How we in Wales can tackle both the cost of living crisis and the climate emergency at the same time
Sam Ward, Climate Cymru Manager
Climate Cymru is a coalition of organisations and people in Wales, united in our aim to tackle the climate and nature emergencies, and do so in a way that respects the needs of the people of Wales – and those around the world who are suffering already.
We set up originally out of the desire for Welsh voices to be heard by leaders in Wales and represented at UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow. This was a difficult time to mobilise at the height of the COVID pandemic, but people around us knew that the climate emergency was not going away, and that we couldn’t let opportunities for involvement pass us by.
We wanted Welsh society to come under an umbrella to act and make real change in Wales and around the World. The network grew quickly. People had found a voice, and saw the value in working productively together and there was a clear appetite for Climate Cymru to continue post-COP26.
Over 300 organisations from every corner of Wales now are part of this network – universities, unions, charities, businesses, schools, institutions, social enterprises, community groups, and thousands of concerned citizens – all get a voice in the running of Climate Cymru.
No single sector of society can ‘fix’ the web of interlocking crises we are in the midst of – climate, biodiversity, justice, the cost of living, and energy crises. We recognise the need to work together, and to deal with things holistically.
There is an escalating cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, and an ongoing climate emergency. I believe that these crises are connected. They have shared causes, like fossil fuels, which are making them all worse, and shared solutions that can help us get out of this mess, like mass insulation of Welsh homes and investing in super-cheap, clean renewable energy.
The evidence for this is clear. New oil and gas licenses issued in UK, or in our waters, will be owned by the companies – often foreign governments – and sold on the global commodity market to the highest bidder, and will do nothing for energy security. They will have almost no effect on the price of energy in the UK, and even if fast-tracked will take years (often decades) to get online.
Meanwhile, renewable energy is astoundingly cheap, over nine-times cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels – and given it is produced and sold in the UK – increases energy security. It is comparatively much quicker to produce, and when owned by households, or communities, generates profits for the people of Wales, rather than international energy companies.
Home insulation and other energy efficiency measures helps people with the cost of living, improves energy security, and reduces our impact on the climate. There is no cheaper energy than the energy we don’t use!
We need to move with pace, and scale to roll out these genuine solutions to these interlocking crises, and ensure, in the meantime, that those who are suffering are supported.
Held to account
After spending years working on climate, nature, and community campaigns abroad, I came back home to Wales to run Climate Cymru’s campaign building up to COP26, and have been working with the network closely since then to develop Climate Cymru into what it is now.
I have been a longstanding campaigner and I am passionate about communities taking action for themselves, so as to make viable and long-lasting changes for the future.
We shouldn’t be telling people what to do, but instead we need to engage with them, ask them for new ideas that we can all learn from.
That is why the new campaign, Warm this Winter, is so important, and is maybe a little different to other campaigns. We have asked our hundreds of partners and the thousands of people who support us to actively partake in coming up with the demands of the Welsh and UK Governments that I have outlined below.
This is not just the ideas of a few, it is a collaborative piece of work that people all around Wales have said they want to get behind. Here are the headline demands:
· Emergency support for vulnerable households
· An ambitious energy efficiency programme
· A rapid scale-up of low-cost renewables
· Free us from fossil fuels
We will be focusing our campaign work on working productively with Welsh Government on a cross-party basis, and other key stakeholders to improve the wellbeing of the people of Wales in line with these demands.
We recognise that effort is being made in Welsh Government, and that sometimes their powers are limited, but we also are here to productively hold them to account when more needs to be done.
The energy crisis has not appeared overnight. It could have been avoided if more urgent action on energy efficiency and renewables had been taken decades ago.
Seeing the new Prime Minister return to a discussion about the potential for more fracking in England is not something that we support. We know the Welsh Government has taken a different view, and that is good to see. But we also know that there are new open cast mining applications in the pipeline here.
We need to move forward as quickly as possible to a future where we are not dependent on fossil fuels, where we can breathe clean air, and ensure profits for energy production stays in communities.
Serious vested interests are trying to take advantage of the current crises to profit further from the status quo. The UK government giving enormous subsidies to fossil fuel companies, whilst they profit from the high bills that ordinary people are paying, is inexcusable.
Unless we make bold and smart action now, short-term solutions may lock us into the worsening impacts of cost of living crises with long-term high energy prices, and the escalating impacts of climate change.
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