The Carbon Trust's David Reilly discusses the opportunities offered by Resource Efficient Wales to the public sector.
Wales is a small country with big green ambitions. The Welsh Government has introduced some of the world’s most progressive legislation on ensuring that sustainable development is put at the heart of decision-making.
This legislation aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking a long-term view and addressing the very real challenges of climate change, poverty, health inequalities, jobs and growth.
This is good news for Welsh society and the environment, both locally and globally. But it can be a challenge for public leaders, who may require additional support to understand the best way to meet their new responsibilities and turn those national ambitions into a practical reality.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 has recently come into force and creates a legally-binding duty on public authorities to contribute to sustainable development and support well-being. Meeting this duty requires setting and publishing clear objectives, then taking all reasonable steps to achieve them.
The act is to be followed by a proposed Environment Bill, currently going through the National Assembly for Wales. This increases the sustainability responsibilities of public authorities even further in relation to the natural environment, introducing a new accountability to Natural Resources Wales, as well as a specific duty to maintain and enhance biodiversity.
Fortunately for those public sector bodies that could use some extra help, they can now receive free advice and support to improve sustainable development thanks to the Welsh Government’s new Resource Efficient Wales service. This has been introduced as part of Wales’ wider commitment to sustainable development and seeks to identify, implement and promote well balanced resource efficient opportunities that are of short and long-term benefit to people of Wales, the economy and the environment.
This is just one of a number of new initiatives from the Welsh Government, aiming to take on the challenge of economic recovery, support economic growth and transition Wales to a more efficient, low carbon and prosperous economy. It sits alongside a number of similar initiatives such as Nest, Arbed and Ynni’r Fro, which are respectively aimed at tackling fuel poverty, improving the efficiency of buildings and promoting community scale renewable energy schemes.
Support is directly provided to public bodies through the Welsh Government’s Resource Efficient Wales Client Manager Service for the Public Sector, delivered by the Carbon Trust and WRAP Cymru. This helps organisations to understand their cost-effective opportunities to cut energy, water and waste costs, reducing environmental impacts. These can range from energy efficiency and renewable energy, through to waste reduction, improved recycling and better water management.
The cost-saving aspects of the service have been particularly welcomed. Wales has undergone a tough time economically in recent years, feeling the brunt of austerity more acutely than many parts of the UK. This has made delivering public services to many communities in Wales a challenging task.
Wales has a small population, with many geographically dispersed communities, which affords local authorities and other public bodies fewer opportunities for economies of scale. The challenges hit hardest at times when the economy is squeezed, when the need for public services within a community may be greater.
Regardless of legally-binding responsibilities, it makes sense for public sector bodies to use resources such as energy and water more efficiently, at the same time as managing waste and materials more effectively. This does more than just reduce an organisation’s environmental impact, it can also take a significant chunk out the amount of money spent on overheads or fixed costs. This is particularly valuable as it means that budgets can be reallocated towards delivering frontline services, safeguarding Welsh jobs in the process.
With volatile utility costs and anticipated price rises for certain key resources, the case for action is more compelling than ever before. And with free advice and support available from the Carbon Trust and WRAP Cymru under the Welsh Government’s Resource Efficient Wales programme there has never been a better time to embrace resource efficiency.
The Resource Efficient Wales Public Sector Client Manager Service has been running since October 2014, and has already helped a significant number of public bodies – including Local Authorities, schools, universities and the NHS – to identify and implement a range of cost-effective opportunities.
The service covers a range of advice, support and technical expertise that will help take projects from the initial concept right through to the intricacies of implementation. Experienced client managers from Resource Efficient Wales can offer support to the organisations, helping them understand their opportunities and priorities their needs.
Public sector organisations in Wales currently exploring how they can become more sustainable and benefit financially should get in touch as soon as possible. The business case for action is often very strong and, with access to free expert support, organisations can only stand to gain from participating.
To find out how Resource Efficient Wales can help your public sector organisation then email REWPublicSector@CarbonTrust.com or call 0300 123 2020 for further details.
Originally published in Public Sector Executive Magazine.