Nature Service Wales is a country-wide movement for action, established to tackle the nature and climate emergencies and help achieve a green and just transition for Wales. The following briefing aims to outline the vision for a Nature Service Wales, based on the proposal submitted by the Nature Service Wales Partnership to Welsh Government in March 2023 outlining a costed model of this vision.
A Nature Service Wales (NSW) for Wales will provide jobs and skills development opportunities in nature restoration, restoring Wales’ natural environment and providing meaningful livelihoods in local communities. In this way, a Nature Service Wales will ensure that nature is at the heart of a just transition. A just transition towards a Net Zero, Nature Positive economy now depends on co-ordinated environmental, social and economic decision-making. The delivery of a Nature Service Wales will require co-ordinated action across the Education, Economy, Health and Climate Change Portfolios.
“The [Nature Service Wales] is one of the most viable long-term solutions we have to create a greener, more equitable and liveable future for us, our children and all future generations”
Katy Stevenson, CEO Groundwork Wales
We are now asking all Ministers to support this vision by:
- Supporting investment in nature-based jobs and skills, starting with a Valleys Regional Park Demonstrator, through a Nature Service Wales (see more below).
- Supporting investment in a core delivery team to support the coordination of green jobs and skills across Wales and build the foundation for a Nature Service Wales.
Achieving a Net Zero, Nature Positive Economy: Investing in Green Jobs
In order to achieve a just transition towards a Net Zero, Nature Positive economy, a Net Zero skills plan must include a plan for the creation of green jobs in nature restoration, as well as decarbonisation. The Nature Service Wales could become a key delivery vehicle for this shift, putting local economies and local communities at the heart of nature’s recovery.
The TUC has estimated that up to 4,000 jobs in land, forestry and agricultural improvements could be created in Wales over 2 years, while RSPB Cymru has estimated that a national Nature Service Wales, when coupled with the right investment in nature, could support almost 7,000 new, direct FTE jobs in Wales.
“The best scoring projects, including purely by job creation effect […], contribute to the climate transition”
Transition Economics, commissioned by the TUC
A Nature Service Wales will help to build a strong foundation for delivering ecosystem restoration, through capacity building, generating behaviour change, raising awareness and skills development. It will create both a skilled, well-paid workforce with new jobs and livelihood opportunities in nature that are meaningful and responsive to the communities within which they sit. It will work in partnerships by engaging people and organisations with a nature conservation mission to embed green skills across the workforce of the future and ensure that nature is at the heart of Wales’ green and just transition towards a nature positive economy. It will also create a strong and recognisable vehicle for enabling volunteering opportunities, which we would advocate for being in line with the WCVA and the TUC’s ‘Charter for volunteering and workplace relationships’.
“We need to invest in the protection and restoration of nature and the environment, and to build a green workforce with the jobs and skills needed to address our nature and climate priorities and respond to these sustainable and growing employment opportunities”
Achieving a Just Transition: Investing in Green Skills
Friends of the Earth has outlined that a shift towards more sustainable land use practices will require a reskilling in forestry and agroforestry, as well as environmental restoration and a reskilling in farming practices. Restoring natural carbon sinks such as peatlands, saltmarshes, or woodlands will also require skilled environmental, horticultural and conservation professionals.
“Establishing a [Nature Service Wales] employs the energy of young people to kickstart the regenerative economy”
Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
However, a report by the New Economics Foundation and the Future Generations Office has highlighted the significant skills gap in fulfilling the potential of nature-restoration-based green job creation set out above. Moreover, recent work by RSPB Cymru including interviews with young people, demonstrates their desire to work in paid, valued, green jobs in nature. However, the study also makes clear that young people currently have a very limited awareness of potential pathways into these jobs.
“A key priority for the Welsh Government’s employability and skills programmes is to ensure that they are preparing workers for the industries of the future […] land and nature restoration all have significant future growth potential.”
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
A Nature Service Wales can provide the much needed support, investment and recognition of these skills, and, when welcoming people of all career and education stages, begin to break down existing barriers of access to the conservation sector and harness the existing desire to help nature’s recovery in Wales. Done in this way, the Nature Service Wales could become a gateway for the Welsh Government to support new entrants into the sector. Coupled with the right investment in nature, a Nature Service Wales could become a Wales-wide skills development platform to co-ordinate and capitalise on existing efforts and promote innovation in nature recovery initiatives, and ultimately develop an in-country expertise in nature restoration for a greener, fairer Wales.
A Partnership Vision for a Valleys Regional Park Demonstrator
The Valleys Regional Park (VRP) partnership provides a place-based approach to green job creation, upskilling and reskilling within a recognised landscape, and provides an ideal landing spot for a Nature Service Wales. A demonstrator within the Valleys Regional Park could provide both the career pathways and the nature restoration within a local community where these are most needed. Building on the networks of the Valleys Regional Park, a demonstrator project could also provide a scalable, transferable model to support a sustainable foundation for the Nature Service Wales across Wales. In March 2023, a business plan was submitted by the Partnership to Welsh Government outlining costed models for the delivery of this proposal.
The existing Country Parks provides a realistic platform for a wider NSW. As an example, Bryngarw Country Park is a microcosm of the wider countryside with a mosaic of native natural habitats giving participants the opportunity to embark on a career pathway with a full range of countryside management skills. Given the right support and resources, such sites are in a unique position to become the foundation for a Nature Service Wales. Wales Environment Link has more examples here on what such jobs could look like.
“VRP is an environmental vision for the Valleys. The success of the Valleys Regional Park provides a vision for the delivery of a wider job creation scheme, focused on delivering nature’s recovery across Wales.”
Valleys Regional Park
Across Wales, public, private and third sector organisations already strive to provide upskilling and reskilling through apprenticeships, work experience, and training opportunities. A Nature Service Wales will provide the organisational model to align these already ambitious, but disparate, delivery mechanisms and create a coordinated groundswell of workers fit for the future. This strategic approach will help prioritise the identified green jobs and skills gaps and scale up existing delivery models to serve these gaps first. We call for political support to enable this continued, collaborative approach to support the development of programmes of upskilling opportunities, clear career pathways and progression for those communities currently most removed from economic prosperity, while also providing the foundation for greener local economies.
The NSW has been developed over several years by numerous organisations. In 2020, Natural Resources Wales identified a Nature Service Wales as a ‘Priority One Action’ for a Green Recovery. Since then, WCVA, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Valleys Regional Park, Natural Resources Wales, Groundwork Cymru, and RSPB Cymru, with the support of over 100 stakeholders across Wales, have developed a proposal for the delivery of a Nature Service Wales.
The vision for a Nature Service Wales has, over the past 5 years, been developed by the following core partners:
The vision for a Nature Service Wales has had, over the past 5 years, the support of the following organisations across Wales: