By Filippos Proedrou
Efforts to tackle climate change often focus on international agreements and the actions of large countries such as the US and China. But most of the world’s countries or autonomous states have fewer than 10m people.
What happens in small states is critical to the world’s transition to low-carbon energy. This isn’t necessarily because of the amount of emissions small states can cut (although that is important). Instead, their policies can help develop the renewable energy infrastructure the whole world needs, and send important signals to other governments, private investors and the general population about how the fight against climate change is developing.
The Welsh government recently became the latest small state authority to announce an ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. Looking at what Wales is already doing and what it still needs to do to reach its carbon targets can provide some useful lessons for other small states hoping to decarbonise.
First, Wales has not just an ambitious target but also a unique legislative framework for climate policy through the Well-being of Futures Generation (Wales) Act 2015. This act emphasises the value of preventing problems from occurring rather than addressing them after they emerge. It aims to merge policy issues, such as public health, climate change and economic prosperity, and mandates that all policy must contribute to sustainability and not undermine long-term goals. And it says people must be seen as part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem.