Thursday, 14 February 2013

Wales Environmental Leadership Conference: A Summary & a Personal Note

The aim of the conference is to determine Wales’ position in international environmental politics, identifying how Wales could strengthen its policies in a sustainable manner as Wales is seeking international political response to climate change, biodiversity loss and universal change towards sustainable development.
The conference was organised by the Environmental Politics Research Group and the Institute of Welsh Politics with collaboration from the International Politics Department and the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, of the Aberystwyth University.

The conference that began at mid day on the February 8th had two panels and a Public event.

The first panel presented five papers, dealing with the question whether Wales can become an international environmental knowledge producer. The paper presented in relation to Environment and Malaria transmission in sub Saharan Africa, was of great interest. This project illustrated the involvement of Wales in the international environmental arena, as they were one of the world’s leading groups in the field. The project of the WISE Network in relation to sustainable businesses and development which was in progress with the collaboration of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities was also a highlight of the panel discussion. Issues of climate change; the role of IPCC and methods of exploring the political and ethical possibilities for climate change adaptation was discussed among the first panel.

The papers of the second panel questioned if Wales could be an international actor, and how the environmental policy practices and community action support could facilitate Wales as a global actor. The panel proposed five papers, which mainly dealt with Wales’ capacity to act as a role model for international practices, its relationship between different environmental communities, and lastly, of the political and legal basis for Wales position in environmental politics.

The last event of the conference was open to the public to participate, bringing different communities together, discussing the future of Wales as an international environment actor. This session was interactive and panellists answered questions posed by the public.

Personal note

I had little knowledge of Wales’ role in environment politics till I attended this conference. it was a new experience for me as an international student of Aberystwyth University. 

The first panel demonstrated various initiatives of Wales as a global knowledge producer in environmental politics. Reflecting on the papers presented, their research and work, was remarkable.
In their second panel, they assessed the political and legal perspective of Wales as an environmental actor. In this session the panellists also identified problems of coordination, issues of implementation, the relationship of Wales and the Westminster and the rest of Europe, and the challenges of crosscutting. On a legal perspective, the presenter highlighted that changing a global environmental policy was not the best solution. The lecturer of Department of Law and Criminology, stressed on positioning to change the behaviour and attitude of individuals, rather than making a legislation force what they can or cannot do. The last presentation was a proposal from a different standpoint, where she explained that the emphasis on individual behaviour may not be most effective way of tackling society’s reactions with climate change. She noted that in order to be heard, Wales had to be noisy, and that appropriately framed emotional appeals can motive action. This proposal contradicting with the legal perspective brought out reasonable arguments that one may need to think about.
The public event, being interactive, had many questions and discussions from participants and panellists. One of the most interesting discussions was, making the community involve in referendums as an environmental actor. The will to be sustainable was definite within the Wales. The public shown concerned towards the high level decisions that were promptly made, and I quote, “what the government say and what actually they do is different”. Answering the matter from the government, noted that the carrier bag legislation was put forward by the public, and not the government and such actions need more time to initiate within the community. The Sustainable Act is currently at working progress, and the white paper is available for the public.
The extent to which Wales can be identified as an international environmental leader can be identified by the policies created for the environment and people, with its decisions taken at the international arena.
The purpose of the conference was not to become “the environmental leader” in the international arena, nor to being better than everyone else. Wales may not be as economically largely important as other states, but in perspective of climate change, and environment, Wales needs to be heard in the international arena