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Students take active response to environment challenges

18 February 2022

A year on from the launch of our Grand Challenge initiative, our students are making positive progress with the work they initiated in relation to the environment and climate change.

In February 2021, the School of Law and Politics launched the online Grand Challenges initiative which was open to all Law, Politics and International Relations students.

The Challenges gave students the opportunity to think about and work on real-life issues whilst our suite of Pro Bono schemes was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

One of the pathways offered by the initiative was the Climate Change Grand Challenge which was a whistle-stop tour of climate change science, international law, conventions and UK and Welsh policy.

It gave students the opportunity to investigate what they thought needed to change to prepare for and combat climate change. The students on the scheme identified four particular issues in relation to Wales and grouped themselves into the areas of transport, agriculture, housing and re-wilding.

The re-wilding group opted to promote green infrastructure in Wales, specifically the use of green-roofed bee-friendly bus stops and sought a commitment from Welsh Government to promote such green infrastructure across the country. The group organised a formal petition to Senedd Cymru which reached the required number of signatures to be pursued by the Petitions Committee. The petition elicited a response from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change in Wales, Lee Waters MS on the Welsh Government’s commitments to green infrastructure to which the project has now responded.

The remaining groups also made progress regarding their chosen issues. The housing group wrote to the then Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James MS, with their ideas across a range of matters that the group considered could be improved across Wales with respect to the tenanted sector. The agriculture group submitted a detailed response to a Welsh Government consultation on the future of Welsh agriculture that coincided with the Challenge and the transport group met with senior Welsh Government civil servants to discuss their concerns.

This semester, the initiative continues, rebranded as the Climate and Environment Project. Having spent last semester looking at the build-up to and the impact of COP-26 in Glasgow, this year students will be looking at three new subject areas - the electrification of transport in Wales, the making of land available for community tree-planting in Wales and the ease of re-use and recycling of packaging in Wales – to see what changes they believe Wales could make to improve.

Once they’ve completed their research and have identified where they think Wales can do better – and, more importantly, how this can help Wales deliver the changes required to hit the statutory net zero target by 2050 – the students will be selecting how they want to engage with Welsh Government and other decision-makers over the next months and into next year. Avenues being explored include another Senedd Petition, written evidence to a Senedd Committee, a carefully placed Parliamentary Question or a briefing for a Cross Party Group.

Environmental law specialist Guy Linley- Adams, who is overseeing the project said, “This has been a taste of real-world experience for the students in pursuing political and legislative avenues to seek a more robust response to the challenges of climate change in Wales. It is of great credit to the students themselves that their formal petition on green infrastructure has led to serious consideration of the issue they have raised with the Petitions Committee. I look forward to the next steps of the project and what more we can achieve.”

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