Protection for biodiversity urged as 2010 target missed

A new national environment framework to safeguard the future of animal species and plants in Wales has been launched.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson was in Bangor to announce a consultation on the venture called 'A Living Wales'.

It comes as Wales, like every other country in the world, missed its 2010 target to protect threatened species in the international year of biodiversity.

The new integrated approach would see a change in management at three major environmental bodies.

It would review the current roles, functions and organisation of the Environment Agency Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission Wales.

Ms Davidson told BBC Wales: "What we want to do is reconnect the people of Wales with their environment.

"Many people hear the word biodiversity and think it's nothing to do with them, whereas in fact it is all the species and habitats that make up our planet.

"What we want to do is actually look at how we are managing our environment in Wales. Are we managing it as effectively as possible, could we do it better and can we have a national conversation about it?"

'A Living Wales' will act as a new framework for managing the Welsh environment, countryside and seas.

It will assess the best use of land and water resources and how to adapt to losing rare and sensitive habitats, the challenges of climate change, flooding and aspects of intensive farming.

The UN declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity and throughout the year various initiatives are being launched worldwide to promote the protection of biodiversity and encourage organisations and individuals to take direct action to protect the planet.

Ms Davidson added: "It's not just Wales that missed its target, every country in the world did and for me that was an absolute wake-up call.

"If we end up in a situation where our species die out, then as humans we have problems because we rely on those chains, we rely on the integrated relationship between the environment and ourselves, so if we don't look after the environment we put ourselves in greater danger."

She pointed out that the shift in attitude could also have positive long-term economic effects despite coming in straitened times.

Global economy

"In Wales one in six of our jobs is related to the environment, £9bn is spent in the context of the environment - 9% of our GDP - so it's actually more important to us than any other part of Britain or Europe.

"Recent work by the United Nations has outlined the astonishing value of biodiversity and eco-systems to the global economy.

"For instance the EU estimates that the loss of biodiversity is currently costing Europe around €50bn a year and suggests that for every pound we invest in our natural environment, we can expect a return of between £10 and £100.

"Now, more than ever, these are figures that we just cannot afford to ignore."

Ms Davidson said a new organisation could be tasked to deliver the planned integrated approach.

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