Climate love

Welsh Government

Climate love

Taking future generations more into account in how they act on climate today.

In Wales, Sophie Howe has been for seven years the world's first ever future generations commissioner; she is responsible for giving advice on long-term thinking to the Welsh government, including on climate, thanks to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act passed in 2015.This act requires for all public bodies – including the Welsh government itself – to demonstrate how their decisions are meeting today's needs without compromising those of future generations.
The law establishes seven long-term national wellbeing goals such as a prosperous Wales, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a globally responsible Wales and a resilient Wales (this latter includes ecological resilience).
When asked how can someone manage to represent people who will be born in five, 50 or 100 years, Sophie Howe answers "I always say that I sort of represent the unborn but they don't talk to me very often, it's impossible for us to know exactly what future generations are going to need." But "Wherever I go anywhere in the world and I talk about the future generations act, the general response is, 'Oh, my God, like, why doesn't every country have one?'
The job of the future generations commissioner, says Howe, is to support public bodies to reach these goals, monitor and review their progress, and issue recommendations. There's no obligation to follow these recommendations, although bodies do have to respond to explain why they aren't.
Howe worked mainly on big strategic policy issues, such as the government's transport strategy. After the Welsh government approved plans for a relief road around the city of Newport which would have cut through a highly biodiverse area of natural wetlands, Howe intervened, asking how this project could fit into the goals for a low-carbon society,maintening ecosystems, and supports healthier citizens.
The Welsh government finally refused the plans. "I suppose that goes to the power of someone independent, saying 'on behalf of future generations, can I ask you how this is going to work for future generations, and address these long-term issues that we're facing?'" says Howe.
Howe then went on to challenge the government's entire transportation strategy, which at the time focused investment on roads rather than on public transport. "We then worked with the government on developing an entirely new transport strategy, which puts private car use at the bottom of the pile of priorities, and puts active travel and public transport at the top," says Howe. In 2021, the country announced a freeze on road building due to its climate impact, with a review to assess road building policy line with the future generations act. A final decision is expected later this year.
Howe has now finished her second term as future generations commissioner for Wales, and a new appointee will start soon. During this term, she has issued recommendations on everything from a shorter working week and universal basic income, to the creation of a national nature service, home energy efficiency measures and developing an education system fit for the future; always with a focus on how to achieve multiple wellbeing benefits in the long term.
The good news is that the idea seems to be spreading: Gibraltar now has a similar commissioner, and bills are in development in the UK, Irish and Scottish parliaments. The UN also plans to appoint one.
As climate impacts begin to bite, and are only set to get worse as time goes on, governments, societies, philosophers and young people are finding themselves tasked more and more to consider how the wellbeing of the billions of people who will live in the future can be accounted for in decisions today.

Do people yet to be born have climate change rights?

There are some who believe we should be taking future generations more into account in how we act on climate today.

Do you agree?

118 more agrees trigger scaled up advertising

  • Gorffly mokua

    11 w

    We cant talk about climate matters without including the young people, they are agents of change!

    • Timothy Ndegwa

      11 w

      With such preparations a generation that has deliberate intention of taking care of the environment at heart will arise.

    • Sarah Chabane

      11 w

      Great initiative, it's nice to see that Wales cares about future generations, let's hope that other countries will follow their lead

      • We Don't Have Time

        11 w

        Dear Jacqueline Marchelli Thank you for getting your climate love to level 2! We have reached out to Welsh Government and requested a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! /Adam We Don't Have Time

        • Daniel Waweru

          11 w

          In matters climate think the best legacy we can leave is to pass this mantle to the generation to come, by creating awareness about climate change and teaching them ways of appreciating and protecting the climate.

          • Tabitha Kimani

            12 w

            The Future Generations Act reminds us that we should not only focus on our present but also mind those who will come after us.

            • Peter Karanga

              12 w

              includes establishing sustainability systems

              • Joseph Githinji

                12 w

                Failing to plan is planning to fail, this is a way to plan for the future. There is no doubt the future is safer with such initiatives

                • George Kariuki

                  12 w

                  The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is an incredible example of how governments can be held accountable for their actions and how they can be encouraged to take into account the needs of future generations when making decisions today.

                  • Edwin wangombe

                    12 w

                    It's important to prepare the future generations in order to safeguard their tomorrow

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