Ministers Accused of 'Overdoing the Sun and Sangria' by Painting Green Picture of Nation; CHARITY CLAIMS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SLIPPING BACK

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Ministers Accused of 'Overdoing the Sun and Sangria' by Painting Green Picture of Nation; CHARITY CLAIMS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SLIPPING BACK


Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

THE Welsh Government's own figures on sustainable development reveal a concerning lack of progress in key areas, Friends of the Earth Cymru has warned.

The campaigning charity claimed that some of the Sustainable Development Indicators had been "skewed to give a favourable response" and warned not enough had been done to fight climate change.

Of the 44 indicators, just 19 showed "clear improvement" while short-term changes in the bird population registered a "clear deterioration".

The findings published yesterday showed "clear improvement" in areas such as household waste treatment, rural air quality, water resources management and electricity from renewable sources.

There was "little or no change" under headings such as wellbeing, walking and cycling, pub-lic transport use, urban air quality and employment. Gareth Clubb of Friends of the Earth Cymru said: "This is a real mixed picture of results.

"On some of the biggest issues, we're seeing a total lack of progress. So in the same week as melting of Arctic sea ice was confirmed to be the worst since records began, greenhouse gases in Wales shot up by 8% in the most recent year analysed.

"Some of the indicators are skewed to give a favourable response.

"For example, does anyone really think we'd be producing less renewable energy in 2012 than in 2003? The question to ask is are we on track to meet our targets? "The answer is that we're the basket case of the UK in terms of progress on renewables.

"These results demonstrate the importance of having a robust and ambitious Sustainable Development Bill in Wales, with a duty on bodies to act sustainably, and an independent commissioner to hold them to account for their actions.

"We can turn this situation around, but it will take strong political action to do so."

Opposition parties challenged the Welsh Government's claim that progress was being made on the economy.

It states there has been a "clear improvement" in Gross Value Added (GVA) - the measure used to rate economic productivity - although the Welsh figure as a proportion of the UK average fell from 78% in 1997 to 74% in 2010.

The Welsh Government argues that the GVA figures "increased continually between 1997 and 2010 (with the exception of a brief fall in 2009) to reach their highest level in the presented time series".

It also insists Wales is improving its performance in key areas such as economic performance, recycling and renewable energy production. Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said that the findings were an indication that Wales was "not moving forward towards sustainability anywhere nearly as quickly as might be hoped".

The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP said: "These results show a Wales which is not progressing forwards in the way that we might hope and expect.

"Comparing with a baseline of around a decade ago, there has been no meaningful change in around half of the indicators that were identified - including high-profile issues such as health inequality, workless households and child poverty. …

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