Climate Ready Gwent

Area Statements are a new, place-based approach to managing our natural resources, which will inform policy in Wales and stimulate joined-up action to create a more resilient ecosystem.

Although Natural Resources Wales is responsible for delivering Area Statements, producing and implementing them is very much a collaborative process.

James Pearson, NRW Communications, attended a workshop in South East Wales, designed to identify opportunities and collective interventions for climate adaptation and mitigation, which will inform the local Area Statement.

Each of the 6 area-based teams and the marine team are devising and implementing their own methods to prepare their own unique Area Statement by Spring 2020, which will describe the natural resources in their respective areas, identify priorities to be addressed and determine how that will happen.

The South East area team is focussing massively on collaboration, both internal and external, throughout their process, as well as applying the sustainable management of natural resources principles defined in the Environment Act.

This was one of a series of events planned to focus on 4 emerging themes which reflect regional priorities.    

The purpose of the event, held in Abergavenny, was to discuss the theme of climate change and was attended by a range of NRW staff and external partners including Torfaen, Caerphilly and Monmouthshire local authorities, Gwent Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth. 

The Climate Ready Gwent (CRG) working group has already identified where a change of approach is needed to improve the future resilience of the natural environment. They appreciate that a joined up public sector can deliver better things and are already exploring greener transport solutions and addressing barriers to electric vehicle take-up.

The CRG reported that they have already undertaken electric vehicle charging infrastructure studies, and public service fleet reviews and are committed to delivering a residential charging infrastructure in local authority car parks for low emission vehicles.

The job in hand on the day was to reflect on all the evidence produced to date and to identify collaborative actions which will deliver the outcomes of most benefit for the people and places of South East Wales.

We were split up into small groups and started with a visual mapping exercise to discuss the things which have led us to where we are now.

Our group was animated and we threw around everything from climate change denial to the wake-up call of recent flooding, Extinction Rebellion, the M4 relief road and Trump!

We then discussed what the pathway to a better future might comprise. A conversation ensued about cultural shifts, shifting baselines, local food production, sustainable transport, responsible tree planting, education, diversifying pension funds from fossil fuels, and a greener urban environment to name just a few of the topics that arose. 

We all agreed that we are at a crossroads, where the majority accept we need to take a different path if we are to stabilise our climate and avert more serious and persistent weather events, health issues and declining biodiversity.

The workshop was ably and enthusiastically facilitated by Ron Donaldson. Ron likened the problem to an elephant and its rider. The rider thinks he’s in charge and using reason and logic, tries to change direction.  But most of the time he’s just pretending to direct an elephant that is going where it wants to go. To change path, he needs to connect emotionally with the elephant, cultivate its sympathy for the rider and to convince it to change path.

Our group agreed that the key change in path required in order to progress this agenda is to start thinking beyond GDP and to adopt true cost accounting, so the environmental costs are factored into decision making and climate risk integrated into business strategy.

Moving on, we thought about how we could influence action in our jobs to achieve local level goals via flexible working, reducing energy use, buying local and promoting renewables, green growth and active travel.

Before wrapping up we discussed feasible actions that could be taken to meet our climate change objectives, in terms of making long term funding available so we can invest in prevention, rather than cure; payment for ecosystem services and building a sustainable transport network.

All the issues discussed will feed back into the development process of the SE Wales Area Statement process and the team will be calling on technical experts and officers across all our organisations to support the identification of strategic interventions and activity which will add value to local delivery on the ground.

Working groups will continue to build on what they have done so far to establish a themed picture of the South East and what success looks like. Working groups will follow a response analysis framework to use that picture to inform agreed collaborative actions under each theme.

This event reminded us about the value of bringing different stakeholders together to discuss an issue of mutual interest and the about value of investing time to listen to different perspectives rather than prescribing NRW solutions and actions.

All in all, it was an interesting workshop and I came away sharing the enthusiasm of the group that the Area Statement process really could make a difference to how things are done in Gwent and bring about a more sustainable approach and a more resilient natural environment for future generations to enjoy.

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