Cross-cutting theme: mitigating and adapting to a changing climate

Why this theme?

Climate change is one of, if not THE, defining issues of our time. From shifting weather patterns that threaten our food production to rising sea levels and the prospect of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are far reaching and is being experienced at a global scale. Drastic action needs to be taken right now – to reduce the causes and negative impacts of climate change, as well as adapting to the changes that will occur.  
Delaying action will not only make the task more difficult and costly, but also potentially be too late.

Rising to the challenge requires concerted action at a global, international and local level. The Welsh Government’s response was to declare a climate emergency in 2019, stating:

“No nation in the world has yet fully grasped this challenge but just as Wales played a leading role in the first industrial revolution, I believe Wales can provide an example to others of what it means to achieve environmental growth” (Mark Drakeford, First Minister)

Wales has also committed to become carbon neutral in its public sector by 2030 and the policies within the plan ‘Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales’  help to address the problem.

This Area Statement considers the contributions and changes that we need make as individuals, communities and organisations in South West Wales.

It is clear that climate change is a cross-cutting issue as it has much in common with the other themes of this Area Statement:

  • Climate change and biodiversity loss result from the same socio-economic activities and need to be tackled in an integrated way

  • Biodiversity loss itself can fuel climate change. We need to make sure that any activities to reduce greenhouse gases themselves do not result in the decline of nature

  • The ways in which we use and manage our environment can have a dramatic impact on carbon emissions. They can also provide us with opportunities for storing carbon naturally

  • The effects of climate change present significant risks to our health, particularly vulnerable people (for example excessive heat)

In responding to this theme, we need to recognise these links and aim to deliver multiple benefits that help address climate change. For instance, increasing woodland cover next to a community not only enhances biodiversity, social health and well-being, but also enables trees to act as ‘carbon sinks’, soaking up excess water and reducing what’s known as the ‘urban heat island effect’, something that occurs when an urban area becomes significantly warmer than surrounding areas due to human activity. Amazing as it sounds, but an 80-foot beech tree has been shown to absorb the daily carbon dioxide output of two family homes.

Top ‘national challenges and opportunities’ from the Natural Resources Policy addressed by this theme:

  • Climate change through ecosystem based approaches

  • Improving air and addressing noise quality

  • More renewable energy

Some of the other key considerations in tackling this issue are:

Land meets sea

The coastal zone connects the land and marine environment. There is therefore a need to consider the Marine Area Statement theme nature-based solutions and adaptation at the coast in conjunction with the actions set out here; the Marine Area Statement identifies coastal zone management and adaptation as areas that deliver the most opportunities in terms of both building ecosystem resilience and benefits across the well-being goals (in terms of tackling climate change).


While global emissions (CO2 equivalent) have risen steadily over the last few decades, Welsh emissions have shown some decline between 1990 and 2016. Within Wales by far the biggest emitting sector is business and industry. Below are the top four carbon emitting sectors in Wales:

  1. Business and industry (33.6 Mt CO2e)

  2. Transport (5.72 Mt CO2e)

  3. Agriculture/land use (5.61 Mt CO2e)

  4. Residential (4.25 Mt CO2e)

Within South West Wales over the period 2005 – 2015 the domestic and industrial sectors reduced their emissions by ~30%; transport emissions during this period have only decreased 5.2%. Additionally, overall emissions between 2015 and 2016 have increased by 5%, primarily driven by an increase in power generation emissions.

Box graphs showing total C02 emmissions in 2017 in Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Pembrokeshire


Climate projections

Due to its geographical position, the UK has one of the most variable climates in the world. Winds reaching us from the Atlantic, southern Europe, continental Europe and the polar region bring quite different weather with them. Our weather is, therefore, relatively unpredictable from day to day.  The effects of global climate change will make these patterns more extreme.

In Wales we can expect to see more intense rainfall, more flooding in some areas as well as hotter, drier summers. The projections also foresee more extremely warm days, milder and wetter winters, less snowfall and frost as well as lower groundwater levels.

