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Opinion

Five priorities for the next First Minister to create a greener Wales by 2030

16 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Vaughan Gething MS & Jeremy Miles MS

Karen WhitfieldWales Environment Link

We’re almost halfway through the decade that is supposed to bring a step change in how citizens and governments across the globe tackle the nature and climate emergency.

Public concern about climate change and nature loss is rising, driven by the visible impacts of climate change from floods and fire seasons, to drought and increasing exposure to new diseases.

People want to see leadership from governments on these issues, but it often
feels like global leaders aren’t taking them seriously enough.

Recent announcements from the UK Government have weakened the most important
pathways to our legally binding net zero 2050 target, delaying the phase out of
petrol and diesel cars and gas boilers, and no longer requiring homeowners
and landlords to meet energy efficiency targets.

UK Labour’s pledge to put £28bn towards green investment fit for a sustainable future has been significantly downgraded. Politicians focus on the cost of such measures, but do not pay sufficient attention to the benefits – or to the cost of delaying action.

After Mark Drakeford announced he was stepping down as First Minister of
Wales, Wales Environment Link (WEL) met with leadership candidates Vaughan
Gething MS and Jeremy Miles MS.

The WEL network brings together organisations working on reviving nature, bringing back at-risk species and protecting our environment.

Our members represent over 400,000 citizens who are passionate about restoring nature and tackling climate change in Wales. What do our members want? To ensure that the future leader of Welsh Labour understands how important this is, we set out the following asks to candidates:

Bring nature back to Wales’ Land and Sea:

Ensure that at least 30% of our land and sea is protected, effectively managed and connected, supporting nature’s recovery by 2030, in line with Wales’ international obligations at COP 15.

Strengthen Environmental Laws during this Senedd:

Expedite the ‘Nature Positive Bill’, – now published as a White Paper, – to embed international biodiversity targets into Welsh law, and set up an environmental governance body to ensure law is followed and provide a route for citizens to raise complaints, with powers to investigate breaches, undertake inquiries and take enforcement action where necessary.

Fix the Food System:

Deliver “farm-to-fork” reform through a just transition to a sustainable food system for all. Leaving the EU meant leaving behind the Common Agricultural Policy, the previous payment system which farmers worked within.

The Welsh Government has set up a framework through their Agriculture Act, but uncertainty on payments and how the new Sustainable Farming Scheme will operate in practice, means there is still work to do.

This Wales-specific farming system needs to pay farmers for being stewards of our land and provide support to develop the skills needed to expand regenerative farming practices that improve business viability, lower carbon emissions, restore nature, and eliminate freshwater pollution; while also better connecting families to sustainable, affordable, and nutritious food.

Let Nature Invest in People:

Tackle ‘nature poverty’ by improving access to existing green spaces and creating new ones to enhance well-being in communities, tackle inequalities and help to lessen NHS pressures through a positive, preventative approach to looking after physical and mental health – including the expansion of ecotherapy services.

Green Stimulus:

Use innovative funding models that blend public and private capital to raise at least £1bn per year to fight the nature and climate emergency while creating high-quality, sustainable jobs – such as the 7,000 nature-based green jobs that could be created over the next decade under a Nature Service for Wales.

But don’t we have bigger problems than restoring nature right now?

The Dasgupta Review is one of the latest and most comprehensive reports acknowledging that our economy is embedded in nature. Nature has benefits that can’t always be monetised, but the Dasgupta Review demonstrated the dangers of treating the economy separately.

It concluded that impacts on nature must be integrated and mainstreamed into economic thinking, alongside carbon impacts, when economic decisions are made.

It’s more cost-effective to help nature to flourish than to deal with the consequences of an unhealthy environment.

This was highlighted in the latest State of Nature report: “Nature plays a critical role in all aspects of people’s lives; it provides the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. […]

“It is shown to be far more cost-effective to avoid such damage in the first place or, where damage has already occurred, to restore nature rather than bear
the costs of continued degradation.

“Wales’ peatlands are a prime example of this. They have the potential to be an enormous carbon store and an important tool in the fight against the climate crisis, yet 90% of Wales’ peatlands are damaged or degraded.”

Risk

So how do we embed nature into our processes and make sure we are bringing it back, not just for the sake of helping our own species, but the 1 in 6 species at risk of extinction from Wales?

WEL’s Pathways to 2030 report provides 10 costed ways to protect and restore
nature and provide people with improved access to nature.

This report also provides recommendations on things that government should stop doing to free funds for positive action, or where preventative measures will reduce future economic and societal costs.

The actions identified need to be resourced, but they also bring valuable benefits to society, the full value of which are not being accessed because our wildlife and habitats are in decline.

By putting nature at the heart of policy-making, and paying proper attention to its restoration, we can make a Wales where nature prospers again, and helps us prosper.

With the right priorities and leadership, we could find ourselves no longer living in a nature-depleted country, but a country where nature is increasing, thriving and valued for the huge benefits it gives us.


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
4 months ago

One of our priorities should be fixing our dying rivers. Farmers and water companies in particular but also the scourge of trout and salmon eating birds, that are out of control and are decimating our fish stocks!

tulip
tulip
4 months ago

focus on the priorities of youth and working class please
invest more in education.

Mr Jones
Mr Jones
4 months ago

Why are we giving away our beautiful mountains to money grabbing firms that don’t care for the people of Wales or the environment?

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