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Wales still hasn’t grasped the scale of our climate emergency – we must act now

12 Apr 2019 5 minute read
Flooding. Picture by Hermann

Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs

Being in the middle of a climate change emergency isn’t comfortable.

But recognising that it’s happening means we can do something about it. We can inform and educate.

It could be said that we know about climate change, the science is there, there are policies and plans in place already.

But, despite the science, too many people still don’t get it.

If we truly understood the scale of climate change, we would have already retracted investment from fossil fuels and we’d be running our homes from green energy. If we truly understood the urgency, we would have support in place for businesses to reform to a green way of operating and we would have employees in every institution, there to form a climate plan.

The recently published plan by the Labour Welsh Government on decarbonising Wales – Prosperity For All: A Low Carbon Wales has some good policies but isn’t ambitious enough. Their only plan for 2019 is to consult, review, and research.

Where have they been until now? Where are the concrete plans? Where’s the political will?

The IPCC predicted that global warming could reach a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. But even their predictions are arguably conservative and temperatures are increasing at even a quicker rate than projected. Policies and predictions need to overestimate and overshoot to give us a margin and leverage.

There are also challenges on how the discussion around climate change is framed.

Action must be taken now to protect the future and that means investing now in renewable energy. Solar. Tidal. Wind. We need it all now.

We need to move away from the hub-and-spoke model of energy produced in large power stations and transferred across the nation through an ineffective, costly grid and instead move to a model of decentralised energy and a nationwide network of smarter local grids that can prioritise use of renewable energy with the energy produced closer to where it is used.

In Germany, communities, villages and towns have taken control of their own energy and have developed their own community-based systems of renewable energy projects. The capital generated is used to heat schools, sell energy to the national grid, and create so much energy that these communities become self-sufficient.

No option

My party, Plaid Cymru, would look to establish a national energy company, Ynni Cymru, to help achieve the goal of generating as much electricity as is consumed in Wales from renewable energy by 2035.

Ynni Cymru could use profit from Welsh resources to cut the cost of energy for Welsh consumers, improve the energy efficiency of Welsh homes and businesses to cut energy bills; and provide mass installation, outsourced to local companies, of solar panels on the roofs of households, business premises and lampposts in Wales.

What about disinvesting in fossil fuels? The Government in the Republic of Ireland – with support from all political parties, has already decided that they will be the first nation in the world to disinvest and intend to sell all of their investments in fossil fuel companies.

Their national investment fund, worth £8 billion, will be disinvesting in coal, gas, oil and peat as soon as practically possible, and that’s expected to happen over no more than five years.

Pulling our pension funds from dirty energy, and reinvesting in green, clean initiatives is no longer an option, it is absolutely necessary.

My party, Plaid Cymru, are proud of our radical and innovative green policies. These will form the pillars of a vision of the New Wales that we champion. But, when facing the climate change challenge we need everyone to pull their weight. That means individuals, governments, politicians, political parties and public organisations worldwide pulling together.

Declaring a climate emergency is like a fire alarm alerting us to evacuate, retreat and take action.

When the evacuation alarm sounds in your building, do you lean back in your chair contemplating your exit route in 10 months’ time? Of course not. You act.

I have been deeply inspired by the recent wave of children and young people striking from school in protest at government inaction on climate change. A new generation has risen up and with their energy and passion and they realise, better than we do, how climate change will impact generations to come and it can no longer wait.

If what we were waiting for was a mandate to act, it is here in every placard-waving pupil striking for their future.

They’ve heard the alarm and they’ve done something about it. It’s time the rest of us did the same.

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