How is Wales dealing with climate change?

Tulips in bloom at Bute Park
Wales is known for its greenery, like these tulips in bloom at Bute Park. But how is it dealing with climate change? Credit: Tirion Davies
Increasing scientific research continues to foreshadow catastrophic events if climate change is not resolved. So how eco friendly is Wales?

By Fflur Trevor | @Caerdydd Editor

Global warming and climate change is a concern for many people due to vast amounts of scientific research foreshadowing catastrophic events if this issue is not resolved.

Environmental movements have gained social and political momentum across the world, including Greta Thunberg’s school strike for climate, and Extinction Rebellion’s annual street protests.

The week commencing Monday, August 31 initiated the annual Extinction Rebellion protests across the UK. In Cardiff, protesters gathered across the city, walking through streets in addition to protesting in Bute Park, wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The YouthStrike4Climate was another protest held in Cardiff in February this year, with hundreds of young people across Wales gathering to raise awareness of climate change.

These environmental movements have caught the attention of the governments across the devolved nations, sparking a change for global activism.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“Achieving the radical changes needed to end Wales’ contribution to global warming will require efforts from government at all levels as well as from businesses and communities.”

But, is Wales really that eco-friendly?

Recycling Rates and Devolution

On October 1, 2011, Wales became the first UK country to charge 5p for a plastic bag. The Government hoped by introducing this measure it would reduce plastic consumption and encourage recycling in Wales.

The other British nations soon followed, with Northern Ireland in 2013, Scotland in 2014 and finally England in 2015.

A review of this legislation in 2019 revealed that plastic bag sales were down by 90% since 2011, supporting the Welsh Government’s hope to reduce plastic usage.

Furthermore, a 2017 report revealed that Wales had the highest recycling rate in the UK at 57.6%. Thus, making it the only UK country to exceed the EU’s recycling target to recycle at least 50% of all waste by 2020.

This data confirms that Wales is the second-best household waste recycler in the world, behind Germany. Since devolution and creation of the Welsh Parliament (Y Senedd) in 1999 Wales’ recycling rate has soared. If these promising rates continue it is likely that Wales will over-take Germany and become world leading at recycling.

A Welsh Government spokesperson responded to these statistics, stating:

“In the 20 years since devolution, Wales’s recycling rate has increased from just under 5% to 64%. We are well on track to meet our 70% target by 2025.

Renewable energy in Wales

 In 2017, the Welsh Government revealed its plans to meet 70% of Wales’ electricity requirement through renewable energy by 2030. Subsequently, a government report disclosed that in 2018 Wales reached the landmark of 50% of electricity usage exclusively via renewable energy.

Of this 50% electricity consumption, two thirds are generated by wind turbines. Over the last 20 years wind farms have sprouted all around Wales.

As of 2020, there are 12 wind farms in Wales- almost all of which were constructed after devolution. However, wind turbines and farms have been opposed by many with concerns it may spoil the landscape and environment.

Despite these cosmetic concerns, it seems that wind turbines mean that Wales will potentially be breaking more environmental records in the UK and globally.

There is even considerable scope to develop tidal energy schemes around the Welsh coast.

The Future Generation Act and climate change 

 In 2015, the Welsh Government passed The Future Generation Act, which focuses on improving the social, economic and environmental wellbeing for the next generation.

The Welsh Government was one of the first countries in the world to legislate this act. The legislation itself focuses chiefly on seven wellbeing goals which includes, a globally responsible Wales.

The Welsh Government saw this law as necessary due to the many challenges that Wales will face in the future, including climate change. This law will enable Wales to build upon its existing effort to combat climate change.

Although changes are still pending when it comes to improving carbon footprint in Wales, The Welsh Government appears to have a strong commitment to defending the environment and reduce the speed of global warming.

Perhaps Wales will soon take Germany’s crown as the country as the world’s leading recyclers.

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