Wales is making strides in tackling climate change and environmental issues, despite the UK government’s recent setbacks in its net-zero commitments. The small nation has been praised for its efforts in restoring peatlands, reducing plastic waste and phasing out coal. Here are some of the reasons why Wales is our Green Country of the Month.
The UK has a legally binding target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but the Prime Minister’s announcements last month have raised doubts about its credibility. The government delayed a ban on petrol and diesel cars, scrapped a green homes grant scheme and approved a new coal mine in Cumbria.
Wales’ climate minister Julie James teamed up with the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson to call for a summit to keep net-zero pledges on track. In a letter, they expressed their “disappointment” in the Prime Minister’s decisions, saying that the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had not been consulted.
The two ministers demanded a “new, mutually respectful partnership” and a summit of the four nations chaired by the independent Climate Change Committee to ensure net-zero commitments remain on track.
Wales restores its peatlands to fight climate change
Peatlands are wetlands that store large amounts of carbon and provide habitats for wildlife. However, they are threatened by drainage, overgrazing, burning and extraction. Restoring peatlands can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance biodiversity and improve water quality.
Wales has committed to restoring 35,000 hectares of peatlands by 2030, as part of its Nature Recovery Action Plan. The Welsh government has allocated £4 million for peatland restoration projects across the country, involving local communities, landowners and conservation groups.
One of the projects is the Pumlumon Living Landscape, which aims to restore 12,000 hectares of peatlands in the Cambrian Mountains. The project is led by the Wildlife Trusts of Wales and involves planting native trees, blocking drainage channels, creating ponds and removing invasive species.
Wales reduces plastic waste with innovative schemes
Plastic pollution is a global problem that harms marine life, human health and the environment. Wales is taking action to reduce plastic waste by introducing innovative schemes and policies.
One of the schemes is Refill Wales, which encourages people to refill their reusable bottles with tap water at participating venues across the country. The scheme is run by City to Sea, a non-profit organisation that campaigns against single-use plastics. Refill Wales has over 3,000 refill stations and has prevented over 1 million plastic bottles from being used.
Another scheme is Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which will be introduced in Wales in 2024. The scheme will require consumers to pay a small deposit when buying drinks in plastic bottles or cans, which they can get back when they return them to a collection point. The scheme aims to increase recycling rates, reduce littering and save resources.
Wales phases out coal and embraces renewable energy
Coal has a long and complex history in Wales, dating back hundreds of years. Coal mining was once a major source of employment and income for many communities, but also caused environmental damage and health problems. Wales has now moved away from coal and towards cleaner sources of energy.
Wales’ last coal-fired power station closed in 2019, marking the end of an era. The UK’s largest opencast coal mine, Ffoys-y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil, is due to close in November this year. The mine’s appeal to continue extracting coal was turned down by the local council on climate grounds.
Wales is now focusing on developing renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro. Wales has set a target of generating 70 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. It also aims to become self-sufficient in renewable electricity by 2050.
Wales has several large-scale renewable energy projects underway or planned, such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, which will use tidal power to generate electricity for 155,000 homes; the Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm, which is one of the largest in Europe; and the Anglesey Energy Island, which will host a range of low-carbon technologies.