The Commissioner’s role

At present the Wales Future Generations Commissioner’s Office concentrates too much on the social and not enough on the ecological. Not that the former is unimportant, but it depends upon the latter. It should concentrate its fire more on the county-wide Public Service Boards (PSBs) since this would have more effect at scale.

Changing the planning system

Call me an idealist but I believe that the planning system needs changing. If we are truly serious about getting to one planet, zero carbon Wales, as specified in the WBFGA, why on earth should not every planning application be subject to similar conditions to getting planning permission to do one planet development in the open countryside?

This involves: zero carbon building, a low carbon transport plan, 100% renewable energy, ecological sewage treatment, improving biodiversity, integrating with the community, and producing a proportion of locally consumed produce from the land. Above all you have to measure, to monitor and report on your progress, including reducing your ecological footprint to almost one planet.

Someone needs to tell me a scientifically valid answer to this question.

Upgrading the Well-Being of Future Generations Act

It doesn’t have teeth. People only change if they have to. The 37 indicators need to become targets. Public bodies will have to aim at them. This should be enshrined in supplementary legislation.

I was astonished to find out recently that the Welsh Audit Office does not collect any statistics associated with the indicators or the act, and a lot of the time when it audits a public body does not refer to their compliance with the act. They should be doing some of your work for the Future Generations Commissioner.

The ‘one planet’ framework

We advocate the use of this framework in the context of the act and Planning Policy Wales which says:

“4.5.11 Closely aligned to the commitments to tackling climate change is the Welsh Government’s approach to reducing the ecological footprint of Wales. Our Sustainable Development Scheme sets out an ambition for Wales to use its fair share of the Earth’s resources, where, within a generation, our ecological footprint is reduced to the global average availability of resources – 1.88 global hectares per person. The current footprint shows that, if everyone on the Earth lived as we do, we would use 2.7 planets worth of resources. Reducing Wales’ ecological footprint will require a large reduction in the total resources used to sustain our lifestyles.”

In the ‘one planet’ framework, administrators of Wales as a whole, or regions and organisations, including companies, can set a target to reduce their footprint to one planet over, say, 20 years. This is four times longer than is required from those gaining planning permission for a One Planet Development, so it should be feasible. Administrators need to be made more aware that this is possible and how to do it and what tools are required. They need training.

The ecological footprint, an indicator under the Act, captures more than is normally captured by measuring carbon alone – including hidden emissions. I do understand that the ecological footprint is hard to measure. I’m not worried about that, because everything is approximate and we’ll do the best we can with the data available on material flows through the country. The main thing is that it’s a very easy to understand campaigning tool. The public at large can get their heads round it in a way they can’t with carbon.

We want to work with the Future Generations Commissioner’s office. The One Planet Centre would assist to enable this with a transference of ideas for action by providing tools, training and support, such as:

A Wales-specific calculator app

Many people want to do something about climate emergency but are ignorant or confused through no fault of their own; they lack an idea of what really makes a difference. So one idea we have is a downloadable mobile app for calculating ecological footprints at personal and local levels. We’d adapt the one already successfully used in Portugal.

Depending upon the result of answers to simple questions it would suggest consequent actions to take – which link to corresponding project templates. Equally, many people do have great ideas; their successful ones can be uploaded and shared using the same system.

Training and empowerment

We would like to set up a body to supply expert training in energy reduction, water and resource efficiency, supply chain management, adaptation and mitigation for officials in organisations and companies. Personnel in organisations such as local government need such training as the only way to create system change that lasts. In turn it will engender a culture change in all employees and hopefully supply chains eventually spilling out to society at large.


  1. Our expert trainers would train local officers in public bodies.
  2. Our expert trainers also train resource efficiency auditors to provide independent and objective support for efforts.
  3. These trained people then train others in a cascading tree to spread out best practice around the country.
  4. This model is borrowed from UNIDO, with whom I have worked, which has been proven in many countries.
  5. Here, I work with my colleague Kit Oung, who chairs the ISO technical committees for the relevant standards.
  6. We estimate the cost of a batch of eight training programmes which can be delivered at PSB level at £100,000, what is nothing in the context of what they can achieve.
  7. Participating organisations would save the money invested many times over by savings on energy and resources and other efficiencies.


  1. Staff of six to start with.
  2. The web-based resources to enable these trainers.
  3. A web-based benchmarking platform for this process as measurement and verification of results is vital to a successful system; this can be used to rate organisations.

Measurement and verification

Measurement and verification is key to success. It helps to be certain whether money and time is being spent wisely. Training that we offer would be how organisations can deploy proven standards. These include:

  1. For reducing the impact of consumption: the ecological footprint tool
  2. For modelling the best outcomes for a given procurement or planning decision: social and natural capital accounting methods such as Net Present Value + (Standard social and natural capital accounting methods can be found on the National Audit Office’s website)
  3. For reducing the impact of imports and exports: The PRINCE model in Sweden, and EEMRIO (‘environmentally-extended input-output modelling’)
  4. For promoting energy efficiency in organisations and industry: ISO 50001
  5. For smart and sustainable communities: ISO 37120
  6. For environmental management: ISO 14001
  7. For resource efficiency: ISO 14070
  8. For promoting the circular economy: ISO 14040 Life Cycle Analysis.

David Thorpe