Agenda item

County Councillor Catrin Maby, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment - Addressing the climate and nature emergency


The Cabinet Member explained that Council has already made commitments to take action on the climate emergency, and on river pollution and stressed the importance of making it clear we recognise that we are in both a climate and a nature emergency. For this reason, the Cabinet Member will be reporting on these matters on a regular basis by making it a standing item on the Council agenda, ensuring that our response to these urgent matters is both coherent and continuous.


The Cabinet Member made the following points:


The most recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make two things very clear:

1.     That human activity has already made irreversible climate change inevitable, that this brings severe consequences that we will need to adapt to, and which we will see increasingly in coming years.

2.     That if we do not take urgent action to mitigate further climate change, we are on a path towards making the planet unliveable for future generations.

The Environment Agency confirmed in their report published just last week, the biodiversity crisis joins the climate crisis as an existential risk to our survival - almost a fifth of UK plants are threatened with extinction, and a third of British pollinator species have declined …. In fact the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.


In Wales, the 2019 State of Nature report confirmed that 30% of wildlife is found in fewer places than it was in 1970 with 1 in 6 species being at risk of extinction.  Bringing the focus back to our local area, the need for nature recovery is clear:

·       The Greater Gwent State of Nature report identified 34% of species showing a decline in their numbers.

·       The Wildlife Trusts 'Bugs Matter' survey identified a 40% decline in flying insects in Gwent since 2004. (On a UK scale, that figure is as high as a 60% decline.)

·       Phosphate targets for the Usk are being failed at a rate of 88% and the Wye at 68% - with algal blooms smothering other life in the rivers, especially in hot weather. 

The condition of rivers has a direct impact on the species that it provides habitat for – and a Cardiff University study showed a substantive decline in otter populations in 2021 for the first time since the 1970s.

We live in a wonderful county, and we must fiercely protect our natural environment, which is recognised for its significance. For example:

·       Monmouthshire has 7 internationally important protected sites (SACs, SPAs and a Ramsar site).

·       It has 67 SSSIs and almost 700 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation including large numbers of small species rich grasslands and ancient woodlands.

·       Monmouthshire has 24 Habitats (including Marine) and 219 Species considered to be of 'principle importance for conservation in Wales' as defined by the Environment Wales Act 2016.


During the next few weeks, the Cabinet Member will agree with senior staff a cycle for reporting on the different elements of work to address the climate and nature emergency. The intention is that it will cover the climate and nature aspects of the full range of activities and operations, across buildings, fleet, procurement, land use and land management, as well as waste management, green infrastructure and biodiversity.


Monmouthshire County Council is already doing a lot of good things and wants to ensure to monitor and report back on what we are doing. MCC needs to work together to build a nature-positive response to the challenges being faced, across a full spectrum of activities to restore biodiversity, and both to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


The Chair welcomed questions and comments.


Reference was made to how the Council is influencing the carbon footprint of the County, and how we can work on that.


A question was raised to how the Council is adapting its services to cope with extreme weather events, for example, how Social Care will respond during heatwave conditions.


With regards to phosphates, we heard that we were looking to work within the Rivers Wye and Usk catchment areas, and the Cabinet Member has joined a cross-border group relating to the Wye River which had been attended by NRW, Environment Agency and Welsh Water.  The group is at an early stage but plans to have a serious action plan to push forward.  Similarly, a group has been set up by Brecon Beacons for the Usk River and the Cabinet Member awaits a report on that.


In response to a question around bus travel and transport the Cabinet Member advised that there has been work on a response to the bus consultation and WG is working towards a more coherent system for the whole country.