The current climate crisis in Wales calls for the nation to change idle action for good

Warning of Cardiff being below sea level by 2050 challenges the Welsh nation to act responsibly in what has been labelled a climate emergency

The climate crisis begins to settle in Wales. Credit: Tom Martin/Wales News Service.

Ordering an oat milk latte from a funky tattooed barista or taking a photo of a cauliflower steak makes us look moral in our carefully composed Instagram stories. Yet, there is a climate crisis requiring greater assistance than our online image. Undoubtedly cruelty-free food alternatives are becoming popular. This is evident in the rich variety of vegan food option in Wales capital city. However, predictions reveal that Cardiff could be underwater in just 30 years as a result of climate change.

A year has passed since the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency and unfortunately the crisis intensifies. The small nation causes great harm through farming practices and imported commodities, for example palm oil, coffee, beef, chocolate and soy. If Wales wish to achieve a ‘net zero’ nation by 2050 then a change in climate behaviour is crucial.

Input = Output

Size of Wales (SOW), a Welsh charity fighting climate threat, emphasise the emergency in stating, “Wales’ ecological footprint is five times the size of Wales”.

Did you know, according to WWF, that 50% of packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil? Sadly, the bread, soap, butter, shampoo that fill our baskets most likely contain palm and come at the cost of devastating the earth’s forests.

Deforestation occurs when we clear forestry to grow and source commodities like palm oil. Rainforest Alliance say that 10% of worldwide emissions are released through tree clearing.

What is palm oil and why is it so harmful?
  • Palm oil comes from pulp found in the fruit of the oil palms
  • It contains more saturated fats than other oils. Therefore it withstands heat better and grows easier
  • Moreover, it contains 0 trans fats. Therefore people deem it healthier
  • Palm oil is inexpensive to grow and quick to collect through the ‘slash and burn’ agricultural practice
  • This directly leads to deforestation. Forest loss releases alarming volumes of harmful emissions into the air
  • Unfortunately palm oil is often listed as something else. Try avoid the following: octyl palmitate, palmytil alcohol, palm kernel, Palm kernel oil, Palm fruit oil, Palm stearine.

A second internal problem for Wales is the agricultural industry. The nation economically profits from Welsh farming. However, it largely contributes to the output of harmful emissions.

In a response to the UK Committee on Climate Change, The National Farmers Union Cymru’s president John Davies disclosed, “Welsh farming contributes 12% to Wales’ overall emissions”.

Imported soy largely feeds into Welsh agriculture as most reared meat (including beef, chicken and pork) is fed with soy. Emissions are released through traditional farm practices in Wales and elsewhere through imported animal feed.

The Welsh Governments Low Carbon Delivery Plan, importantly outlines, consumption emissions generated through goods bought from oversea are not included in targeting and budgeting for Welsh emissions.

The Size of Wales Making Wales a Deforestation Free Nation report outlines recommendations in order for Wales to become the first deforestation free nation. Credit: Size of Wales.
Actions = Consequences

Inevitably, the proximity of the climate crisis is surfacing inside Wales itself.

This year alone Wales has seen flood levels surpass any projections. Kevin from SOW describes this as a “once in a 100-year flooding”.

You can’t pretend that climate change doesn’t have an impact here

South Wales saw residents flee their homes three times over. Wales first minster Mark Drakeford states that the damage could cost up to £180m.

Climate predictions estimate that rising sea levels will place Wales capital city underwater by 2050. This is unless the output of emissions begins to reduce. Kevin emphasises, “You can’t pretend that climate change doesn’t have an impact here.”

Climate Central’s interactive map allows you to adjust the location and view how different areas will be affected by rising sea levels.

Furthermore, SOW’s Making Wales a Deforestation Free Nation report explains the more habitats we clear, the more space we create for zoonotic diseases to spread. A zoonotic disease is one transmitted from an animal to a human.  Much like the suspected source of the coronavirus outbreak, when one virus jumps from a family of viruses present in an animal, into the human population.

The unexpected outbreak of covid-19 in 2020 has addressed the power and fragility of the world. In tackling climate change Wales will protect itself from future pandemics.

What next

Former head of policy at the Sustainable Food Trust, Honor Eldridge, believes Wales has the potential to ensure the future of the environment for generations to come.

“Wales need to ensure that the new support system for farming is designed to transition Welsh farming towards climate-sensitive agriculture”, specifies Honor.

Action begins as the National Farmers Union Cymru responds to the Welsh governments call on a climate emergency. They set the ambitious aim to reach net zero greenhouse gasses across Welsh agriculture by 2040.

Climate change is just sitting there like this big beast

Bleddyn Lake, the campaigns and development manager at Friends of the Earth Cymru (FOE), recognises a need for change. He says, “We are on the general trajectory to change but climate change is just sitting there like this big beast. It doesn’t listen to what government targets are”.

One thing that FOE Cymru are pushing for is ‘climate labels’ in supermarkets. Similar to how food packaging list sugar and fat numbers, it would include the emissions released to produce an item.

Global Responsibility

If Wales reduce its output of emissions it will fulfil the role of becoming a globally responsible nation. The Welsh Future Generations Act outlines this. The act was enforced in 2015 to better the long-term decision making for public bodies.

It will also allow the small nation to demonstrate leadership at COP26, the annual UN climate change conference, next year.

So, continue to stay trendy and purchase healthier food options. But let’s look beneath the nice photo it will take and seek the journey behind the nations produce.

Kevin from SOW believes that collective action towards bettering the Welsh supply chain could be revolutionary. He says, “We know we are a small nation. If we cut deforestation out of our entire supply chain tomorrow, we might not save the Amazon, but we can go a long way to leading other nations to do the same”.