Over the last 12 months WEL has continued to focus members’ resources on the issues that will help address the near-catastrophic degradation of our ecosystems. Functioning ecosystems are the essential support to human health and well-being – and therefore central to the aims of our legislation (Well-being of Future Generations and Environment Acts) in Wales. But the time we have to arrest their decline and restore their functionality is running out.
This year our work has focused on Brexit, freshwater pollution and plastics – three issues that have dominated headlines during the year. We have also now signed-up almost two thirds of Assembly Members to each champion a species that’s endangered in Wales. And we have agreed position statements and responses to Government consultations that represent the coordinated view of our members – collectively representing 10% of the population (bigger than any political party) and managing or advising upon almost a quarter of the land area of Wales. Moreover, the impact of the network is multiplied as for every paid member of staff employed by members of WEL, there are 28 volunteers who are working with our members to improve their local environment.
We have continued to provide representatives to Welsh Government policy and advisory groups, also holding a number of meetings during the year with Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers. We have worked jointly with our sister bodies in the rest of the UK, to ensure that the impact of Brexit is at least environmentally benign, if not beneficial, and that devolutionary boundaries are respected.
Our members have increased their input of staff time for Government working groups, etc. by 14% this year, a reflection of the gravity of the environmental challenges that we face. The paradox we live in is that, as the need and demand for our work increases, funding has become even scarcer.
It is striking that all that is reported here is achieved with only 3 WEL staff members; I salute their dedication, together with that of my fellow Trustees and the staff of our member organisations.