“Reversing the decline of biodiversity is one of today’s greatest challenges” – Mike Hedges AM
666 species threatened with extinction, 73 species already lost
The National Assembly's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee is today calling on the Welsh Government to put protecting endangered species and encouraging biodiversity at the heart of its post-Brexit farming policy.
Brexit means that Welsh farmers will no longer receive payments from the European Union. The Welsh Government is currently outlining its plans to replace this funding once the EU's financial support to farmers stops. The Committee believes that leaving the EU could provide the Welsh Government with an opportunity to rethink how we use resources to encourage farmers to support biodiversity.
The latest research, set out in the State of Nature Partnership's State of Nature 2019 report, paints a very bleak picture. Many species in Wales are in decline. 666 species are threatened with extinction and 73 species have already been lost.
In its Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation document, the Welsh Government says that "reversing the decline of biodiversity" is one of today's most significant challenges, alongside climate change and sustainable food production. It says that farm support should be used to reward those farmers who take action to meet these challenges. The Welsh Government is looking at sustainable land management and a sustainable farming payment scheme to support farmers.
The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to explicitly state that a key priority of its Sustainable Farming Scheme is to restore biodiversity. The Committee believes that the Welsh Government must grasp this 'once in a generation' opportunity to channel resources towards biodiversity and use its proposed schemes to fund action to meet this huge challenge.
The scheme to reward farmers for supporting biodiversity will be a complex one and will require farmers to work together. The Committee agrees with those who gave evidence to its inquiry that there is a need to consider how the scheme can work on a local, farm by farm basis, while delivering important national outcomes.
Monitoring and evaluating the new scheme is essential so the Committee is calling for there to be specific and measurable targets attached to any funding to ensure value for money.
Mike Hedges AM, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee said:
"Reversing the decline of biodiversity is one of today's greatest challenges. The speed and scale of the problem is truly shocking.
"With proposals from the Welsh Government offering an alternative way of supporting farmers, there is a great opportunity to arrest the decline of species and begin to restore biodiversity in Wales whilst securing a sustainable future for our farmers.
"Today we're calling on the Welsh Government to put protecting endangered species and restoring biodiversity at the heart of its post-Brexit farming policy.
"Now is the time to act before we lose further species that are so vital for our ecosystem."
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said that the support for biodiversity could be according to species, according to habitat or according to landscape.
Geraint Jones, from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority explained:
"A good example perhaps would be a valley, where say, the protection of hares is an aim that everyone is agreed upon. That protection plan would operate on an individual farm, but it would also be implemented across the whole area, and would require landowners to co-operate, which is an aim in itself. They would monitor, co-operate and work together, and that whole area would unite in that aim. There would be different aims then and different outcomes."
The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee's report The Welsh Government's proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme: restoring biodiversity contains a list of recommendations for the Welsh Government.
Read the full report:
The Welsh Government's proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme: restoring biodiversity (PDF, 2 MB)