Summary of projections:

  • Increases in annual average, summer maximum and winter minimum temperatures in the longer-term

  • Wetter winters with higher intensity rainfall

  • Drier summers with short lived high intensity showers

  • Increased frequency of ‘hot spells’

  • Rising sea levels

For more information see UKCP18 Land projection map  

Climate risks

Every five years the UK Government undertakes a UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. The second report was published in 2017 and considered the following question:

“Based on the latest understanding of current, and future, climate risks/opportunities, vulnerability and adaptation, what should the priorities be for the next UK National Adaptation Programme and adaptation programmes of the devolved (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) administrations?”

The top six areas of climate change risk for the UK are set out below:-

  • Flooding and coastal change risks to communities, businesses and infrastructure

  • Risks to health, well-being and productivity from high temperatures

  • Risk of shortages in the public water supply, and for agriculture, energy generation and industry

  • Risks to natural capital, including land, coastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems, soils and biodiversity

  • Risks to domestic and international food production and trade

  • New and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species, affecting people, plants and animals (research priority)

All of these, to a greater or lesser extent, apply to South West Wales.

The Welsh Government is currently updating its Climate Change Adaptation Delivery Plan in the light of these findings. These risks and the Welsh Government’s planned actions will need to be viewed alongside the Area Statement and addressed as an integral part of partners’ work programmes. Visit the Committee on Climate Change website.

Storm waves breaking over sea-front defences and road sign

What would success look like?

A key part of the development of this Area Statement has been our engagement with stakeholders and we say more about this in the next section.

In the other Themes, we set out ‘what success looks like’ as a series of you told us statements reflecting the general consensus from our engagement sessions. Perhaps because of the uncertainties we face, our discussions around the climate emergency were less defined in terms of action and we need to have further discussion around this topic. Please see the section at the end of this theme which details how you can remain part of this process.

Nevertheless, it was made clear to us that climate change needs to have a greater prominence in the Area Statement with a clear acknowledgement of the ongoing climate emergency. You also told us that:

  • If people are to change their behaviour then they need a better understanding of the local impacts of climate change

  • We should, in particular, improve awareness of how the coastline will change and shoreline management (linking with the Marine Area Statement)

  • Communities (including individuals and businesses) need to be empowered to take action for themselves in responding and adapting to climate change

  • We need to help people re-connect nature to help them to make better informed decisions

  • Public bodies need to lead by example and should consider the wider impacts (such as environmental costs) when buying goods and services, supporting sustainable local businesses where possible

  • We need to work with natural systems and processes to help adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change; for example by exploring natural flood management solutions, increasing green infrastructure in urban areas and promoting carbon capture via natural systems, e.g. peat bogs, woodlands, kelp and sea grass

  • We need a robust development planning system that promotes energy efficient designs and where development is prevented in flood plains

  • We need an integrated public transport system and well connected, safe routes for active travel (e.g. walking and cycling)

  • More support is needed for community owned renewables (small and large scale), providing local economic benefits by keeping profits locally

  • Initiatives would be more effective and deliver greater benefits if actions were better coordinated across South West Wales (e.g. a joint approach to planting saplings to replace trees lost due to ash dieback)

  • In taking any action we should look for opportunities to provide multiple benefits, such as increased access and recreation as well as support for wildlife

Sand dunes and shingle beach - Whiteford Sands

Who have we worked with to date?

In developing this Area Statement our aim has been to work collaboratively and represent the views and ideas from all stakeholders in South West Wales. Our goal has been to involve you in helping identify the key risks that we all face in managing our natural resources sustainably, as well as the opportunities.

This has required a different way of working.

We have undertaken a wide range of engagement activities, including targeted planning workshops with selected experts to larger workshops involving many sectors. The latter have been well attended and included publicly elected representatives, community groups, environmental Non Government Organisations, as well as officials from the public sector. We’ve also ensured that representative groups (such as farming unions, angling associations etc) have been included. The business sector has mainly been represented by larger industry.

As many different sectors have been included as possible to capture the widest range of views and expertise.

Internally we have been working closely with our colleagues developing the South Central Wales, Marine and Mid Wales Area Statements to ensure that actions link up where appropriate. In particular, the coastal zone and marine environment are very important for us in South West Wales and we recognise that what happens on land often impacts the sea and vice versa.

