It was the thankless and tireless campaigning by thousands of young climate activists coupled with pressure and support from my party, Plaid Cymru, that led the Welsh Government to declare a climate emergency last month.
But when the Labour First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, said that he did not think declaring a climate emergency ‘represented a sharp difference in policy’, alarm bells rang. Doesn’t he and his Government realise that the whole purpose of declaring a climate emergency is to recognise that the status-quo is not sustainable? That it is about taking the climate crisis seriously, rather than being self-congratulating and praising the current strategy?
Declaring a climate emergency must mean more than rebranding existing policies.Take the Government’s recently published A Low Carbon Wales paper, for example. The vast majority of the promises in that paper already existed. They weren’t new policies, per se. Many of the document’s commitments begin with various caveats including, ‘We will be consulting on…’, ‘We envisage…’, ‘We will consult on…’ and so on.
This doesn’t sound very urgent to me. The only plan for 2019 is to consult, review and research. Where are the concrete plans? Where is the emergency? The Government has now said it will review the paper, but we have no clear timetable for its revision and still no sense of urgency.
The IWA recently outlined how Wales could move towards being fully reliant on green energy by 2035. Will the Labour Government commit to achieving this target? Because if they’re serious about tackling climate change, they need to publish a detailed and comprehensive plan that includes short, medium and long-term strategies.
Take Clean Air, as another example. I had hoped that today would be the last Clean Air Day for Wales without there being legislation having been adopted and in place. And that, of course, would help us to tackle the scourge of air pollution once and for all. But we still don’t have detail on the content of such an Act, and very little detail on the timetabling for bringing forward such legislation.
Public Health Wales has declared that air pollution is a public health crisis. Waiting another year will mean an additional 2,000 deaths as a result of air pollution because of those delays, and that is scandalous. It is a national scandal and it is disgraceful.
We in Plaid Cymru have outlined the type of initiatives that will be set up when we are in government. These include setting up a national energy company to help Wales achieve its goal of becoming self-sufficient in renewable energy, and the energy atlas which will enable us to begin unlocking some of that potential in a way that benefits our communities and citizens. We would also establish the largest homes retrofit program that Wales has ever seen through our multi-million pound energy efficiency program. This would contribute to the triple bottom line of reducing emissions, creating jobs, and tackling fuel poverty across Wales. We also need huge transport reforms; including improving the national grid and consider amending remit letters to public bodies in response to this emergency. There’s also an opportunity with the new Curriculum for Wales to ensure that the environment and environmental crisis is an educational priority.
I’m disappointed in Labour.
They have no comprehensive strategy that covers all departments of the Government, to reach the target. The climate crisis should be a consideration within all portfolios, not just the minister for agriculture and energy. We need deeds not words.
Following the publication of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year, it has become unequivocally clear that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. The report warns that ‘Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’.
Tackling climate change does not have to be at the expense of sustainable economic growth. As stated by the IPCC ‘limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.’
We owe it to future generations because by the time they become the next generation of world leaders, it will already be too late. It is our responsibility as leaders today to step forward and deliver.
The declaration of a climate crisis is not the culmination of anything; it is the beginning. This cannot be business as usual. I appeal to the Government for a change of gear. We can’t afford to have a Government in autopilot. We need concrete steps to lead Wales towards real and direct change for the sake of future generations and our planet.
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