Coronavirus: Plan to boost environment post-virus urged

Verge flowers Image copyright Plantlife
Image caption Roadside grass verges have been allowed to flourish during lockdown

A wildlife charity has suggested ways Wales can recover from the coronavirus outbreak and protect the environment at the same time.

The RSPB wants politicians to commit to its "green recovery" plan, which it says can benefit people, the economy and the environment.

Its plan includes less priority for building new roads in favour of improving public transport.

The Welsh Government said it was committed to a "green-led" recovery.

Katie-Jo Luxton, director of RSPB Cymru, said: "This is the time to put in place a green recovery that will restore nature, tackle climate change and secure the wellbeing of this and future generations.

"Responding to Covid-19 and Brexit presents Wales with a unique opportunity to do things differently.

"We must put aside our reliance on fossil fuels and destructive, polluting industries and instead opt for a plan that stimulates sustainable economic recovery that is good for nature and people."

Lockdown rules have offered a glimpse where wildlife has been allowed to flourish.

With council services on hold, roadside wildflowers have been left to bloom, becoming habitats for species of flowers and bees.

Even wild goats have been attracted off the higher grounds to roam town centres, due to the quiet streets.

Image caption These Cardneddau mountain ponies have had the run of the RSPB's nature reserve at Conwy, which is closed

Helen Jowett is manager of the RSPB's reserve in Conwy and one of the few staff left on the site. The reserve is closed to the public and most of her colleagues have been furloughed.

"There's a real sense that nature has been able to take over during the lockdown in ways that wouldn't have been possible previously. I think people have appreciated that," she said.

"I hope that we'll be able to see nature continue to play a bigger part in our lives as the lockdown is lifted."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Islands off the Welsh coast boast some of the biggest bird colonies in the world

The RSPB has also said the Welsh Government should aim for greenhouse gas emissions to be at net zero by 2045, and should put laws in place to make sure this happens.

It is calling for stronger laws to protect the environment, particularly sensitive habitats like woodlands, peatlands, semi-natural grasslands and seagrass meadows. The charity says extra funding should be prioritised to restore habitats like these.

In March, the charity WWF Cymru called for an "immediate, emergency response" to deal with the loss of species and habitats in Wales.

It came a year after a "climate emergency" was declared in Wales following protests demanding politicians take action on climate change.

Image copyright Groundwork Wales
Image caption Cefn Fforest EcoPark is being created in Blackwood

The Welsh Government set a target of becoming a "carbon neutral public sector by 2030" and coordinating action to help other parts of the economy move away from fossil fuels.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has said she is determined that recovery from Covid-19 would "accelerate, rather than deter us from, Wales' transition to a low-carbon economy and a healthier, more equal nation".

A spokesman added: "We note that some environmental work has continued during the pandemic, and we are grateful to stakeholders - including organisations such as Natural Resources Wales - as their continued efforts mean vital work has not come to a complete standstill as a result of the pandemic, and improvements will not be limited to our recovery."

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