Natural Resources Wales is a key player both in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and in adapting to the consequences of now-inevitable climate change.
Twin commitments to reducing emissions
Our work on emissions reductions is driven by two things: the UK Government’s commitment to reduce emissions by 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050, and the Welsh Government’s commitment to reduce emissions over which it has control by 3% year-on-year, from 2011 onwards.
Our main impacts on emissions come through our work in the following areas:
- Regulation of heavy industry, primarily through the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme
- Regulation of the waste industry, primarily by reducing methane emissions from landfill sites
- Regulation of the business, commercial and public sectors, primarily through the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme
- Interaction with the energy sector, by means of direct regulation and through influencing planning decisions
- Managing and influencing land use, to conserve and increase soil carbon, particularly in peatlands
- Managing forestry, which acts as a carbon sink by taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
Conducting our own operations responsibly
We also aim to conduct our own operations in an exemplary fashion and to promote our learning on reducing emissions throughout Wales. See how we're managing our own environmental impact.
As managers of the Welsh Government’s woodland estate, we support the use of wood energy as a clean, efficient and renewable energy resource. We also promote the use of estate land for wind and hydro power, in cases where this can be achieved without compromising other aspects that relate to environmental quality.
Efficient use of resources
Making goods from recycled rather than virgin material generates much less greenhouse gas. Our work on recycling and resource efficiency is therefore very important in preventing the production of emissions in the first place – either in the UK or abroad. Similarly we promote wood as a construction material that has less 'embedded' greenhouse gas emissions than alternatives such as plastic or steel.
Risks in Wales
Our work on adapting to climate change is driven primarily by the first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, which was published in 2012. This report highlighted the following risks in Wales:
- Increases in deaths and illness related to hot weather
- Changes to soil conditions, biodiversity and landscape due to warmer, drier summers
- Reductions in river flows and water availability during summer months, affecting water supplies and the natural environment
- Increases in instances of coastal and inland flooding, affecting people, property and infrastructure
- Changes in coastal evolution, including erosion and coastal squeeze, affecting beaches, intertidal areas and other coastal features
- Changes in animal species, including a decline in native species, changes in migration patterns and increases in alien and invasive species
- Greater risk of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry
The report also highlighted the following opportunities:
- Increases in grass yields, allowing for a potential increase in livestock production
- Increases in tourist numbers and a longer tourist season
- Reductions in the number of deaths and illnesses related to cold weather
The second UK Climate Change Risk Assessment is currently underway and will report in 2017. Natural Resources Wales is feeding into this process and will act on the report’s findings.
Commitments to the Welsh Government
We have given a commitment to the Welsh Government to follow their statutory guidance and embed adaptation to climate change in all of our organisation's activities. Examples of this work are presented across our website, as appropriate.
Our organisation's adaptation to climate change
Natural Resources Wales's role includes dealing with individual incidents, such as storms, as well as tackling underlying trends, such as changes in seasonal rainfall.
Our work to date has highlighted the following priority areas:
- Managing increased risk of flooding from rivers, sewerage systems and the sea
- Managing the impacts of more frequent and more severe droughts
- Dealing with poor river water quality during very wet and very dry periods
- Managing the impacts of a changing climate on landscapes and habitats as well as the species they contain
- Preparing guidance for woodland managers on how to increase resilience to climate change
Adapting to climate change requires cooperation between a number of different agencies and parties. If a road floods, for example, the emergency services may not be able to get through and people will suffer. For this reason, we are committed to working in partnership with other organisations and with local communities. For example, we are working closely with One Voice Wales to help town and community councils, and the communities they represent, improve their resilience to climate change.