Wales needs a radical Green New Deal
Climate change is real. Just ask the people of Fairbourne, a small coastal village in Gwynedd that’s being ‘decommissioned’ (to use the cold jargon) because it cannot be defended indefinitely against rising tides caused by global warming. Last month I visited and spoke to concerned villagers who face becoming the UK’s first ‘climate refugees’. Many other communities in Wales face similar challenges and that’s why Plaid Cymru is determined to tackle climate emergency with a radical Green New Deal for Wales.
At the heart of this is how we produce the energy we need for our 21st Century lives. It has to change, and is changing, drastically.
Wales has long been an energy-rich nation – coal from Wales fuelled the British Empire and huge wealth was extracted on the backs of workers. The world’s first million-pound cheque was signed in the aptly named Coal Exchange down in Cardiff Bay but that wealth never trickled down to the workers who knew the real price of coal.
Hydro-electric schemes have powered homes for the best part of a century and today continue to provide energy for the equivalent of every home in Wales at peak demand times via Electric Mountain in Snowdonia.
Even today, with the end of coal and the need to turn our back on fossil fuels, we remain the fifth-largest electricity exporting nation on the planet.
And we could do so much more – the UK Government’s decision to scrap plans for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon was confirmation that London-based politics doesn’t work for Wales or the environment. Wales has the second-largest tidal reach in the world and therefore huge offshore tidal potential that can be harnessed for 20 hours a day with new turbine technology. The Swansea Bay project was a relatively modest lagoon to pilot that technology for expansion around the UK coast.
Plaid Cymru is very aware of the irony of this energy-rich nation exporting half its electricity and yet paying more for it than other parts of the UK. Fuel poverty remains a huge issue for many households because of our ageing housing stock, low incomes and relative poor health (a toxic combination of an elderly population, poverty and the legacy of heavy industry). Tackling climate change, environmental crisis and social justice are all bound together.
Plaid Cymru understands that the climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time. Climate crisis, destruction of nature and overuse of resources threaten the foundations of our well-being and wealth – even our security. With declining biodiversity, polluted air and accelerating climate crisis, the time to act is now.
The Paris Agreement in 2015 set out a global action plan to limit global warming to below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report found that “Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. The UN have warned that million species are at risk of extinction.
We are the last generation that can stop devastating climate change. We want Wales to play our part in leading the world in a just transition to sustainable societies. Many governments are launching their Green New Deals, a plan which will join environmental and economic benefits. A Plaid Cymru government from 2021 would develop and implement its own Green New Deal for Wales. This would include measures to tackle the current climate and biodiversity crisis.
Our Green New Deal will include:
- A greener homes programme which will include home energy efficiency improvements and improving building standards.
- Creating a national inventory of green energy potential in Wales – an “Energy Atlas for Wales”.
- Increase community ownership of renewable energy to retain more benefits locally.
- Decarbonising transport.
These measures shouldn’t be viewed as cost but as investment. The cost will come from dealing with the results of the climate emergency should we not act. Investing now will save costs in the long run. We can also gain other benefits beyond environmental – job creation from retro-fitting, and a saving of £70m to the NHS by tackling cold and damp houses, and air pollution.
We also need a radical change of attitude, across all sectors and society, to realise and see through the actions required to halt the effects of climate change. Plaid Cymru is dedicated to driving this conversation and tabled the debate which made the Welsh Assembly the first Parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. We also tabled the debate in support of the school and climate strikers.
Plaid Cymru is the party that can harness the will of the climate strikers, spread the message across the whole country and turn it into national and global change.
Llyr Gruffydd is a member of the Welsh Assembly and Plaid Cymru’s environment spokesperson.
With the UK now set for a General Election on December 12, Bright Green is publishing a series of articles from progressive party spokespeople on how their policies would transform the country. This article is part of that series – all articles can be found here.
Header image credit: Creative Commons – Senate Democrats