CLIMATE Change Minister Julie James has announced £26m to limit the carbon footprint of tourism in Wales, boost biodiversity and improve access to the countryside so all can enjoy its beauty.

The Minister made the announcement as she opened an electric vehicle (EV) network in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – it is believed to be the most extensive network in any UK national park with 74 charging points.

The Minister explained that the funding would be used to help make tourism more sustainable and Wales’ countryside more resilient following the growth of staycations during the pandemic.

Some of the ways in which it will be used include:

making improvements to transport and tourism facilities, particularly around visitor hotspots;

improving footpath networks with a particular focus on disability access; and

funding projects that will improve Wales’ National Parks so they can better store carbon and provide better protection for wildlife

The Minister said:

“As more people are discovering the magic of the Welsh countryside, we must make sure it can deal with the pressures.

Our vision is of a countryside where communities can continue to work and flourish, where visitors can enjoy whilst leaving only footprints behind, and where plants and wildlife can make a real comeback.

Nature is providing us with the tools to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, whilst still having the power to make us all feel better within ourselves when we connect to it- it’s only right we do what we can to look after it.”

National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty cover 25% of Wales and play a big part in enabling people from all backgrounds to access the countryside safely.

Home to peatlands, farmlands and endangered species, effective management of the countryside is seen as invaluable in tackling the climate and nature emergencies.

During her visit to west Wales, the Minister also met with a disability access scheme on Saundersfoot beach, which provides specially designed wheelchairs so users can navigate the sandy terrain with ease.

She also met a local walking group who say their social meetups to explore their area has improved their mental health.

Minister Julie James added:

Investment in access to the great outdoors is a flagship policy for the Welsh Government for the multiple benefits it provides.

Beyond the economic opportunities of tourism, connecting with nature has been scientifically proven to improve both mental and physical health.

Pioneering projects such as the Wales Coast Path enables walkers to trek its entire 1400km coastline, whilst plans are well underway to create a National Forest for Wales that stretches from the north to the south of the country.

Tegryn Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park said:

“This funding has helped us make more electric vehicle charging points available across our National Park, moving us further towards our goal of becoming a net zero National Park.

In turn, this will enable more residents, visitors and businesses to reduce their carbon footprints and support the Authority’s on-going campaign, which urges people to ‘tread lightly’ during their trip to the Pembrokeshire Coast.”

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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