Taskforce launches action plan towards a green and just COVID-19 recovery for Wales

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Communities across Wales can lead the charge on a bold and rapid green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic by placing the circular economy and the climate and nature emergencies at its heart.

This is the overarching call to action of the ‘Green Recovery: Priorities for Action’ report presented to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths today (3 December) which outlines the practical and prioritised actions that will inform Wales’ sustainable pathway out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report is authored by the green recovery task and finish group, chaired by the Chair of Natural Resources Wales Sir David Henshaw, and established at the direction of the Minister in July 2020.

Also published today is an independent report that examines the stability and resilience of the environmental sector in Wales and aims to inform the wider discussion about how best to support the sector to create the opportunities for a truly ‘green recovery’.

The task and finish group was charged with developing big ideas that could be taken forward in the short and medium term as part of Wales’ recovery from the pandemic - ideas that link the circular economy and the climate and nature emergencies with job creation, inclusive and fair economic growth, and other development priorities.

168 proposals were received following the call for big ideas from the task and finish group. These were received from a cross-section of society including community groups, social enterprises, charities, public bodies, private companies and environmental groups across Wales.

The ideas ranged from micro-projects within a town or village, to initiatives spanning local authority boundaries or those that take a pan-Wales approach.
Amongst the measures championed by the group in the report are:

Nature based solutions
- accelerating long term investment in peatland restoration
- taking a partnership approach to restoring and maintaining protected sites
- Woodland and hedgerow restoration and expansion
- Increasing the blue carbon potential of our seas through habitat restoration
- River and wetland restoration

Transforming socio-economic systems
- Food - connecting food growers with local markets, improving access to land for collaborative food production in the community, building the capacity of horticulture by improving available infrastructure.
- Marine – decarbonisation potential of marine renewable energy, coastal tourism
- Reimagining urban areas and green spaces – building space for nature in the design of urban landscapes
- Active travel and sustainable transport – improving connectivity between towns and green spaces, electric vehicle charging expansion across rural areas of Wales, supporting local projects including more park and ride schemes, and integrated travel plan solutions to manage high volumes of visitors to popular tourism destinations.

Circular economy
- extension of repair/ reuse activities
- innovation to create new markets for high value wood products and wool

• Tourism
- Exploration of funding models for and further promotion of the Wales Coast Path
- Develop the links between nature and heritage in Wales as part of the international tourism offer

- Retrofitting of social housing
- Investment in new housing to support decarbonisation agenda and create green jobs

Skills, training and apprenticeships
- all new public investment programmes should support a defined number of work experience and apprenticeship opportunities
- expand or develop higher education courses to ensure Wales has an appropriately skilled workforce for the future

Chair of the task and finish group, Sir David Henshaw said:

The climate, nature and economic crises we face have been brought into sharp focus by the coronavirus pandemic – but so too have the opportunities which is what the task and finish group have set out to uncover and prioritise for delivery.
From the outset, our bold ambition for this group has been to be the vanguard for green change right across Wales. From nature-based solutions to green apprenticeships, we have selected a range of proposals that we feel can be taken forward at pace, and with urgency. They are ideas that we hope will become beacons of example to be emulated by others.
Wales may be a small country, but it is our ambition that the ideas put forward in this report will leverage the collective power that we need to make a big impact in how we tackle the climate and nature emergencies, and lay the foundation for a more sustainable future for our nation.

To maintain and build momentum, members of the Task and Finish Group have committed to continue to work together, by forming a Green Recovery Delivery Partnership. By pooling its collective leadership, the group will provide direct support to those who have submitted proposals as part of this process, to enable them to drive forward implementation.

The Group will also lead another call for proposals in February 2021, enabling others to contribute and will continue to encourage others to engage in the on-going dialogue.

The reports have been published as the countdown begins to the start of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021, which will see Governments from all over the world convening in Glasgow to discuss how to accelerate action on the issue of climate change. It is hoped that speedy implementation of the proposals put forward today will underline Wales’ commitment to action and ambitions to be a leading voice in the global response to the climate emergency.

