Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

This week Welsh Government is holding a virtual Wales Climate Week. RSPB Cymru is pleased to be part of this important event and on Friday you can watch our own Rhys Evans and the Nature Friendly Farming Network talking about the vital role nature can play in tackling climate change. 

Two big, integrated challenges

The climate and nature crises are recognised as two of the most pressing challenges that must be addressed if future generations are to enjoy the same environmental conditions as their parents and grandparents.  Whilst these challenges are significant, we have an increasing understanding of the steps needed to tackle them, many of which can be mutually beneficial.  They can also help tackle a range of other challenges such as improving health and well-being through access to diverse green spaces and reducing flood risk.

Nature-based Climate Solutions

One of the most effective things we can do right now is invest in Nature-based Climate Solutions. Plants are key in fighting climate change, all plants capture atmospheric carbon (a major greenhouse gas) as part of photosynthesis, they use this carbon to build their leaves, stems and flowers. Once captured in plants such as sphagnum mosses and trees this carbon can then be locked up for a long time. Sphagnum mosses are particularly effective as the carbon they capture becomes locked up in peat soils which accumulate over thousands of years. By managing, restoring and creating new habitats we can lock up significant amounts of atmospheric carbon in nature and by doing so tackle climate change.

If Nature-based Climate Solutions are to achieve their full potential its vital that where they are located doesn’t negatively impact on nature and instead helps boost our struggling wildlife. For example, tree planting must avoid important wildlife habitats and carbon-rich organic soils, which are already important carbon stores, and instead help buffer and connect existing woodlands.

We must also invest in a range of Nature-based Climate Solutions.  Too much focus has been placed on woodland creation as the sole land based action to address climate change in Wales and there are many more opportunities to use nature to remove carbon from the atmosphere.  These include the restoration and management of peatlands, coastal habitats and semi-natural grasslands, all of which can capture and store large amounts of carbon.  However, restoration and creation of these habitats receives very little attention and funding in comparison to tree planting.

Reforming farming policy is key

Wales Climate Week marks the start of the countdown to the rescheduled UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 (COP 26) and the publication of Welsh Government’s next Low Carbon Delivery Plan.  Effective delivery of this plan will require a multitude of integrated actions for tackling the climate emergency, including the effective use of Nature-based Climate Solutions.  And key to delivering Nature-based Climate Solutions will be effective land management policies that incentives their use and ensure they are located appropriately.   Leaving the EU provides us with a once in a generation opportunity to develop these policies.

We can now rethink how we use millions of pounds of tax-payers money to support sustainable farming and land management in ways that delivers real value to the public.  This includes incentivising our farmers and other land managers to deliver a range of Nature-based Climate Solutions that will also help restore nature.

To inform decisions around how best to implement Nature-based Climate Solutions RSPB commissioned research to help identify which actions delivered by farmers could offer the best contribution to addressing the climate and nature crises.  The report also shows that in order to enable our farmers and other land managers to deliver these actions effectively we need to develop new sustainable farming and land management policies to prioritise the following:

  • Advice and supportfor all farmers to transition to low carbon practices
  • Public money for public goods to ensure farmers rewarded for delivering Nature-based Climate Solutions, including peat and coastal habitat restoration
  • Strong environmental baselinesand regulation in law so nature and climate friendly farmers are not undermined
  • Long-term funding and certaintyso farmers can confidently invest in low carbon practices
  • Ban the burning of vegetation on peat >30cmwith incentives to restore all upland peat habitats.

For a full copy of the report please click here.