most important is this statement quote from an earlier Welsh Government climate change strategy document:

“We believe that real and lasting change begins on the ground, in our community groups, in our voluntary groups, self-help groups, community co-operatives and enterprises, religious organisations and other not for profit organisations; collectively referred to as the third sector. This means that while we, as Government, need to set the direction of change towards a low carbon society, we also need the third sector; as trusted agents, and active partners in making the big and urgent changes”

I think that probably the biggest shift we have seen in the last year is the in widespread recognition of the need to put people at the centre of change. This has been super charged by the disruptive interventions of Extinction Rebellion and the leadership of young people. With millions marching across the world we can see the potential for people-led climate innovations at local, national and international scale.

Third sector organisations play a critical ‘trusted messenger’ role in putting people at the centre - engaging communities and citizens with climate change issues and mobilising volunteer action. Trust is so important in change – yet we use energy companies probably alongside government as the least trusted of organisations to deliver on the critical issue of energy efficiency and cold calling to sell the messages of efficient boilers and insulation. It is why Community Energy Pembrokeshire is building community capacity for change through the network of local community based champions

My key lesson from experience of national conversation on the Wales we Want was the power of trusted networks and local anchor organisations

  • groups like Young Farmers and WI - the WI Climate Ambassadors to raise awareness about climate change in their community, build support for tougher action on climate change with their MPs and AMs, and educate WI members and the wider public on how to reduce their carbon footprint

  • The role of social enterprises - Egni Co-op in the process of biggest rollout of solar power in Welsh history through installing 5 MW on 250 community rooftop sites across Wales funded

  • The work of Renew Wales as a practitioner-led programme which helps communities in Wales reduce their carbon footprint, adapt to the impacts of climate change - a unique approach: working through a network of Local Coordinators, hosted in local third sector organisations.

It is people and networks that create change. 12 years ago WCVA convened the Millennium Development Goals Task Force that contributed to the creation of the Government’s Wales for Africa programme and established in 2010 The Size of Wales as an independent charity

Our aim was to mobilise a nation to support the protection of tropical rain forests - rated as one of the top 5 global actions we can take to respond to climate change. 10 years on we have worked with communities and partners in Africa, South American and now Asia to preserve tropical forests, plant new ones and to protect the rights and livelihoods of local communities - planting over 10 million trees and helping to secure nearly 5 million hectares of tropical forest , while the Size of Wales education programme is working with over 200 schools & 30000 pupils.

The lessons are important

  • The consistent support of the Waterloo Foundation and partnership with Welsh Government as core funding partners,

  • while also securing support from an increasing diversity of trusts and foundations including the the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust who have recently awarded a grant to help fund to eliminate imported tropical deforestation from Wales’s economy.

  • A community to community model that works with rather than doing to reflecting principles of mutual support and solidarity.

Climate change will exacerbate existing inequalities both globally and in Wales as the groups of people most vulnerable to the likely unavoidable impacts of climate change are generally those already identified as being disadvantaged in some other way. Tackling injustice is at the heart of the third sector

Our current efforts to decarbonise energy supply are largely paid through bills an approach which disproportionately hits the poorest in society who contribute least to climate change

To quote Richard Walker of Iceland.. “I defy anyone to tell a committed and hardworking parent who is using every bit of their weekly food shope dressing their kids in hand me downs travelling everywhere by bus and on foot and never going on holiday that they need to wake up and cut their carbon footprint”

As Forum for the Future have stressed there is still not enough conversation about the raft of indirect impacts of climate change. From impacts on human health to the disruption of food supply to triggering mass migration and social upheaval, there is not yet a widespread awareness that the impacts of climate change go well beyond adverse weather conditions. The response to these challenges is at the heart of the work of third sector organisations across Wales in building resilient cohesive communities that

So what are my key messages - We need

  • more collaboration across the sector and between , sectors pooling ideas and resources while openly sharing learning. We know that the issues are too big for any one person, community company or government to tackle alone. Many of you will be or have been involved in initiatives, campaigns and innovations – often developed in isolation of one another - intense competition for attention and for the resources needed to fund the work

  • Build place based community partnerships – highlighting role of community anchor organisations such as Awel Aman Tawe working with public sector in particular town and community councils to build cohesive resilient communities focused on re localising key systems – food, energy, transport

  • Support those pioneers at front line of community led change who suffer the frustrations, isolation, and the dangers of burn out due to the challenges of the system - those points of light in community leadership around Wales. Community Energy Pembrokeshire has worked for 10 years to develop a community owned turbine. I hav taken on the baton from pioneers suffered the fatigue of challenging the system to make a difference. We are now finally in the build phase of the turbine– and need to recognise the huge role of support & advice Welsh Government Energy Service and loan from Development Bank of Wales

  • The availability of small grant support to local groups is critical one of continued messages from communities has been the impact of the decline in small grant support .

  • Funders need to focus on the issue – Hugely encouraging that the National Lottery Community Fund has announced its climate action plan with additional 100million uk fund to be launched in November - asking to hear from community-led and place-based partnerships who believe they are already working on high impact climate action activities and are able to drive real change in their local community. In addition to this the fund is looking at how organisations being supported through other funding streams incorporate a climate change response. This needs to be a policy across all funders and incorporated into the public sector grants, loans and tenders.

  • advocacy role – providing the voices for change it is worth remembering that Nature is the main organised interest in this country – with our nature based NGOs literally having millions of members across UK far more than are members of political parties. This energy and enthusiasm that needs to be capture. We need to actively campaign for a more sustainable future – which is why Extinction Rebellion is such an important development. We need to hold Government to account and mobilise citizen led action – most importantly at the ballot box. We must not elect councillors, AMs or MPs who do not understand the nature of the climate emergency.

As chair of Wales Council for Voluntary Action our job is to help voluntary and community organisations to make a bigger difference together. We therefore have a key role to play in the response to the climate emergency. Indeed it is why we have worked with Cynnal Cymru to bring their function as the Sustainable Development Forum for Wales into the wider WCVA group.

Critically we need to work collaboratively with business, local government, town and community councils to ensure we have collective endeavour in delivering a just transition plan for Wales. We know the limits of legislation, policy statements and headline targets. The scale of change required through a plan is transformational involving a whole system approach which means everyone needs to be part of the change, focused and accountable for the pledges we make. I look forward to working with you and being part of our national response to the climate emergency.

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