IT is now more than a year since the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency, and committed itself to achieving a carbon neutral public sector by 2030 and to coordinating action through its Low Carbon Plan to help other areas of the economy to make a decisive shift away from fossil fuels.
The Welsh Government is now on the lookout for Wales’ #LowCarbonHeroes to make themselves known, as Wales looks to focus on an environmentally responsible route out of lockdown and towards a more prosperous and more sustainable nation.
During lockdown, many people have started practising more environmentally friendly habits; including things like exercising outdoors, upcycling clothes, growing vegetables and buying local produce.
We want members of the public, to share their lockdown changes, so we can share the tips and see how we collectively continue some of the positive low carbon changes
They are invited to make their efforts known by sharing their experiences on social media and using the hashtag #LowCarbonHeroes (or #ArwyrCarbonIsel, in Welsh).
Despite the pandemic, the Welsh Government has been able to press ahead with a number of key environmental improvements and changes, including:
Funding new housing projects across Wales through the Innovative Housing Programme, to encourage the construction of low/zero carbon social housing;
Commencing work on creating the National Forest of Wales; along with the launch of associated community woodland projects, and a new £8million window of the Glastir Woodland Creation Scheme – all of which will contribute to our goal of planting at least 2,000 hectares of new trees each year;
Putting Wales at the forefront of the shift towards active travel, including funding new measures in Rhyl town centre to suspend sections of on-street parking and free up street space for walking and cycling;
Announcing £15milllion in transport grants to local authorities in support of 18 different schemes across Wales to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Recent years have also seen Wales either reach or break a number of significant environmental goals:
Remaining on track for the 2020 interim emission reduction target of 27%;
2018 saw a fall in emissions of 31% when compared to base emissions, and eight per cent when compared to the previous year;
In that same year, half of Wales’ demand for electricity was met using renewable energy;
Reducing overall energy usage by 21% since 2005.
Despite the recent successes, the Welsh Government is keen to continue and improve the trajectory of Wales’ response to the climate emergency seen so far – particularly following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “Recent years have seen Wales raise its ambition and deliver real changes, all of which go some way in helping us to respond to the ongoing climate crisis.
“And our resolve in tackling these issues has only been bolstered, not lessened, by the recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – and I have said previously that as we emerge from the aftermath of this pandemic, we want to do so in a way which leads to a fairer, greener and more prosperous Wales.”
The Minister added: “We have seen the power of collective action through the Covid-19 pandemic, and our response to the climate emergency requires the same collective action.
“In repairing the damage to our communities and our economy caused by the pandemic, we want to ensure even more people practise these low-carbon behaviours – and that’s why we want our Low Carbon Heroes to come forward.
“They can give examples on how they’ve been able to cut down on their own energy use or, whilst having wider benefits to themselves or others during lockdown and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
“These could be households who have been buying local produce saving food miles, recycling old clothes, by making a few useful changes, or people who have been cycling and exercising more instead of using their cars.
“We still have some distance to go in reaching our more long-term climate and environmental goals – but even with all of the powers at our disposal, our work as a government will have limited impact unless the people of Wales join us in this journey – and we will need the help of Low Carbon Heroes to show people it can be done.”
One person who has taken the time during lockdown to re-evaluate what more they can do to help respond to the climate crisis is Sian Sykes, an environmental campaigner based on Anglesey.
Sian made headlines when she successfully paddle boarded around Wales to highlight the issue of the amount of pollution in our seas and waterways caused by single-use plastics – having previously circumnavigated Anglesey by paddleboard to raise awareness of the same issue.
She also led as Anglesey’s regional organiser for the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), and successfully campaigned for SAS-certified “plastic free” status for the island last year.
Sian said: “Each and every one of us is responsible, we can collectively make small changes to help make a big difference to reduce our negative impact on the environment.
“Lockdown has given me the opportunity to go even deeper into seeing what more I can do to reduce my impact on the environment. I have been growing my own vegetables, making my own toiletries and household cleaning products.
“And I have had the opportunity to slow down, be mindful, reconnect with nature locally and have been more conscious to make positive changes to reduce the impact I have on nature and the environment. I am incredibly grateful to live where I do, and I want to do my utmost best to protect it.”
Sian added: “There are thousands of people across Wales who will be taking those extra steps to minimise their carbon impact during these difficult times – be that through buying local and in-season produce to cut down on food miles; reducing food waste; repairing or making clothes to avoid fast fashion, or reducing the unnecessary reliance of single-use plastic they use in their day-to-day lives.
“I would encourage those Low Carbon Heroes to come forward to share their stories to provide inspiring examples of how others might cut down on energy use and waste in their own lives, and so they can be recognised for their efforts.”