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Lee Waters named in UK top 50 list of political change-makers

15 May 2024 4 minute read
Former Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters – Image: Welsh Government

Emily Price

The minister behind Wales’ 20mph default speed limit has been named as one of the top political change makers in the UK for his contribution to environmental causes.

The ENDS Report top 50 Power List for 2024 recognises “unsung heroes” for their work around key environmental issues, including air quality, water pollution, net zero, nutrient neutrality and biodiversity net gain.

Former Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters spearheaded the roll out of the 20mph policy in September last year.

It saw most 30mph roads switch to 20mph in built up areas in Wales – a pledge that was part of the Labour Party’s 2021 manifesto.

Fewer cars

The policy proved controversial with a record breaking Senedd petition calling for the speed limit to be scrapped racking up almost half a million signatures.

The Welsh Government says the default will save the NHS money and have cited a study by Imperial College which found that 20mph limited areas were “pollution-neutral”.

Government minsters expect the lower speed limit to encourage more people to choose active ways to travel which will lead to fewer polluting cars on the roads.

Between 2007 and 2013 Lee Waters was Director of Sustrans Cymru, the sustainable transport charity, where he oversaw a range of projects to encourage behaviour change and influence policy.


He led a team of 32 to deliver a diverse portfolio of complex programmes, worth in excess of £24m including a successful six year campaign to secure the world’s first Active Travel Act to raise levels of walking and cycling.

In a speech to Transport for Wales senior management on the progress of the South Wales Metro in February, Mr Waters said: “It would be better, and a lot less painful, to put alternatives to car use in place before trying to reduce car use.

“But that’s not the world we find ourselves in – and global warming won’t wait for us to get all our ducks in a row.”

The Llanelli MS served as the Deputy Minister for Climate Change from 2021 until March 2024 when he quit and returned to the Labour backbenches.

Days before stepping down from his ministerial role, he deleted his X account following months of abuse from social media users over the 20mph policy.

The Welsh Government has since made changes to the implementation of the default speed limit and some roads are expected to revert back to 30mph following consultation.

Wales’ former First Minster, Mark Drakeford, and Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for climate change, Delyth Jewell also made the Ends Report top 50 power list.

Ms Jewell said she was “honoured” to be named.

The ENDS Report is a magazine published in the UK and covers environmental policy and business news, official reports, UK and EU policy and legislation, and how environmental issues affect corporate strategy.

The top 50 includes politicians that have driven changes to green policy and legislation as well as green champions who have promoted environmental causes.

The list was chosen based on readers nominations for elected politicians from any part of the UK, including those in the House of Commons, House of Lords, the devolved assemblies, local, regional and city-regional government, as well as parish and town councils.


Announcing the top 50, the magazine said: “In creating this list, we have sought to put politics aside – ENDS is politically neutral.

“However, we understand that politics is a divisive – and often emotive – business and that readers may not find every politician on the list to be to their taste.

“Even the politicians with the strongest of environmental credentials are likely to have voted along party lines on contentious issues – or may even have found themselves at the centre of controversy.

“This may well be the case, but the job of the Power List is to celebrate the contributions individuals have made to environmental causes – and politicians have it in their gift to make a considerable difference, as these individuals demonstrate.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago

There has been little change for the good so fifty sounds a bit fanciful…

I see travel is at a funeral pace in Ardudwy…

Why vote
Why vote
10 days ago

Is that all one has to do is instigate the economic destruction of a country and you can get your name on the good boy list. And how can driving as 20mph be pollution neutral who are these scientists can they please publish the data used and confirm their findings. Sounds like a very political statement to justify 20mph not science.

10 days ago

Lets just be honest – 20mph is absolutely valid in places but has NOTHING to do with climate and is likely to increase congestion and ICE pollution. To cite him for this divisive and profligate policy over-reach is a nonsense. That a once pressure group director whom is anti personal transport be appointed as a minister for transport is not even handed or logical. Nations need pragmatic, well-rounded decision makers not ideological people who come with a huge bias. This is a nonsense – niche groups exerting excessive policy influence at the Senedd and implementing policy that is contrary to… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago
Reply to  Mai

Somebody got rich, saplings don’t grow on trees you know…

Gwynedd made the best of the 20 mph thing…

An old pal from the ‘home counties’ was up a while back and she was amazed by the absence of potholes in my bit of Gwynedd…

I said, the first sign of one they pour my council tax into it…

They’re leveling-up on the A 470…

Evan G
Evan G
9 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Actually there are trees growing on trees in Gwynedd!

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