Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma
In a landmark moment for Wales, the Senedd declared a nature emergency in June. It’s vital that the Welsh Government starts making the laws needed to drive nature’s recovery without delay.
In June this year, the Senedd made history by passing a motion to declare a nature emergency in Wales, asking Welsh Government to put its actions to stop and reverse the loss of nature on an equal footing with action to tackle climate change.
The Welsh Government supported the motion and committed to bringing forward legislation that will set binding targets for nature recovery and establish an independent body responsible for environmental governance in Wales. But worryingly the Welsh Government has not allowed time for this in the first year of its legislative programme, and won’t guarantee to take it forward in the second year either.
Closing the governance gap
Before Brexit, the UK was covered by a strong environmental governance framework at European level. The European Commission and other institutions oversaw and enforced the implementation of environmental law by Member States. Under this system, citizens could raise their concerns over government failures to properly implement or uphold laws, which could lead to investigation, remediation and sometimes enforcement action. Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU the UK countries must make their own governance arrangements, and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are well underway with doing this.
Wales is lagging behind, but an independent environmental governance body, as recommended by stakeholders, has been promised to close the current gap. This will need a new law to set it up, but the Welsh Government’s current legislative programme doesn’t even mention plans for the new body. Ministers have said they wish to introduce the legislation next year but that they cannot guarantee this . Further delays would leave Wales in limbo for even longer, unable to properly enforce protection for the environment.
Setting targets to recover nature
The commitment from the Welsh Government to set legally-binding targets for nature recovery is a huge step forward and, if done right, will make sure that action for nature is a key consideration across all Welsh Government activity. We made the case for these targets and we’re looking forward to seeing them become a reality. The legislation for the new environmental governance body will be the ideal opportunity to bring in these targets as well.
We believe that the right approach is to legislate for the high level ambitions and framework for targets as soon as possible, committing the Welsh Government now to halt losses and begin to recover nature by 2030, and achieve substantive recovery by 2050. There will be more detailed targets needed to set out specific goals for species and habitats, including interim targets to ensure delivery is on track, and these may take a little longer to develop – but the vital step is to set the headline targets in law to provide a ‘net zero’ equivalent commitment for nature.
The need to act now
The nature emergency declaration shows a welcome recognition by the Senedd of the crisis facing our wildlife in Wales, and it needs to be a spur to immediate action. Wales is already one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and the next decade may be our last chance to save nature. We simply cannot afford to wait for months, or potentially years, for Welsh Government to start work on the legal framework needed to protect and restore our precious wildlife.
Climate Change Minister Julie James MS has said that she wants to see what is decided at the COP15 global summit for biodiversity, which has been delayed until Spring 2022. But we already know what the high level international targets for nature are likely to be, and the UK Government has set out headline ambitions including a target to protect 30% of land and seas for nature by 2030. This is the moment for Welsh Government to take the lead, be bold and set out its own ambitions for action at the scale that will be needed to allow Welsh wildlife to recover and thrive.
We stand ready to work with Welsh Government through the law-making process so that we achieve the strong protections and high ambitions our nature needs – and we hope we won’t have to wait too long to do so.
I agree with everything that has been said here and like many other people of similar mind am waiting patiently for the Welsh Government to 'urgently' act and do what they know is necessary.However, if we have to act ourselves, where does this leave our National Government?
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