Thu 7th Feb
Philip McDonnell (Swansea Environment Forum / Fforwm Amgylcheddol Abertawe)
Greening Swansea: an introduction / Abertawe gwyrdd: cyflwyniad
Thursday 7 February / Iau 7 Chwefror 1:00pm
Greening Swansea, 1
Four Thursday lunchtime talks about different aspects of protecting and improving Swansea’s natural environment
Gwyrddio Abertawe, 1
Pedwar cyflwyniad amser cinio dydd Iau am agweddau gwahanol ar warchod a gwella amgylchedd naturiol Abertawe
In the first of the four talks on Swansea and the impact of global warming and the loss of biodiversity, Philip McDonald provided a comprehensive overview of the history and development of the Environmental Forum in Swansea and its current priorities. Philip is Interim Manager of the Environment Centre, a freelance project manager and founder member of Swansea Environmental Forum.
Philip emphasised that the key achievements of the Environmental Forum since its inception in 1987 included providing a successful platform where public and voluntary groups could share information and resources and collaborate to tackle a wide range of environmental issues. Raising awareness had been the main priority during the first ten years, as well as supporting and initiating projects such as the Swansea Waste Saver, Swansea Wildlife Action Group, West Glamorgan Environmental Network. In addition, it organised a very successful conference on the environment. A major milestone was reached in 1995 when the Environment Centre was established by the Forum as a separate charitable organisation.
The Environment Centre, based in the historic Edwardian telephone exchange, was set up as one of the 25th anniversary projects to celebrate the investiture of Prince Charles. Philip advised that it quickly became a focus for activities and information sharing; environmental organisations were able to benefit from the use of the centre at subsidised rent; an annual Green Shop/Green Fayre was organised; a Fairtrade coffee shop was opened, and importantly the Centre initiated a whole range of school and community outreach work.
Following the establishment of the Environment Centre, the Forum changed its focus to be a driver for change, by bringing people and organisations together and improving the understanding of key pressures facing the environment, locally and nationally. In 2006 the Forum published the first Environmental Strategy for Swansea. The twenty-year strategy was a joint initiative adopted by the Council and set out targets set for transport, air quality and other environmental quality measures, to be reviewed on a bi-annual basis.
Some of the innovative projects initiated by the Forum include: Low Carbon Swansea Bay, intended to engage with industry to control the carbon footprint and including companies such as Tata Steel, Royal Mint and Vale Company, based in Clydach; Clear Streams Swansea, aimed at encouraging business understanding of the aquatic environment; Community Green Spaces Project, to encourage better care of and use of green spaces throughout the City and County of Swansea; and Community Green Mapping, part of a global initiative established in 2005 to map all the green spaces in the county area – to date twenty maps have been produced for Swansea. The Forum has also run an award scheme to recognise the contribution that groups and individuals have made to improving the environment of the area: 36 awards have been issued over five rounds and a total of 226 entries received.
Philip also emphasised the Forum’s on-going strategic focus and the partnership approach adopted with Swansea Council and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Authority, particularly in the context of the Well Being and Future Generations Act introduced by the Welsh Government in 2015. This act commits all public bodies in Wales to a future based on sustainable development and the welfare of the wider environment. Public bodies have to work within the confines of the Act to build a resilient Wales, a more equal Wales, and a Wales that encourages strong communities with a pride in its culture and language. There is now a legal charge on public bodies to prepare plans that show how they will deliver services to achieve the aims set out in the Act.
The Environment Forum is a member of the Local Public Service Boards set up to produce a Well Being Plan for Swansea and published in May 2018. This had four main objectives:
o Early Years - to ensure that children have a good start in life
o Working with Nature - to improve health, enhance biodiversity and reduce the carbon footprint
o Strong Communities – to empower communities, promote pride and belonging
o Swansea Ageing well – to make Swansea a great place to age well
It is clear that care for the environment and nature has a major role to play in delivering the Well Being Plan for Swansea. Philip emphasised the need to recognise and consider the long-term consequences of individual and collective actions and the environmental legacy of these actions for future generations. This is very much work in progress, and whilst there are no new resources or funding available a Working with Nature Task Group has been set up to develop an action plan and organise engagement events. These will seek to link Swansea with UK and global initiatives such as One Planet Cities and Zero Carbon Britain and to encourage people to sign up to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.