Since March 2020 our world has fundamentally changed.
The shared impact of the pandemic has made us realise how the mundane things we take for granted can be taken away overnight.
This is exactly what environmental scientists have been warning us about for thirty years.
However, as we rebuild after Covid, we have an opportunity to think about the changes needed to create a world in which people can thrive without harming the environment that supports them.
We also have to acknowledge that Covid-19 has been very damaging for some sectors and the same will be true of climate and ecological change. The challenge for public and private sector organisations in Wales and across the world is to be adaptive and resilient.
In Wales, the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Environment Act provide the public sector with a legal and moral duty to “build back better and greener”.
Public Health Wales, in particular, has risen to the challenge, working with us in 2019 to develop workshops and action plan templates that will help the health sector and other public bodies to achieve the environmental objectives that the legislation requires.
These initiatives focus on environmental action by addressing four key themes:
- Decarbonisation – reducing our emissions of the gasses that cause global warming and the consequent climate change.
- Zero waste – ensuring we no longer bury or burn ‘waste’ but reduce the volume of materials we extract from nature by re-purposing, re-using and recycling everything.
- Biodiversity – the health, abundance and richness of natural systems so that other species can thrive with us in a harmonious balance of humans and nature.
- Adaptation – adapting to the climate changes we have already triggered by our use of fossil fuels and cannot therefore stop.
The assets that have been created provide an environmental ‘call to action’ for the health sector in Wales through a series of workshops to develop a shared approach to environmental responsibility. It’s important that we acknowledge that everyone has a responsibility towards the environment whilst recognising its many potential co-benefits.
On top of this, an environmental management module has been created, to complement the DIFT training for public sector teams. SIFT stands for Sustainability Improvements For Teams and the SIFT suite of workshops is being developed to support the delivery of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
We anticipate releasing the “Healthy Environment Module” for use by public sector teams this month.
But we must note that it’s not just the public sector that holds this responsibility.
Private companies similarly relying on people, must play their part. We have seen the private sector adapt to Covid-19 with the entrepreneurial energy that underpins all business success. Companies have quickly changed their business models, finding new products or services to provide or changing the way existing product reaches the customer.
Everyone has been affected by the pandemic, whether directly or indirectly, just as the environmental crisis threatens every household and family. As with Covid-19, we have to turn and face our threats and realise that the environment is not something separate from us.
It is where we get our raw materials from, what we eat, drink and breathe. It’s not too late to do something about global warming and climate change. We can halt the extinction of species and the erosion of nature by working collectively and making positive contributions.
In the words of the International Panel on Climate Change – “no action is too small”.