First published: 26/06/2023 -

Last updated: 14/06/2024 -

Verified by our Editorial Panel

The nature emergency

In 2021 the Welsh Government declared a nature emergency. What this means is that 17% of 3,902 species studied in Wales are at risk of extinction, with many others in decline. 

The nature emergency is closely linked to the climate emergency and has been caused by the things we as humans do, such as releasing harmful carbon emissions, destroying natural habitats and using up too many natural resources. 

Weather and temperature changes make it harder for many animals and plants to survive. When species disappear, it will impact our health and wellbeing, as we depend on ecosystems for resources such as the air we breathe, food and clean water. 

Taking action now means we can take better care of our planet and make sure it’s a healthy place for us and future generations. But to make a change, we need to protect habitats, reduce pollution, stop climate change and use our resources wisely. We need to look after our ecosystems – communities of plants, animals, organisms and nature living and interacting with each other.


What can we do?

We need to tackle the nature and climate emergencies together. Here are a few steps we can take to help nature’s recovery:

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Strategically plant and protect trees and woods

Woods and forests absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making the air cleaner and creating a barrier between people and harmful emissions. Plus, they offer shade, acting as ‘natural air conditioners’, that reduce high temperatures and pollution. Find out more about tackling air pollution with trees and get tips to prevent forest fires. 

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Provide shelter and protect habitats for animals, birds and insects

If you have a garden or green space, you can plant trees and flowers, and leave nettles and weeds to support biodiversity, while creating habitats for animals that depend on them for food and shelter. Consider hedgehog homes, bird boxes and bee hotels, create twig and leaf piles to support insects, and provide water sources for little creatures. You can also add nectar plants to your garden or balcony to help pollinators like bees and butterflies. And remember to keep on top of litter, which can harm wildlife. 

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Encourage biodiversity

If you have a garden, a balcony or a window box, or you’re involved in a community garden or local nature partnership, there are many things you can do. Opt for grass rather than concrete or anything artificial, and avoid using chemicals like pesticides that can kill butterflies, moths and pollinating insects. Find out more about alternatives to toxic chemicals for the garden. Use peat-free soil and, if you have a lawn, leave areas of long grass to increase biodiversity. Read more here.

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Save water and energy

Take green energy actions, like turning off taps and the lights when you don’t need them, using energy-efficient appliances and installing water-saving devices. This will help conserve natural resources and save money on your water and energy bills. Consider assessing the energy efficiency of your home and, if you are able, consider energy-efficiency measures.

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Change how you travel

Make your journeys greener by using public transport where you can or walking to school to reduce air and noise pollution. Consider hiring (or buying) an e-bike, share your journey with colleagues or friends, and learn more about electric vehicles.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle

Did you know that the production of everyday products – including cars, clothes and food – destroys natural habitats? Although we may not see this on our doorstep, it is happening around the world. Reduce your waste and single-use plastics, repair and reuse what you already have. Once things reach the end of their life, recycle to avoid over-production and keep the sea and soil cleaner and safer for plants and animals. Recycling at work or at school is also a great way to protect wildlife. 

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Cut food waste and eat sustainably

Avoid food waste by planning meals in advance and only buying what you need, then recycle or compost inedible waste (like bones or peel). You can also try to eat more sustainably-sourced, in-season fruit and vegetables to your diet – this avoids harmful emissions from food transportation and production.

Why take action?

The nature emergency has harmful effects on our health, wildlife and environment, including: 

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Loss of wildlife and biodiversity

Wales’ wildlife is in decline, with one in six species at risk of extinction. Animals are disappearing as their habitats are destroyed, by clearing space to grow things that we overconsume. Find out more about why habitat loss is a threat to biodiversity

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Carbon emissions

Biodiversity is important in offsetting carbon emissions. Offsetting involves permanently removing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, usually through creating or restoring habitats which absorb emissions such as trees, peatlands and seagrasses.  

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Climate change and pollution

Our activities, including cutting down forests, over exploiting resources and polluting the sea, soil and air release harmful emissions that warm the planet. This also causes extreme weather; like flooding and drought which can have a devastating impact on ecosystems and communities.

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Health impacts

Climate change can affect our health, wellbeing and safety – as it disrupts food systems, worsens air quality and changes the way infectious diseases are spread, as well as increasing the risk of extreme weather-related deaths. As well as this, spending time in nature benefits our mental and physical wellbeing.

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Ecosystem disruption

If we continue to pollute the soil and sea, destroy the habitats of animals and overexploit natural resources, ecosystems will collapse. As we depend on the natural world for food, water and clean air, it will be much harder to find the resources that we need.

Case Studies

Wildlife-welcoming project

This funded community project in Aberdare transformed abandoned land into a space for wildlife to thrive.

Find out more

What is Wales doing?

The Welsh Government is responding to the nature emergency in many ways, including: 

  • Protecting biodiversity 

    The Welsh Government has set a goal to protect at least 30% of the land and 30% of the sea in Wales by 2030. This is supported by Biodiversity Deep Dive Recommendations.  

  • Developing a National Forest 

    The Welsh Government has committed to developing a National Forest for Wales, a network of woodland running the length and breadth of Wales.  

  • Ending retail sale of peat 

    The Welsh Government has also committed to end the retail sale of peat in horticulture in Wales. 

  • Nature and Us conversation       

    Since 2022, Natural Resources Wales has been hosting a ‘Nature and Us’ national conversation using storytelling and creative techniques to develop a new shared positive vision for the year 2050.  

  • Size of Wales 

    Size of Wales is a unique charity supported through grants (including from the Welsh Government) and donations from supporters and works with indigenous and local people worldwide to grow trees and protect at least two million hectares of tropical forests – an area the size of Wales.  

  • Looking after our natural resources 

    The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) for Wales by Natural Resources Wales has set out a range of ways to take action to sustainably manage natural resources. These include: 

    • Managing agriculture and forestry in a more sustainable way. 

    • Recognising that biodiversity is part of Wales’s wealth and should be safeguarded like other assets. 

    • Providing accessible and affordable amenities and services, good quality housing, education and integrated transport systems. These all contribute to creating and sustaining healthy communities. 

    • Delivering public health approaches for social, economic and environmental benefits, such as safe green spaces and active travel.  

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