Infrastructure surrounds us, from the moment we wake up until the moment we sleep, and from the cradle to the grave.
Most of the time we’re not aware of it, because it just works. It’s only when it stops working that we’re made painfully aware of just how dependent we are on the stuff of everyday life. Clean water, electricity, heating, internet access. Our roads and railways, hospitals and houses. We interact with infrastructure so much, we almost take it for granted.
We’re also starting to understand how much benefit our natural infrastructure provides us ‘for free’; we ignore these benefits at our peril. The evidence demonstrating the value of nature, and the impacts that human activity is having on local and global ecosystems, underlines the importance of nature to our social and economic well-being.
The Welsh Government has declared both a nature and a climate emergency, and, as Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales, I want to use these as the overarching principles for our activity in the coming three years.
I also want the Commission to prioritise a Fairer Wales as part of our remit, something enshrined within the remit of public sector bodies through the socio-economic duty and embedded as a Future Generations Goal. Infrastructure gains are often captured most readily by the wealthiest in society; I want the Commission to consider how infrastructure can be used to help improve the lives of Wales’ poorest citizens and communities.
The IPCC recently published its latest assessment of the threat posed to humanity, and the natural world, by the climate emergency that has been caused by human activity. The assessment is clear; we need to be doing far more, and with much greater urgency, to prevent the worst outcomes.
This assessment underlines the importance and value of a very long-term approach to infrastructure. We will need to take the best possible evidence from a range of sources to understand how Wales’ essential services can best adapt to the inevitable increases in flood, coastal erosion, wildfires and drought.
The existence of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales is a testament to the critical nature of the sector to our everyday lives. There is now an opportunity for you to join me on the Commission, to help shape the independent, long-term advice we provide to Welsh Government about infrastructure.
We are looking for a Deputy Chair, and six new Commissioners. You don’t have to have previous board experience to apply. You don’t necessarily have to work in a ‘traditional’ infrastructure sector. But you will be passionate about the role of infrastructure in improving well-being for the people and ecosystems of Wales. You will be unafraid to courteously challenge orthodoxy and ‘business as usual’, and to be challenged by a group of highly motivated peers. You will be comfortable stepping out of your professional comfort zone, and curious to learn from others.
I am committed to ensuring that the Commission represents the full diversity of communities of Wales, to the extent that our numbers allow. I am particularly interested in receiving applications from people that are less well represented at decision-making level, such as those with (visible or invisible) disabilities, young people and those from ethnically diverse backgrounds. I would also very much appreciate a geographically diverse cohort of applicants, to benefit from the rich variety of experiences and understanding that comes from lived experience across Wales.