Minister for Climate Change Julie James has arrived at COP15 biodiversity negotiations in Montreal, Canada, to influence a ‘game-changing’ Global Biodiversity Framework and sign her commitment to accelerate nature recovery in Wales.
The minister has high hopes that an ambitious deal will be reached by world leaders, to ‘halt the rapid decline of our natural world that threatens all life on planet earth as we now know it’.
Wales jump-started its commitment to reach the proposed ‘30 by 30 target’ included in the deal- to protect and effectively manage 30% land and 30% seas by 2030- with the commissioning of an expert-led ‘biodiversity deep dive’ published in October. In quick response to the panel’s recommendations, the minister tripled Wales’ peatland restoration targets to protect the habitat of species threatened with extinction, such as the iconic curlew. £3 million was also provided for Local Nature Partnerships to support local community led action as part of Team Wales approach and the process to complete the Marine Protected Area network launched.
The deep dive expert group will monitor Wales' progress against the 30 by 30 target. Currently, only 10% of Wales’ terrestrial environment is considered effectively managed.
Wales became the first part of the UK to declare both a nature emergency in 2021 and a climate emergency in 2019, and has since put these crises front and centre of all decision making across government portfolios, whether health, transport or education.
Since the declarations, Wales has introduced a plethora of policies to accelerate a decade of action which, the Minister says, will determine what planet we leave behind for our future generations. These include:
- A landmark Single Use Plastics Bill that bans the most commonly littered items that pollute our environment and threaten birds, plants and wildlife.
- A proposed first-time Welsh Agriculture Bill, inclusive of a Sustainable Farming Scheme, to support farmers in sustainable food production while restoring our ecosystems and battling climate change. The proposals say that farms must have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of their land to enhance semi-natural habitats
- A Nature Networks Programme to improve the condition, connectivity and resilience of our marine, freshwater and terrestrial protected sites network.
- An innovative new scheme to recycle end of life fishing gear, a common form of marine litter which can harm marine life and increase the risk of micro plastics ending up in our food chain.
- A National Forest for Wales which will be interconnected from North to South
- Ensure that the potential designation of a new National Park in northeast Wales affords opportunities for climate change mitigation and nature recovery as key delivery priorities for the new Park
- Plans to make Wales’s public sector carbon neutral by 2030 and Wales a Net Zero Nation by 2050
- A suite of tree planting policies that require native species to be planted alongside commercial ventures, to meet the Climate Change Coalition’s recommendations that Wales plants 82 million trees over the next decade
- Embedding circular economy and sustainability into procurement policies
- Tackling phosphorus pollution in our rivers by working with key sectors to find solutions to the problem.
Wales, a country with a population of less than four million in the United Kingdom, has also been lauded by the United Nations as being the only country in the world to enshrine a Future Generations Act in law. This means that any decisions made today must consider their impact on all generations that follow.
Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:
“There is no doubt- the rapid decline of our natural world is threatening all life on planet earth as we now know it.
“Like much of the developed world, in Wales, the loss of forests, the plundering of seas, and the pollution caused by human activity has led to the vanishing of around half of Wales’ animal and plant life.
“We must strive for a nature deal as big and bold as the Paris Agreement is for climate change.
“The restoration of our natural world is the most rewarding achievement the human race could reach. Through it we can pass down to our future generations the free services that our interweaved ecosystems generously provide us- whether that’s fresh water to drink, healthy soils for our food to grow, or the inner peace we can find when swimming in clean water or walking in healthy forests.
“We want to be good ancestors for future generations by restoring nature. If we don’t look after nature, we risk leaving an unhealthy and polluted planet for our children that in turn worsens climate change, as poorly managed lands release more carbon than they are able to store. That is a price in Wales we are simply not willing to pay. I’m calling on a Team Wales effort, a decade of decisive action, and big, bold and brave commitments from our world leaders that breathe life into our planet that we are proud to pass on.”
The trajectory that we are currently on threatens one million species with extinction. Biodiversity loss is driven by local, subnational, national, and global factors, so responses are needed at all scales and across all sectors.
Julie James added:
“The role of sub-national governments in the pursuit of nature restoration cannot be underestimated. As a partner to the Edinburgh Process and signatory of the Edinburgh Declaration, Wales proudly champions the voice of the subnational governments striving to halt the decline of biodiversity. COP 15 provides another opportunity to press the case as to how cities and subnational governments can amplify their impact and achieve significant change.”