Organisations in Wales need to make a step-change in the way they think about the environment, according to the Chief Executive of the organisation charged with looking after the Welsh environment.
Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said that institutions in Wales need to become far more joined-up in their environmental planning.
Doing so, he says, will not just improve our environment but help the economy and society in general as well.
In a key-note speech at the National Eisteddfod in Llanelli, he outlined the changes which NRW is making and how other organisations could benefit from similar thinking.
He said: “If we are really going to make the best of the environment in Wales, we must all think of it in a joined up way.
“All the institutions in Wales need to consider the opportunities which our natural resources provide, and the threats it is facing, and act in a way which optimises the outcomes.
“This means thinking not just about impacts on wildlife, or jobs, or society, but considering all these things together, and making the right choices.
“If we fail to act in a joined-up way then future generations will pay the price for our mistakes.
“The good news is that we can do this in Wales. We know each other, we talk to each other, and we have very positive work which we can build on.
“Natural Resources Wales is committed to leading on joined-up thinking on environmental and natural resource management. Now is the time for others to adopt a similar approach.
“Wales has a world-class environment. It is all our responsibility to ensure that it is managed in a world-class way.”
He cited the local example of the Rainscape project in Llanelli where Dwr Cymru Welsh Water has been working in partnership with Natural Resources Wales. The work has created swales to divert rainwater away from surface water drains, providing a greener, more pleasant area for local people and reducing their flood risk.
It has also transformed Stebonheath Primary School by incorporating a pond, a swale, planters, permeable paving, water butts and an outdoor educational area, which have improved the school environment and playing areas. These provide a better place for children to play and learn, and also help absorb surface water which previously ran off into the sewer network.
But he warned that making this transformation will not be easy and that difficult decisions will sometimes have to be made.
He said: “I have become very aware of two aspects of the environment. One is the pride and passion with which we regard our environment and natural resources in Wales, and secondly the very differing views which people hold about the use, and future, of those natural resources.
“We want to retain and build on the pride and passion that we feel. But we must also try and make sense of the evidence regarding the environment, reconcile the conflicting views if we can, and to propose solutions to issues wherever possible.”
This is important, he said, because the environment provides the basic building block for all that exists in Wales – its people, wildlife, society and economy.
“London may have been built on financial services, but Wales was built on our natural resources” he said.
“And as well as the world-class landscapes and scenery, historically our natural resources have underpinned our economy, provided a living for people and communities, and sustained the Welsh language.
“Indeed, without our natural gifts, there wouldn’t have been a nation, economy and society in Wales.”