Opinion piece by Catherine Mealing-Jones, CEO, Brecon Beacons National Park
It is a pleasure and a privilege to lead the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. During Wales Climate Week I am reminded that it is through local leadership that we will harness the passion and drive my colleagues display when facing and finding solutions to tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
The issue is urgent. Even a 1.5-degree temperature rise will risk Earth’s natural systems and threaten their support for human life. Yet action pledged by nations so far puts the planet on track to reach a temperature rise of about 2.7-degrees by the end of the century. Climate breakdown is happening even faster than scientists predicted – the issue is urgent.
The Brecon Beacons National Park sits at the forefront of the climate emergency. Finding local solutions to this global problem is our highest priority. The Welsh Government has asked Welsh National Parks to “become exemplars in responding to the climate and nature emergency”.
The climate emergency sits at the heart of our management plan. This is not simply an exercise in policy writing – it has to be about action. Our buildings are powered by solar and our machines are electric. We are delivering on climate change socially, by working with partners to find solutions to community needs such as energy and transport. And we are delivering through nature recovery, by restoring our treasured peatlands and improving tree cover.
Our remit from Welsh Government means we must take on more than our fair share of action to limit global temperatures rises. We must reach net-zero emissions across the National Park by 2035.
Clearly, we cannot tackle climate change alone. In the Brecon Beacons we are fortunate to be joined in our ambitions by the work of fantastic organisations such as Black Mountains College, Stump up for Trees and Our Food. But it will take efforts from every one of us to reach net zero and to prepare for the warmer world ahead of us.
In the week after COP27 it is clearer than ever that the future of human civilisation, and the natural world as we know it is in the balance. What we do in the next handful of years will be decisive.
Half of humanity is already in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. Flooding in Pakistan this year has affected 33 million people and left one-third of the country underwater. The climate crisis is happening now – destroying livelihoods, disrupting food security, aggravating conflicts over scarce resources and driving displacement.
Even here in the Brecon Beacons this summer saw temperatures so high that they led to public health warnings. It affected our infrastructure, food production, and our already critically stressed natural environment.
The Brecon Beacons National Park overlaps with nine unitary authorities. To drive the climate action needed here, we are working closely with those authorities, as well as with other parts of the public sector, third sector, private sector, the public, and the Welsh Government. Each place is a jigsaw piece in the whole picture.
As part of Wales Climate Week, we hosted a cross-Wales panel discussion on the importance of working together via a global initiative called Race to Zero.
This huge UN-backed coalition has come together to raise climate ambition across the world. It is mobilising nations, cities, regions municipalities, councils, businesses and universities in the 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.
Wales as a nation is a member of Race to Zero. Local authorities coordinating local action to make the doing the right thing the easy thing across society is crucial to us achieving carbon emissions reduction commitments.
Wales Climate Week has been an opportunity to reflect on our environment, together, at just the right time. We have the drive to meet the challenge. We sincerely hope you will join us too.