Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
Over the summer, I have been working with a group of key experts and practitioners to undertake a Biodiversity Deep Dive to develop a set of collective actions we can take in Wales to support natures recovery. The 30x30 target was chosen as a strategic focus for the purpose of the deep dive to consider where and how action could be accelerated. 30x30 refers to protecting and effectively managing at least 30% of our land freshwater and sea for nature by 2030. It is one of a number of targets which form part of a new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to be agreed at COP15 later this year.
The group identified key themes and recommendations for specific actions. These build on existing commitments such as the action plan to tackle phosphorous pollution in our rivers. The recommendations are a mixture of new action we can take immediately, a scaling up and acceleration of existing schemes, and longer-term actions that will deliver benefits throughout this Senedd term and beyond.
Transform our protected sites series so that it is better, bigger, and more effectively connected
A priority will be transforming our existing terrestrial, freshwater and marine protected sites. We will do this by expanding and accelerating our Nature Networks Programme to help improve the condition and connectivity of our protected sites and make them more resilient to climate change.
We will raise the ambition set out in our National Peatland Action Programme, so that by 2030 the programme will be delivering at a scale capable of reaching the net zero 2050 target of 45,000 ha of peatland restored.
To support collaborative partnership approaches at the local level, we will be investing in our Local Nature Partnerships. LNPs bring together organisations, businesses and communities to take collective action to address local priorities.
We will accelerate action to complete the MPA network, to ensure the shortfalls in protection of habitats and features are addressed. This will mean the MPA network is ecologically coherent and connected, improving resilience and condition.
We will finalise the assessment of potential fishing gear interactions with features of Marine Protected Areas. This will enable us to understand what damage these do to MPA features and what management measures may be needed to prevent this.
Create a framework to recognise Nature Recovery Exemplar Areas and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) that deliver biodiversity outcomes
We will create a network of Nature Recovery Exemplar Areas across a range of different semi-natural habitats will help demonstrate how effective action can be taken to halt biodiversity loss and aid nature recovery. Alongside Nature Recovery Exemplar Areas, we will also explore the use of a new concept: Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM).
I will set up an expert working group to identify candidate Nature Recovery Exemplar Areas and OECM’s, including the management vehicles and funding mechanisms needed to establish these. The group will report to me within six months of being established.
Unlock the potential of designated landscapes (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) to deliver more for nature
I want to utilise the untapped potential within these designated landscapes to deliver more for biodiversity and support natures recovery. We will support National Parks and AONBs to develop a prioritised action plan for nature restoration embedding these in strategic planning. In the longer term we will ensure that the designation of a new National Park in northeast Wales affords significant opportunities for climate change mitigation and nature recovery, and that these are embedded as a key delivery priority for the new park.
Continue to reform land and marine management and planning (including spatial) to deliver more for both protected sites and wider land / seascapes
We will take a strategic spatial approach to planning underpinned by robust evidence, such as Area Statements. We will support planners and developers through improved planning guidance and tools. We will enable more effective screening of planning applications to better understand the potential impacts from proposals.
To drive the change in how we use our land in Wales, we will ensure that the right incentives are designed into the future Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). The SFS contains proposed actions such as farmers actively managing at least 10% of their land to maintain and enhance semi-natural habitats, prioritising designated sites where they exist, and creating new habitat features where semi-natural habitats do not exist.
To support this change, we will ensure that farmers and land managers have access to high quality advice that enables them to identify the management actions needed to achieve environmental outcomes and improve the farm business’ productivity.
Build a strong foundation for future delivery through capacity building, behaviour change, awareness raising and skills development
We will strengthen the connection between local communities and nature, helping people understand the actions they can take that will make a difference. We will ensure we have the right skills and expertise for the green jobs needed for nature recovery, both now and into the future. We will expand and enhance schemes to strengthen the capacity and capability of the public, private and third sector to accelerate delivery for nature recovery.
Unlock private investment to deliver for nature at far greater scale and pace.
I recognise that identifying and securing private investment will boost our efforts to tackle nature recovery and support more sustainable project funding models. This does not come without risk, however, particularly to local communities. To mitigate these risks, we will identify what interventions may be needed, and develop principles for responsible investment to ensure that any additional funding supports both our ambitions for nature recovery and the wider Well Being goals.
Develop and adapt monitoring and evidence frameworks to measure progress towards the 30 by 30 target and guide prioritisation of action
Effective monitoring is needed if we are to chart progress towards delivering 30x30. It will also underpin decision making to enable an adaptive management approach required to deliver resilient ecosystems which are able to adapt to wider pressures such as climate change. To achieve this, we will appraise our data needs, building on existing data sets and good practice and identifying future needs. We will create opportunities for better collaboration, an increased role for citizen science and make better use of technological advances. I will set up an expert group to provide advice on how best to achieve this.
The imperative to act is now and Wales needs to deliver a decade of action if we are to become nature positive. I fully recognise we need to take ambitious and integrated action if we are to put nature on the path to recovery. This requires collective action to address the issues and reversing biodiversity decline.
I am extremely grateful for the members of the deep dive group, the participants in the expert groups and roundtable discussions, and the input from individual submissions. I look forward to continuing my work with the core group as we drive forward together as ‘Team Wales’ to become nature positive.