€4 million for Welsh sustainable development

Welsh Minister for Environment Sue Essex has announced EC approval for €4 million in funding to kick-start the country’s sustainable development plans. Under the Innovative Action scheme, the European Commission invites bids for experimental projects that incorporate a number of set themes including the promotion of regional identity and sustainable development, particularly in innovation and technology.

The award entry was based on an extensive consultation exercise that followed the launch, in January 2000, of the National Assembly’s consultation document A Sustainable Wales – Learning to Live Differently, which set out how it planned to meet its legal obligations on sustainable development. The consultation lasted three months and involved roadshows, the distribution of 2,000 copies of the consultation document and 1,000 copies of the summary to a wide range of organisations and community groups, and the publication of the documents and a moderated discussion forum on the Assembly’s website.

After this exercise, the Welsh Assembly submitted plans for an E4million, two-year programme to set up a regional laboratory. Its aim, according to the Assembly, is to “test and demonstrate the way towards a sustainable knowledge-based economy in Wales”. The move towards a new base for the economy is heralded in the Assembly’s own background documentation, in which it notes: “Over the years, a lot of money has been made in Wales, but somehow, we’re not rich. More recent attempts to bring new wealth into Wales haven’t always worked: in general, they have left us dependent on decisions taken elsewhere, and sometimes they have backfired. We need a broader, less vulnerable basis for creating and retaining wealth here. Our natural environment has also suffered.”

“Approval of this programme by the European Commission reflects the Welsh position of being in the vanguard of regions effectively driving the sustainable development agenda forward,” said Essex.

“We can now proceed with four projects which will encourage economic development based on knowledge and technological innovation, exploitation of the information society serving regional development, and promotion of sustainable development and regional identity,” she said.

The projects will build on experience and partnerships established under the Wales Regional Technology Plan and Information Society programmes, and the Countryside Council for Wales’ award-winning LANDMAP geographical information system. More details will be announced at the formal launch of the projects later this month.

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