Andrew Brown Funding Manager shares his reflections on this year’s Autumn Renew Wales conference in Wrexham
“Inspiring” and “eye-opening” are how I would describe this year’s Renew Wales conference, which brought together communities and experts practicing ways to combat climate change at a local and national level.
The Development Trusts Association Wales was awarded a National Lottery grant of £620,000, to establish The Renew Wales project. It’s an initiative aimed at developing the capacity and capability of communities across Wales to tackle climate change.
It was particularly relevant to me as I am currently managing our Create Your Space programme, which aims to help communities make a positive difference to their local environment.
The conference, chaired by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Wales Director, John Rose, began with a series of interesting talks from key figures in the third sector’s response to climate change. These included Dr Eurgain Powell from the office of the Future Generations Commissioner, who talked about how the recently implemented Wellbeing of Future Generations Act could help to drive a step-change in Wales’s action on climate change. We also heard from Dr Sarah Lloyd-Jones, a stalwart of the third sector in Wales and director of the People and Work Unit charity, about the current challenges faced by the third sector and how they might be overcome.
But the two stand-out moments for me were the workshops delivered by experts in the environmental sector. My first workshop was with Anne Jaluzot of the Trees Design Action Group, where she explained the importance of incorporating trees into the planning process for urban infrastructure. The real-world examples of how the intelligent use of trees can reduce urban temperature, rain water run-off and provide safe areas for walking and cycling was a real inspiration. The beautiful simplicity of these examples of effective infrastructure planning showed that towns and cities across Wales could really benefit from more urban trees.
I then heard from Laura Outhart and Duncan Law of Transition ReConomy about how to build local economic resilience. They used examples from their successful work in Brixton where they had created a community of entrepreneurs to build a thriving local economy. The concept of creating a small-scale economic blueprint was something that I think could be replicated in communities across Wales, improving their ability to reduce food miles and to encourage green enterprise.
The day ended with a panel discussion where fears were voiced about the impact of Brexit and the uncertainty over funding for environmental projects, but where a strong impetus for future community action on climate change was evident.
It was an inspiring day, and my journey home was taken up with thoughts on renewable energy community car schemes, urban tree-planting initiatives and plans for local green economics. If the enthusiasm and energy of the speakers and delegates can be converted into action by the third sector, then we have a lot to be hopeful about in Wales.