Lesley Griffiths returns as Welsh Environment Minister

Lesley Griffiths has returned to the environment brief in the Welsh Government as Minister of Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs following a cabinet reshuffle by the new Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Griffiths was previously appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs within the Welsh Government in May 2016. Towards the end of 2017, then First Minister Carwyn Jones reshuffled his cabinet, removing the environment brief from Griffiths as she was made Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.Lesley Griffiths returns as Welsh Environment Minister

Now reappointed, Griffiths has a range of responsibilities, including but not limited to:

  • National strategy and policy for Natural Resources Management;
  • Oversight and implementation of Environment (Wales) Act and Natural Resources Wales;
  • Cross-cutting measures of mitigation in relation to climate change; and
  • Emission reduction targets.

Hannah Blythyn, who was made Environment Minister position after Jones’ reshuffle in late 2017 and has overseen increased investment to improve Wales’ recycling rate, will now be moving to the Housing and Local Government department.

The environment brief is an important one in the Welsh Government, with Wales having been on an upward trajectory in terms of its waste management performance since the release of its 2010 ‘Towards Zero Waste’ strategy, which laid out steps for Wales to send zero waste to landfill by 2050. It has the highest municipal recycling rate in the UK, with an independently recorded 63.8 per cent, and has twice seen local authorities break the 70 per cent barrier for their recycling rates, with Isle of Anglesey Council being the latest.

Observers will hope that Griffiths brings back the enthusiasm with which she approached the environment brief during her last tenure as Environment Minister. Resource interviewed the Griffiths whilst she was in this role in November 2017 – only a few months after Wales had been announced as third in the world for municipal waste recycling, hot on the heels of Singapore and Germany.

She discussed why Wales had become a success story within the recycling world: “I think it’s about supporting policy with the right legislation. That includes statutory targets and we’ve provided significant funding. So we’ve got the right conditions.

“But it’s about partnership working, so it is down to local authorities and, of course, it’s down to the residents of Wales: if they didn’t want to do it, it wouldn’t be successful.”

Griffiths emphasised that in the near future, Wales could even exceed its position as third in the world for municipal recycling. She said: “Well, it’s certainly an ambition and we’re not many points behind Singapore and Germany, so I think it’s a realistic ambition.

“Gains can be made in what’s left in the black bag. We know that probably 50 per cent of what people put into their black bin could be recycled. If we could get 50 per cent of that, I think we could probably look towards 80 per cent.”

At the time, she also wanted to prioritise education and communication, in order to teach non-recycling individuals the benefits of recycling and change their behaviours.

You can find out more about the Environment Minister on the Welsh Government website.

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