Wales's natural environment is our most precious inheritance, pivotal to our identity as a nation and, as has come into sharp focus over the last year, central to the health and well-being of our people and our economy.


Protecting the environment for future generations is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As we look towards taking a greener pathway out of the global Covid-19 pandemic, we must also seize the opportunity to re-imagine how we use our natural assets to address the dual threats from the climate and nature emergencies.


The publication of the second State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR2020) aims to inform that endeavour. It builds on the evidence base in the first SoNaRR, illustrating some of the key challenges, priorities and opportunities for the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR).


At its heart is the ambition to bridge the gap between where we currently are and where we need to be.


The Environment Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act provide the firm foundations for Wales to deliver its ambition. As Nikhil Seth, United Nations Assistant Secretary General said;


“What Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow”.


The World Health Organisation (WHO Manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19) and Welsh Government (Covid-19 Reconstruction: Challenges and Priorities) have both highlighted the significant role that natural resources will play in our recovery from the pandemic.


The publication of SoNaRR2020 comes at a critical time of challenge and change, on many fronts.


In 2019, the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency and set a target to reach net zero carbon by 2050 (Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales). We have seen children and young people take to the streets around the world to make a stand over the climate and nature emergencies, placing them front and centre of the global news agenda.


The Covid-19 pandemic has also fundamentally changed our way of life. The importance of being able to enjoy our natural environment, and the health and well-being impacts it brings, has been made clearer than ever as we all adapted to the restrictions put in place to control the virus.


Our collective response to the pandemic represents a once in a generation opportunity to reset our values and priorities, and to realign them with those that will create a more sustainable future.


The green recovery task and finish group, commissioned by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths and chaired by Sir David Henshaw, has already identified innovative opportunities for us to continue Wales’s leading role in the green agenda. Here is the opportunity, amid this globally challenging time, to refocus our attention towards a truly green recovery and a society that works with nature, not against it.


There is no denying that we are at a pivotal point in human and environmental history. Now is the time for action and to build on the good work implemented since the publication of our first report.


SoNaRR2020 includes the traditional focus on management of natural resources within the eight broad ecosystems. It also proposes a transformational approach using the ecosystem, economic and social spheres as levers to redesign our society and economy. It identifies three areas for transformative change: the food, energy and transport systems.


The global food system has a significant impact on the environment. Land use is identified by the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services as one of the big drivers of the nature emergency. Emissions of pollutants, depletion of resources, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are consequences of the current system in Wales and beyond.


The global energy system is one of the main drivers of the climate emergency. Wales’ current energy production and consumption creates many pressures for ecosystems and public health here and across the planet. Wales needs to increase its use of renewable and sustainable energy sources, reducing the current dependence on harmful fossil fuels.


The transport system has an impact on ecosystems and health. Urban transport contributes to carbon emissions, air and water pollution, noise pollution and the social and economic effects of congestion or lack of transport opportunities.


A transformational approach will move us towards a regenerative economy. Using the well-being goals as our guide, Wales can steer a course to the future. With the right approach, we can surpass expectations for sustainability and resilience. Wales can build in systematic consideration for the environment and achieve a more equal society. This would make Wales a country with abundant natural resources and thriving communities; a Wales that meets its well-being goals.


Wales has made significant progress in response to the global climate emergency and enhancing the natural environment. However, there is still much to do; Wales is not yet meeting the four long-term aims of sustainable management of natural resources, and it is vital that future policy decisions are rooted in this evidence.


SoNaRR2020 sets out a range of opportunities for action to move towards a sustainable future and we hope that it acts as a catalyst for positive change and a green recovery across Wales.

Read next

SoNaRR2020: Introduction

Related document downloads

Download: SoNaRR2020 Executive summary report (PDF)

SoNaRR2020: Glossary (PDF)