Green recovery: supporting the environmental sector in Wales

Priorities for action and next steps for the green recovery from Covid-19

In May 2020, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths MS invited Sir David Henshaw, the Chair of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to lead a task and finish group to identify priorities for action for the Welsh Government’s Recovery Plan from Covid-19.

The group was asked to develop ideas that link climate action with job creation, inclusive and fair economic growth, and other development priorities.

It was also tasked with developing a shared plan to stabilise the environmental third sector, highlighting the need to strengthen financial resilience, governance and community engagement.

The group reports to the Minister’s stakeholder roundtable, which includes senior representatives from the food, farming and fisheries sectors alongside environment third sector organisations and NRW.

Opportunities have also been actively sought to forge the connections across Ministerial Portfolios, including the Covid-19 Expert Advisory Group of the Counsel General.

Membership of the green recovery task and finish group

Taking the existing commitments and membership of individuals in other established fora into account, invitations were extended to those representative of other sectors across Wales in an effort to draw in additional voices and contributions.

The membership:

  • Justin Albert, Director of Wales National Trust
  • Peter Davies, Chair of the Welsh Council Voluntary Action; Chair of the Wales Marine Action & Advisory Group (WMAAG)
  • Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
  • Chris Johnes, Chief Executive of Building Communities Trust Wales
  • Lesley Jones, Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy
  • Prof Calvin Jones, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University
  • David Lea-Wilson, Director of Halen Môn, LPM Community Woodland Group
  • Cllr Andrew Morgan, Leader Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), supported by Tim Peppin, WLGA
  • Peter Perry, Chief Executive of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water
  • Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
  • Vivienne Sugar, Chair of the Bevan Foundation
  • Cathy Weatherup, Chief Medical Office, Welsh Government

Members of the group have also capitalised on their own extensive networks to inform the work:

  • Peter Davies has worked with the Wales Marine Action and Advisory Group (WMAAG)
  • Chris Johnes linked up with members of the Community Sector Network, which includes local community organisations across Wales, and sought ideas of local grassroots initiatives which could help progress the green recovery.
  • Lesley Jones has worked with the Wales Environment Link (WEL) Green Recovery Group and the wider network of third sector environment groups.
  • The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales held a roundtable event to bring the groups and networks focussed on Covid-19 recovery together
  • The WLGA has been working with local authorities to develop a programme of activity to support the economic recovery whilst also generating social and environmental benefits.
  • NRW Board member Howard Davies has provided specific input and steer to consultants reporting on stabilising the environment third sector.

What is the green recovery

The collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic represents a once in a generation opportunity to reset our individual and collective values and priorities, realigning them with those required to create a more sustainable future.

The consensus across Wales, UK, Europe and beyond is that recovery from Covid-19 must address the underlying nature and climate emergencies. The calls for individuals, businesses, governments and global institutions to refocus and accelerate the response to the pandemic along a pathway which both restores nature and decarbonises our economy have been increasing in strength.

This integrated approach considers nature and climate together as the foundation of economic, social and political renewal and regeneration in Wales, reflecting the focus of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

To reflect the broad perspective, the task and finish group agreed a definition of green recovery relevant to the range of ecosystems on land and sea including practical, prioritised actions that:

  • reduce carbon emissions and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change
  • reverse the decline in biodiversity
  • connect people and nature
  • tackle unsustainable levels of production and consumption by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, avoiding all waste and moving to more sustainable alternatives

In taking forward these actions, investment should be targeted to ensure that:

  • job creation, skills development and new markets are prioritised
  • groups, communities and places that are most vulnerable / have been hit hardest are prioritised to address underlying socio-economic inequalities and inequities

The recovery plan must deliver on all six of these elements together, not just one in isolation. However, the task and finish group recognises that there may be greater emphasis on some elements compared to others and agreed to a principle of ‘do no harm’, for example, action on decarbonisation should not be at the expense of biodiversity.

The reports

From June to October 2020, the group has met regularly to review and discuss proposals, to test ideas and to share experience and insight.

In the later stages, group members wrote theme summaries and narratives reflecting their expertise, insight and views which have led to the development of two reports that set out the priorities for action and next steps.

Report one – The green recovery task and finish group

Report from the task and finish group led by Sir David Henshaw.

The report identifies a range of prioritised, practical actions, based on a ‘call for ideas’, that are ready to be taken forward in the short and medium term at an all-Wales, regional and local scale.

Although framed within the current strategic policy context, the report focuses on accelerating the pace of delivery on the ground. Incremental improvements will not be enough to meet the scale of the green recovery challenge. Innovating and forging new partnerships that support transformational change will be crucial and the group commits to driving forward the delivery of the recommendations made.

Report two – Green recovery: supporting the environmental sector in Wales

Green Recovery: supporting the environmental sector in Wales, October 2020.

This report focuses on the recommendations of research to inform the development of a plan to stabilise the environment third sector. An independent consultant has undertaken this work, drawing on desk-based literature reviews, a workshop, face-to-face interviews and an online survey. Drawing on these information sources, the report assesses the position of third sector organisations pre Covid-19, through the lockdown response period and a forward look through the autumn to January 2021.

Prioritised actions for the green recovery

168 submissions were received which enabled the group to prioritise the following actions:

  • Reducing carbon emissions and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change
  • Reversing the decline in biodiversity and connect people and nature
  • Contributing to tackling unsustainable levels of production and consumption by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, avoiding all waste and moving to more sustainable alternatives.
  • Job creation, skills development and new markets
  • Groups, communities and places that are most vulnerable/ have been hit hardest are prioritised to address the underlying inequalities and deprivation

Next steps

The task and finish group members have committed to continue to work together to form a Green Recovery Delivery Partnership. By pooling their collective leadership, the group will drive forward implementation, using their networks and resources to make things happen.

The task and finish group will also commit to working in partnership with the Welsh Government and the environmental sector on the implementation of the recommendations made within the second report with a view to stabilising the sector for the future.