A new future for Welsh wildlife?

Friday 27th January 2017

Bottlenose dolphins on the coast of north Wales (photo by Nia Hâf Jones)

The Wildlife Trusts have responded to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry on agricultural policy post Brexit.

The EU’s record on environmental issues is arguably one of its greatest achievements. It has developed world-leading legislation on a range of issues, which have helped tackle water and air pollution, protected endangered species, protected our pollinators through bans on dangerous pesticides and cleaned up our beaches.

For example, the Birds and Habitats Directives are a major success story for nature conservation. They were responsible for the creation of the largest and most coherent network of protected areas in the world (the ‘Natura 2000’ network). They represent the cornerstone of UK and EU-wide efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, providing vital protection for rare and vulnerable species and habitats throughout their range.

Much of the Welsh environment is dependent on EU standards and regulations. We need these standards and regulations (and enforcement) to continue to confront the headwinds associated with climate change, resource depletion and biodiversity and ecological loss as well as public health issues.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has enhanced some on-farm biodiversity through agri-environment measures. However, it also has created significant perverse outcomes for biodiversity. For example, the payment of subsidy linked to grazeable land area has led to the loss of woodland, scrub and trees and its associated wildlife. The State of Nature report highlighted that one in 14 species in Wales is heading for extinction, with the intensification of agriculture having the biggest adverse impact on wildlife.

Food and farming need to play a central role in Wales’ legal obligations to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2020. Therefore, due to the scale of the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, it makes sense that we must develop not just sustainable but ecologically restorative policies.

Therefore, our top priorities are:

• ensuring continued and strengthened protection of the environment (including enforcement and scientific research and expertise) – it is this area that the proposed Great Repeal Bill (Grbil) might have particular implications for Wales

• the creation of a new domestic Sustainable Land Use Policy to replace CAP. This should create multiple outcomes such as supporting sustainably produced food, reversing habitat and wildlife declines, conserving soil and carbon and managing the movement of water. It should be an investment and not a subsidy.

Read our full consultation response here.