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:

As a Government, we have continued to maintain the Covid-19 pandemic will only increase the focus we place on our response to the climate crisis, rather than detract from it.
Under our Covid-19 reconstruction priorities, we have committed to respond energetically to the climate emergency by pursuing a strong decarbonisation agenda, managing our land for the benefit of rural communities and future generations and protecting and enhancing our natural resources.
Alongside those commitments and investments we have already made, this report from NRW forms part of our efforts to translate those priorities into action.
But – as highlighted in during both Climate Week and the Wales Biodiversity Partnership Conference, responding to the twin crises in climate and biodiversity - and supporting our natural landscapes and communities across Wales to respond to them - cannot be accomplished by government alone, and we want to ensure partners at all levels work alongside us in reaching these goals.
As such, I am very grateful to Natural Resources Wales and the green recovery task and finish group, and other partners, for their work on the Green Recovery: Priorities for Action report.
The work is an important contribution to Wales’ continued response to the climate and environment issues we face, and we look forward to working with NRW and other partners as we implement those outcomes recommended within the report.

Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Sophie Howe said:

The variety of measures presented in this report challenge Welsh Government and others to put their words into action as they demonstrate their commitment to a Green Recovery.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act provides Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales with the permission, clarity and the creativity to think innovatively about the decisions we make and the Wales we want to see. Acting for future generations in Wales means taking urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, reverse the decline in biodiversity, tackle the unsustainable levels of production and consumption, and connect people with nature.
I'm pleased to see the report places a priority on achieving some of the outcomes I've identified as being crucial for a green recovery - including my recommendations on supporting the decarbonisation of homes, investing in better ways to connect and move people and encouraging organisations to sign up and take on a school leaver as part of a holistic skills programme across Wales.
The Taskforce's recommendations, which offer practical ideas for implementation, should be considered with urgency by all Ministers.

David Lea-Wilson, Director of Halen Mon said:

The task and finish group want this report to be used to make things happen in 2021. It is very much a first step in making a green recovery real. It is now up to others, stimulated by government leadership, to use the best of these ideas. These, and the many more that we hope will follow, show that Wales can do the right thing for its people and for the planet. I hope to be even more proud of Wales in a year’s time at the climate change summit in November 2021 and demonstrate that we are a nation of ‘doers’ not talkers.
Published alongside the green recovery report is an independent report penned by The Funding Centre designed to understand the challenges that Covid-19 has had on third sector organisations and charities involved in the environment and nature. Written in conjunction with the sector, it makes several recommendations aimed at helping to stabilise the sector, highlighting the need to strengthen financial resilience, governance and community engagement. The Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales will work in partnership with the sector to consider and implement the recommendations made in the report.

Cllr Andrew Morgan, leader of the Welsh Local Government Association said:

I welcome the work that has been done by this Group to identify ways of recovering from the pandemic that will simultaneously help us to address climate change and nature loss. Local authorities can contribute to a green recovery in many ways. They are well-placed because of the co-ordinating role they play in their communities, across service areas and with a wide range of partners. WLGA has proposed a stimulus package to Welsh Government based around investment in a range of public services and this has links to many of the proposals in the report. We will work together with partners to support delivery of a recovery that supports people, their living environment and the wider natural environment on which our well-being ultimately depends.

Sir David Henshaw added:

Government at all levels, business leaders, and representatives of the environmental and voluntary sectors right across Wales all have an obligation to innovate to create the future we want for the next generation.
The publication of these reports today only marks the beginning of that journey. To ensure we can deliver meaningful change on the ground, we need to overcome the delivery gap and accelerate the practical action needed to deliver a successful green recovery in Wales.
We look forward to working closely with the Welsh Government and with our partners in the environment and nature sectors on the implementation of these reports, as we work towards a recovery for Wales where the wellbeing of its people and our planet are aligned with the future health of our economy.

The reports will be published on the Natural Resources Wales website here.