Wildlife 'needs 5% of Welsh Government budget'

Pear orchardImage source, dbsstuart/Getty Images
Image caption,
Fruit tree planting is one of the suggestions

Wales needs to significantly increase spending on tackling the "nature crisis", environmentalists have said.

WWF Cymru wants 5% of the Welsh Government's budget - around £900m a year - set aside to help wildlife.

It is one of 10 recommendations in a new report, which also calls for more focus on the issue in the school curriculum.

The Welsh Government said it had recently launched a major new scheme to help reverse biodiversity declines.

The Local Places for Nature project will see 801 starter packs made available to communities across the country so they can create wildlife and butterfly gardens or fruit orchards.

Image source, Adrian Coleman/Getty Images
Image caption,
Hundreds of fruit and wildlife gardens could be created from Welsh Government starter packs for communities

WWF Cymru's report calls for an "immediate, emergency response" to deal with the loss of species and habitats in Wales, as well as the threat posed to communities by more frequent storms and flooding.

Alexander Phillips, the charity's biodiversity policy officer, said it had specifically looked at the "levers the Welsh Government have at their disposal" to offer suggestions.

What are the charity's ideas?

  • Allocate 5% of annual spend to incentivise and support the restoration of nature and to combat climate change
  • Measures to end avoidable farm pollution and remove problematic "grey infrastructure", such as old weirs and dams on rivers
  • Fund a public competition for pilot projects to restore biodiversity
  • Empower communities to manage land owned by public bodies for projects that boost nature
  • Require all public officials to undergo training on the relationship between nature and well-being and incorporate it into new school curriculum

"While the Welsh Government has recently declared a climate and ecological emergency, what we've found is that with the climate it's quite well understood what needs to happen but on the nature side it's much more complicated," Mr Phillips explained.

He said it was currently unclear how much of the Welsh Government's annual budget was spent on biodiversity but that committing to setting aside 5% would see funding available more than double.

The government had made "some good strides", including the announcement of an additional £140m for the environment in the 2020-21 budget, described by First Minister Mark Drakeford as a "down payment".

But the report emphasises that "the evidence of the ecological crisis we face" is mounting.

Recently, another study suggested one in six species were at risk of disappearing here, while Natural Resources Wales warned back in 2016 that none of Wales' ecosystems were fully resilient.

How can getting the community involved help?

Image source, Groundwork Wales
Image caption,
Cefn Fforest EcoPark is being created in Blackwood

Community members in Blackwood, Caerphilly, have been working with the Groundwork Wales programme to improve 8,000 square metres of scrubland - the former Pengam colliery tip site - to create Cefn Fforest EcoPark.

A team of volunteers have been involved in tree planting, restoring a pond, removing rubbish including sofas, TVs, car tyres and mattresses and habitat creation.

Image caption,
Volunteers have been planting fruit trees on scrubland in Blackwood

"Most recently over 50 members of the community came together to plant an orchard of heritage fruit trees that are native to Wales and can withstand and thrive in this climate," said Faye Williams, project manager.

It is helping the community to "fall in love" with nature, she said.

"If you have positive outdoor experiences you form a positive natural bond with your local area and you want to care for it."

Image source, Ian_Redding/Getty Images
Image caption,
The grayling is one of the butterfly species under threat in Wales

What is the Welsh Government's plan?

They include items like native plants and seeds, peat-free compost, tools, bug and bee hotels.

The idea is that these will lead to 267 new butterfly gardens, 267 fruit gardens and 267 wildlife gardens.

Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths said it was part of a "wider commitment to making it easy for everyone to protect, restore and enhance the wildlife on our doorstep and all around us".

The Welsh Government said it was committed to "halting and reversing the decline in nature" and are determined to support our ecosystems by investing in a range of initiatives to ensure they were as resilient as possible.

"Since declaring a climate emergency we have invested significant amounts in the environment to benefit future generations, including £140m to cut emissions and increase biodiversity in our recent budget," said a spokesperson.

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