Put Nature on a Path to Recovery
The next Welsh Government must protect our rivers, seas and land for current and future generations by dedicating 1% of all departmental budgets to restoring nature and combating climate change.
Dedicate 1% of all departmental budgets to nature and climate and seek new funding opportunities
Extra money is needed to encourage and support efforts to restore nature and combat climate change. The next Welsh Government must ensure that all Ministers are investing and embedding nature in decisions which will ultimately deliver for everybody - from health to local government planning decisions.
Imagine what could be achieved if just 1% of all departmental budgets were allocated to nature-based solutions! Enormous investments could be created immediately – and the future returns would repay it many times over.
As part of this new way of investing, the next Welsh Government must make use of recently gained powers to raise public and private capital in new ways, such as natural capital investment to bring new money into the restoration and creation of nature.
Create and Restore carbon-rich habitats to halt nature’s decline and tackle climate change
From our peated uplands down to our coastal seagrass meadows, Wales plays host to rich and diverse ecosystems. They’re home to some of our most iconic species, and they also provide us with vital natural services like flood defences and carbon storage.
However, decades of human activity and climate change have taken their toll. Many of these areas are degraded to the point where their futures are in doubt unless we act to restore them.
The good news is that we can bend the curve of Welsh nature’s decline in a way which also helps in the fight against climate change. The next Welsh Government must focus investment on creating and restoring carbon-rich habitats – like peatland, saltmarsh, seagrass and woodland – that draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. This must include investment in our Natura 2000 site network; SSSIs; and Marine Conservation Zones.
Remove artificial barriers in rivers to let nature flow
A healthy natural world thrives in vast connected landscapes. It means different species have larger and safer places to live than they would in a fragmented landscape, and it also makes them more resilient to change by allowing them more opportunities to move and adapt.
Yet those connected landscapes are rarely present across Wales, with things like roads; buildings; and dams regularly creating new barriers to nature which jeopardise its future. To deal with this we need to start building in a smarter way; but we also need to remove the barriers we no longer need.
We call such barriers ‘Grey Infrastructure’. These are things we once needed but are no longer used – often left to decay or forgotten about. Looking specifically at rivers these are things like old weirs, dams, old bridge supports and culverts.
By removing such barriers, the next Welsh Government would restore the natural flow of our rivers, improving their resilience to seasonal changes, flooding, pollution incidents, and major events such as storms which are likely to increase in frequency as a result of climate change. Over the longer term, restored connected landscapes promotes biodiversity by enabling displaced species to return and historic habitats to regenerate.
The next Welsh Government must work with Natural Resources Wales to conduct a national survey of all problematic grey river infrastructures and fund a programme to remove them.
Deliver a strong, independent post-Brexit Environmental Governance Body in its first year
The next Welsh Government must ensure that our environmental principles and governance system is as good, if not better, following our departure from the European Union. EU legislation has helped strengthen protection of species and habitats, improve air quality and clean up rivers and seas: this progress must continue.
The EU process also protects citizens’ rights by providing anyone a liability free way of raising environmental concerns and accessing justice against those suspected of being in breach of environmental law. This can result in the guilty party being ordered to take action to put right their errors, as well as making repeat offences much less likely.
It’s vital that the strength of this system is maintained, if not strengthened by the next Welsh Government: it must make it a priority to deliver a strong, independent and well-resourced environmental governance body within its first year.