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Wales’ Collective Call for Strong Climate Leadership

28 June, 2024
By Hannah Tottle

In an era where the climate and its interconnected crises demand and deserve urgent, transformative action, climate leadership holds the key to unlocking change at the scale we need, both in Wales and globally. 

Our recent Green Tour of Wales revealed a tapestry of grassroots innovation and community-driven initiatives already spearheaded by various local individuals, partners and organisations. The tour coincided with The Great Big Green Week 2024, the UK’s largest-ever celebration of community action tackling climate change and protecting nature.

It’s clear that thousands of people from all walks of life feel connected to nature, care deeply about the environment, and desire strong climate leadership. In its absence, many have stepped up to become leaders in their own communities and networks.

The efforts of those we had the pleasure of visiting during the tour underscore a pivotal message: whoever the new government voted in during the 4th of July 2024 general election, they must not only support but amplify these local successes through robust policies, commitments and investments. The next Welsh and UK governments have a unique opportunity to harness this momentum, scaling up local successes into a comprehensive, globally-minded strategy that could serve as a model for climate action worldwide. 

Ysgol Gynradd Hirael

The first among the many inspiring encounters on our Green Tour of Wales came from an unexpected source: the classrooms. Here we engaged with the next generation of eco-champions whose natural curiosity and commitment to environmental stewardship reflect a deep-seated passion from a young age for preserving and protecting the planet. 

School students today are acutely aware that they will bear the brunt of the accelerating impacts of climate change.  According to a 2022 survey by Save the Children, over 70% of children aged 8-12 expressed worry about climate change and are worried about the world they will inherit, reflecting a growing awareness and concern about environmental issues at a young age.

This awareness has galvanised them into action as they strive to create positive change in their communities and beyond. From studying nature to implementing sustainable practices within their schools, these young activists are not waiting for the future—they’re shaping it now. Their proactive stance is a clarion call for the government to step up and match their commitment.

North Wales Africa Society

As we continue to explore the diverse landscape of community climate leadership in Wales, it becomes clear that this movement transcends age and geography. Beyond the inspiring actions of school students, another remarkable example can be found in the North Wales Africa Society. 

The North Wales Africa Society is a membership-based group for the African and Caribbean diaspora community and friends of Africa in North Wales. While focusing on a wide array of community initiatives, the group have also taken a prominent role in addressing environmental issues through political engagement. By hosting panels and discussions during The Great Big Green Week that pose critical questions — such as how to leverage politics to tackle climate change in the Bangor Aberconwy Constituency — they’re fostering a vital dialogue that bridges local concerns with global solutions. Their efforts highlight the importance of community involvement in driving environmental progress.

Other eco-aligned work the group does is promoting and encouraging their community to attend events such as The North Wales Rivers Trust’s River Art Workshop and hosting ‘Climate Conversation Nights.’ 

Open, inclusive conversations with communities about climate change and the future are something the North Wales Africa Society does brilliantly. Their proactive approach in engaging diverse voices, especially those frequently marginalised in climate discussions, highlights the importance of community-driven dialogue in shaping effective policies. By facilitating panels and discussions that connect local experiences with broader political action, they demonstrate how empowering communities can lead to innovative, relevant solutions.

If we’re to unlock change on the scale we need to tackle the climate emergency, the Welsh and future UK governments must heed the example set by the North Wales Africa Society. Wales needs inclusive environmental strategies to ensure our future is not only equitable but enriched by the insights and needs of all citizens, particularly those historically overlooked. 

Sinfonia Cymru

(Image by @kirstenmcternanphotography via Sinfonia Cymru)

Continuing our exploration of inspiring climate and community leadership in Wales, another compelling example emerges with Sinfonia Cymru and their innovative concert series “Regenerate: Seasons for Change.” 

This orchestra has transcended its traditional role, using the power of music to immerse the audience in a world where music becomes a catalyst for hope, imagination and the future of our planet. This intersection of art and advocacy not only engages hearts and minds, but offers transformative opportunities to think beyond immediate concerns and imagine a world where our collective desire and right to a healthier, greener, fairer future is a reality. 

Climate Activist, Violinist and Sinfonia Cymru Facilitator Simmy Singh said of the concert: 

“We’re here to explore how we can be the generation to regenerate this planet and to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. We’re going to do that through the powerful music of Vivaldi like you’ve never heard it before. The Four Seasons, folk, classical, everything in between. We’re here to appreciate the abundant beauty of nature, to think about our effect on this beautiful earth and how we can find that beautiful reciprocity once again.”

Sinfonia Cymru’s pioneering initiative makes it clear that cultural institutions have a pivotal role to play in shaping the sustainable narrative and mobilising communities towards meaningful change. Artists challenge us to contemplate what could be achieved if each individual, particularly those in positions of influence and power, fully commits to their role in making change a reality. 

Our Volunteers

Our final and perhaps most personal highlight comes from the volunteers who accompanied us on this journey.

These individuals, driven by a profound sense of responsibility and urgency, have stepped into leadership roles to combat the climate emergency at the grassroots level. Their unwavering commitment and proactive efforts serve as a powerful testament to the impact determined citizens can have on their communities and environment. The next government should take inspiration from their example, adopting their spirit of dedication and urgency to address the climate crisis head-on.

As we’ve journeyed through the inspiring efforts of individuals, businesses, organisations, charities and community groups across Wales, it’s clear that a fairer, greener, and better future is within our reach. Thousands of us have already been laying the foundations of change, and it’s high time those in power step up and match the commitment and energy already being put forth by passionate citizens. 

The impacts of climate change are already being felt and we need elected officials that can provide environmental leadership for a healthy planet and the wellbeing of our communities. The decisions we make now will shape the Wales we leave for future generations and define Wales’ role and legacy in the global effort to combat the climate emergency. 

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