Currently we are nowhere near to meeting our climate emissions targets, or our tree cover targets. It is now our ‘global responsibility’ to urgently address this declared climate emergency and the deepening nature crisis.
“We have recently declared a climate emergency in Wales but are failing to take the action at the scale or pace needed to meet our carbon emission targets.” – Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Wales’ has led the world by introducing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (WBFGAct), inclusive wellbeing for people, environment and nature. Its aim should be, to effectively address disproportionate environmental damage. Some activities have dire consequences for millions of lives here and abroad, and are driving the biodiversity and climate crisis. Local authorities and the National Assembly for Wales still invest public money in fossil fuels; we don’t have sustainable food security, we’re not reversing the decline of nature, in fact, we are continuing to accelerate its collapse, as the recent edition of the ‘State of Nature’ report reflects.
We are now at a critical ecological and climate tipping point, if we do not act together, now.
What can Wales do? ‘Acting local and thinking global’ enables us all to play a positive role. Consider; to truly deliver the WBFGAct’s goals, it could trigger seed change within the EU, and around the Globe. By adequately funding and increasing the correct tree cover, we can play our part in addressing community and biodiversity resilience facing this climate emergency, this nature crisis.
Our petition explained:
- An increase of 5000 hectares per year in tree cover in urban areas, on farms, & in the uplands.
We need more trees in urban & rural areas to address high levels of air pollution, lessen heatwaves by cooling air temperatures. We need to hold more rainfall where it lands, to reduce flood risk, everywhere. We need to increase wildlife and carbon storage above and below ground. Increasing targeted tree cover, the right trees in the right places do all of these things; we urgently require landscape scale restoration.
- Tree cover that is at least 50% native broadleaf trees, best for biodiversity, & public well-being.
Our forests are not diverse enough to limit the spread of tree diseases. Like us trees are a community, they need each other to thrive not barely survive. Masses of trees are being lost to diseases, and more are to follow.
When planting trees they should be UK sourced and grown, reducing imported pests and diseases. The predicted loss of Ash trees will make flooding worse, increase ill health, and will deepen the loss of all wildlife and biodiversity. Yes we need commercial soft wood, and broadleaf for local construction, trade, crafts and energy, but it needs to be a greater integrated mix of species, that bolsters biodiversity, whilst giving all of our much loved trees a greater resilience to diseases.
Note, within the petition we talk about increasing ‘tree cover’, not ‘tree planting’. There is importance in restoring ecological integrity to landscapes, ensuring greater permeability and movement of tree species, their regeneration and establishment, important that we allow for natural regeneration, where appropriate. Evidence indicates it is possible for our native tree species to have adaptive capacity to climate change, if the site is sufficiently connected to the required natural seed stock.
Access to healthy forests, woods, green spaces and nature increases wellbeing; this is commonly accepted and acknowledges fact.
- Sustainable management of existing trees, forests, woodland & hedges, to protect them from damage & provide a mixed mosaic of habitat for wildlife & people.
Still, under our laws trees are continually being lost to short term political, private and economic gain. All kinds of development still remove mature irreplaceable habitat that delivers many of the services that we and nature require to thrive. Our existing tree cover can be better managed or protected for more positive long term outcomes. The Resilience Goal of the WBFGAct, requires our government and councils to maintain healthy ecosystems, without this goal delivered, nothing can thrive.
- New funding for farmers for ‘Hedges & Edges’ & traditional woodland grazing pasture, agroforestry systems.
Rivers, hedgerows & verges can provide quality habitat connectivity, these criss-cross Wales from mountains to coast. Many have biodiversity rich ancient woods, meadows & marshes alongside them, but their range & quality has massively declined in the last 50 years. In recent history farm payments have encouraged the removal of trees.
Our rivers are healthiest when bordered by wide strips of lightly grazed broadleaf woodland river banks. Trees provide some dappled shade keeping rivers cool and reduce the impact of pollutants. This also reduces drastic soil loss, which also damages fresh water habitat and wildlife.
- Funding for community tree nurseries, for people to be involved in finding sites, planting, & growing trees right across Wales.
Funding the increase of community tree nurseries opens up avenues for social or green prescribing, that delivers health and wellbeing, whilst reducing the long term huge demand on the National Health Services budget. See my blog post ‘Growing with Trees – Reconnecting with Nature’, also featuring on the Future Generations website.
- A truly national & innovative ‘National Forest for Wales’.
To help nature recover we need to recreate more wildlife friendly landscapes by creating healthier interconnected habitats. No habitat can thrive as an island. We need to intelligently increase tree cover, funding it in proportion to the crisis.
The Welsh Governments aspiration for a New National Forest is not just for one place. If it were to criss-cross Wales, it can deliver many solutions for all future generations, bringing us back to the essential goal of the WFGAct, a ‘Resilient Wales’.
Please share this blog post (link), sign and share the petition from here.
Diolch/ thank you
Nigel Pugh – Coed Cadw’s Campaigns Officer in Wales