The Welsh Government has asked Welsh National Parks to “become exemplars in responding to the climate and nature emergency”. This is a challenge we embrace. We are committed to demonstrating the crucial contribution that rural areas can and must play in this crisis, and how that can be done in a fair way leaving no one behind and building stronger more sustainable rural economies.
The failure of repeated COPs to set humanity on a liveable path must be a spur to more, not less action. We know that the impacts of climate breakdown are happening even faster than scientists predicted with half of the world’s population already exposed to catastrophic floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. The climate crisis is happening now – destroying livelihoods, disrupting food security, aggravating conflicts over scarce resources and driving displacement. Even here in Wales we are experiencing heat waves, droughts and flooding super-charged by climate breakdown that will become ever harder to adapt to for people and the natural world we depend upon.
Our vision here in the Brecon Beacons National Park is for a nature-based economy where people and nature thrive together. To achieve this, we have set five bold missions for the future of the National Park. Our climate mission is to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the National Park by 2035.
This is a very tough target, but it is based on detailed analysis of the National Park’s fair share of the 50 percent global reduction in atmospheric CO2 that climate scientists say is essential by 2030. A ‘globally responsible Wales’ is central to the ground-breaking Welsh Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and it is exactly in setting and acting on science and equity-based goals like this that the Act becomes real.
We are not alone in setting clear goals aligned with the Paris Agreement and being determined to meet them. The Brecon Beacons, alongside all UK National Parks, has committed to join the UN’s Race to Zero and to being part of the global shared endeavour of driving down emissions, changing the economics of fossil fuels, and demonstrating that tackling climate change can be good for people as well as the planet.
Race to Zero had urban origins, with nearly 100 of the world’s biggest mega-cities pioneering ways to accelerate decarbonisation in line with fair-share targets. Now it is time to show that rural areas are playing our part as well. We know that rapid decarbonisation won’t be sufficient to stabilise the climate – we need to protect and massively scale up nature’s ability to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.
The Welsh public sector has been focused on cutting its own emissions – and we too are getting our house in order. Our buildings are powered by renewable energy, and we are swapping our vehicles and machines to be electrically powered as fast as technology allows. But National Parks and local authorities have a much bigger role to play in leading society-wide action in our local communities, rooted in inclusive community engagement – so the decisions are made closest to those who will be impacted. The Brecon Beacons National Park overlaps with nine local authorities, and working collaboratively across these administrations is crucial to achieving the National Park’s climate mission. We are delighted that seven of the nine overlapping local authorities are also on a path to joining Race to Zero and we hope that all 22 Welsh local authorities will join the Race.