Green Recovery Wales festival a success as hundreds have their say virtually
The free online festival, which took place between 20 and 23 July, saw hundreds of people join in with live discussions, workshops and activities on how we can work together towards a greener future.
“Environmental, economic and social justice will be the three pillars of Wales’ recovery plan from Covid-19,” the First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed this week as part of the Green Recovery Wales virtual festival.
RSPB Cymru, National Trust Wales, WWF Cymru, Coed Cadw, Wildlife Trusts Wales, Black Mountains College, Organic Growers & Farmers, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and Nature Friendly Farmers Network are among the organisations and charities that teamed up to deliver the new digital event.
The First Minister, who launched the festival, commended the organisers’ creative efforts to bring participants together virtually and help engage more people in the discussions on how we collectively shape the Wales of the future.
“Coronavirus has been an enormous challenge to us all in so many ways, but it has at the same time demonstrated a huge creativity in the way that people have found different ways in coming together.
“We are finding different ways in reaching out and engaging more people in some of these discussions and conversations than we would have by more conventional ways,” Mr Drakeford said.
Collaborative working was a recurring theme throughout the four-day festival as politicians, decision makers, innovators across the environmental, food and farming sectors, and the public joined in with conversations on the way forward for Wales.
The festival saw over 50 activities and 17 live sessions take place, with engaging discussions on the climate and nature crises, how we produce our food, the wellbeing of the people of Wales and our response to Covid-19.
Throughout the week, messages of support from presenter Iolo Williams, farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs were also shared online.
To conclude the festival, participants were invited to submit their big idea for how we move forward and achieve a green recovery for Wales. Here is what some of the guest speakers had to say:
Rebecca Williams, Assistant Director for National Trust Wales: “‘Our lives are overcrowded, over-excited, over-strained. We all want quiet. We all want beauty. We all need space.’ The words of National Trust founder Octavia Hill are as important today as they were 125 years ago. The green recovery must recognise that access to nature, beauty and history are essential for our wellbeing and need to be at the heart of future policy making.
Katie-Jo Luxton, Director for RSPB Cymru: “Set up a Green Workforce employability and training scheme to meet current unemployment needs, including by providing new training for young people as well as those recently unemployed in areas of work to help secure green jobs and contribute to the recovery of Wales’ natural habitat and a carbon-neutral economy.”
Natalie Buttriss, Director for Woodland Trust Wales: “Future farm support payments to include a universally available Hedges and Edges scheme which invests public funding in the green infrastructure of farms providing tangible direct support for farming with clear public benefits for wildlife, water resource management and carbon storage.”
Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive Officer for Wildlife Trusts Wales: “The only thing certain about our future in Wales is change, we need to embrace this and make brave decisions if we are to realise a sustainable future for our children. This must address inequalities in society, nobody should be left behind and by understanding nature’s role in enabling healthy cohesive communities that are protected from the impacts of climate change, we can start on this journey. Our first step on this change will be how Welsh Government invest and this must be in a Green and Just Recovery.”
Anne Meikle, Director for WWF Cymru: “Wales has a unique duty to look long term at the interests of future generations. Because of the nature and climate crises, we know that the biggest issues they will face will be impacts of environmental degradation and collapse of ecosystem services; and the resulting economic, social and health crises. Government must use its investment wisely to tackle these issues, ensuring jobs which have a long term future.”
Ben Rawlence, Director of Black Mountains College: “If we want a greener future, we must teach it. Nothing is more urgent than equipping future generations to meet the creative and adaptive challenges of a warmer, more uncertain planet.”
Hilary Kehoe, Chair of the Welsh Nature Friendly Farming Network: “Maintain and redirect payments towards mainstreaming nature friendly farming: a new Wales agriculture policy should be centred on public money for public goods that rewards nature friendly farming and the multiple environmental benefits it provides.”
Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive Officer for Food, Farming & Countryside Commission: “Everyone needs easy access to healthy, sustainably produced food. This is inextricably linked to decisions about health and well-being, farming, land use, nature recovery and the rural economy. For a just transition, public investment must be lined up to deliver the ambitions of the Welsh legal framework.”
Roger Kerr, Organic Farmers & Growers Chief Executive: “Investment is needed in agroecological R&D and Knowledge Exchange programmes. Long term costs, both socially and economically, will be significantly reduced by addressing our key challenges through support of farmers and businesses as they shift toward systems that are proven to be both diverse and robust.”
For more information about Green Recovery Wales and to watch the panel discussions from the festival, please visit: https://greenrecovery.wales