Opinion

Why we need a Nature Act: For the environment, for Wales and the world

22 Mar 2021 4 minutes Read
The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, which is in decline around Wales. Picture by nottsexminer (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Llŷr Gruffydd, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs

It’s nearly two years since the Senedd supported Plaid Cymru’s motion to declare a Climate Emergency in Wales – making our Parliament the first in the world to do so.

That moment helped galvanize public awareness of why we must act urgently to drive down carbon emissions and what the catastrophic consequences of failure would mean.

Whilst the climate emergency is now well established in the public consciousness, its parallel crisis in nature doesn’t enjoy the same prominence and hasn’t been afforded the same urgency. Yet the biodiversity crisis here in Wales, and indeed across the globe, continues to grow, undermining the essential services that nature provides to society – food, clean air and water, materials, medicine, and so much more.

There can be no doubt that tragically, this library of life, the variety of all living things on earth, is in a state of emergency. In Wales the scale of the problem is all too clear with one in every six species threatened with extinction and our ecosystem resilience declining in line with global trends.

Reactions to the crisis have quite simply failed to get to grip with the challenge ahead of us. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed by 196 countries to halt the loss of biodiversity globally by 2020 has been missed. The UK missed 14 out of the 20 Aichi Targets, with the Welsh Government acknowledging that it too had failed to make enough progress against the global goals.

The current Welsh Government approach to nature recovery simply isn’t enough. While the Nature Recovery Action Plan for Wales recognises the need to improve evidence, understanding and monitoring activity, as well as the need for a framework of biodiversity indicators for Wales, this is neither legally binding nor equivalent to a targets framework with a statutory footing. Plaid Cymru believes this must change.

Crisis

Many, myself included, have previously been sceptical about the value of creating statutory targets for nature recovery. After all, governments are very good at creating targets but usually very poor at meeting them. There’s also the risk that creating the target becomes the obsession, rather than driving the change we need to see on the ground.

But with nature now at a tipping point and with a new impetus to enact change brought about by the pandemic, it’s clear to me that Wales’ environment needs another game-changing moment.

A Plaid Cymru government after May’s election will commit to leaving the natural environment in a better state than we found it, putting all possible habitats on a road to recovery.

We will introduce a Nature Act, formally declaring a Nature Emergency and setting a statutory duty, with legally binding targets, to restore biodiversity in both our terrestrial and marine environments.

The Senedd would become one of the first parliaments in the world to explicitly declare a Nature Emergency. It wouldn’t be made in isolation from the Climate Emergency declaration – both crises go hand in hand, as should our policy responses.

Picture by grassrootsgroundswell (CC BY 2.0)

Determined

This year will mark the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, where it’s expected that the final decision on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework will be taken. Plaid Cymru will ensure Wales plays its part in delivering global nature recovery. Establishing legally binding targets, and formally recognising the biodiversity crisis would be central to realising this responsibility in our own country.

This gravest of crises, which affects the very fragile balance of life on earth, requires us in Wales, along with every other nation, to act, and swiftly so, to reverse biodiversity decline, putting as many as possible of our natural habitats and the species within them on a path to recovery.

We can’t afford not to act, as our future depends on the health of nature. The latest global assessment report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services made clear that nothing but transformational change will allow us to reverse biodiversity loss and secure the essential services nature provides to society.

Plaid Cymru is determined and committed to delivering the change we need, for nature, for Wales, and the world.

Our Supporters