What are the next steps?

We need your continued support to progress the opportunities and actions we set out earlier and in this section. We will be continuing our conversations with you on how best to take this forward – both in terms of delivery and in refining the detail where further work is needed. This is likely to involve more focused work on specific themes or around particular geographical areas (e.g. the opportunity catchments).

So, we encourage all stakeholders, existing and new, to get involved.

Whilst further conversations are needed, there are clear opportunities for action now. These include changing our behaviours, mitigation, adaption, and implementing the priority actions identified to support the Welsh Government’s declaration of a Climate and Nature Emergency. Areas we will pursue are as follows:

Continue to work with Public Services Board (PSB) partners, non-government organisations and business in taking a co-ordinated approach to tackle climate change. This includes:

  • Undertaking a pilot project to develop climate change resilience plans for communities in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and share best practice to inform our further action across South West Wales

  • Leading by example and co-ordinating a regional workshop for partners in South West Wales promoting Natural Resources Wales’s Carbon Positive Project (reducing carbon emissions)

  • Supporting the uptake of community owned renewables where appropriate in South West Wales – e.g. wind turbines, solar farms etc

  • Working with business and industry to shift processes towards a more circular economy (material re-use) and decarbonise, such as through the ‘South Wales Industrial Cluster’

  • Working with partners in South West Wales to agree and deliver our contribution to Wales’ commitment to tackling climate change (Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales 2019)

Increase the creation of natural carbon sinks, locking carbon within biomass in habitats such as peatlands, grasslands, woodland, seagrass and kelp. Examples include:

  • Increasing carbon storage on Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE) by re-wetting peatland through restoration of natural systems, for example at Pen y Cymoedd windfarm

  • Working with partners to identify appropriate sites and

    planting new woodland where appropriate

  • Supporting projects to increase ‘blue carbon’ storage, e.g. within the marine environment

(Linking with our Sustainable Land Management Theme and Marine Area Statement)

Working with natural processes to mitigate the effects of climate change including flooding and droughts

  • Taking an integrated approach to river and catchment restoration

  • Increasing the resilience of our uplands to help mitigate high and low flows

  • Exploring opportunities for nature based solutions to complement more traditional flood protection measures, e.g. in the Ffrwd Wyllt catchment near Port Talbot

(Linking with our Sustainable Land Management Theme)

Working with the third and educational sector to reconnect people with nature and encourage behaviour change. Such as:

  • Promoting greater awareness and understanding of climate change. What causes it, the effects and the connection with our nature emergency? By being aware, organisations and communities take positive and urgent action

(Linking with the Reducing health inequality and Biodiversity Theme)

How does what we’ve proposed deliver Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR)?

We have sought to embody the principles behind the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) in our South West Area Statement. At the heart of its development has been our collaborative engagement with a broad range of partners and stakeholders, both existing and new.  Whereas we would have traditionally developed a plan and then consulted on it, we have involved others throughout. We have drawn upon our collective evidence and knowledge to identify the key issues that we face in South West Wales and these have framed the four themes and our vision of success. We have begun to explore the opportunities and actions where we can work better together, to achieve long lasting and integrated benefits. Our challenge now is to work together with partners, stakeholders and communities in turning these ideas and words into action. We don’t have the answer to everything, but we will learn and adapt as we go.

A vision for South West Wales

  • There is widespread understanding of the climate and nature emergency (and the connection between them) leading to long lasting, environmentally friendly behaviours

  • Public bodies and businesses support a circular economy (to eliminate waste and re-use resources) and to adopt sustainable procurement practices when choosing suppliers

  • A network of natural carbon capture environments is created and enhanced, including peatlands, grasslands, woodlands and within ‘blue carbon’ sinks (such as saltmarsh, seagrass and kelp and maerl beds)

  • We all work with natural processes to help ease and adapt to the impacts of climate change

  • There is a well-connected, accessible and affordable public transport and active travel system, providing safe and sustainable travel options within and between communities

How can people get involved?

This theme is only the beginning of the journey as we work with people to improve the management of South West Wales. If you would like to be part of this process, please get in touch with us using the form below. Alternatively, please email us direct at:

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