Actions more important than words as AMs debate climate emergency petition

(Title Image: Plaid Ifanc via Twitter)

P-05-869: “Declare a Climate Emergency and fit all policies with zero-carbon targets”
Submitted by Matthew Misiak
Signatures: 6,148

Petition Supporting Evidence

  • A UN panel has warned there are only 12 years to make necessary changes to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. Failure to do so will see an acceleration in sea level rises, weather pattern changes and mass extinctions.

Government’s cannot ignore the urgency

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy), said no government or parliament was in a position to ignore the threat posed by climate change. Since the petition was submitted, the Senedd declared a “climate emergency” – which the petitioners said was an important first step – but actions were now more important.

“….the petition specifically calls on the Welsh Government to enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero, not by 2050 but by 2025. It goes without saying that this is an extremely demanding call. Welsh legislation currently contains a target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, with interim targets for the decades leading up to this.”
– Chair of the Petitions Committee, Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) warned that the 10 warmest years on record have happened within the last 22 years and climate change was already estimated to claim 300,000 lives a year. A number of AMs were concerned that after the emergency was declared, the First Minister said it didn’t necessarily mean a change in policy.

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) was proud that the UK has seen a 40% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 – the fastest reduction anywhere in the world. Nonetheless, some of the challenges were significant – mentioning the prospect of shifting from gas to more expensive electric domestic heating or ground source heat pumps.

A clear signal

Chair of the Environment Committee, Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East), said the declaration sent a clear signal that the Welsh Government understood the gravity of the situation. He outlined the effects of climate change in detail, warning that a 4C increase in global average temperatures would lead to a near-apocalyptic and intolerable climate.

Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) said the planning system wasn’t properly taking the environmental impact of new developments into account, while Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) argued for future development in and around Cardiff to be focused on metro stations.

Mandy Jones AM (BXP, North Wales) made the point that everything we do costs something somewhere – whether that’s cheap clothing or air travel. Wales was doing well in some areas, like recycling, but there were other “quick wins” that need to happen, such as rolling-out electric vehicle charging points on a bigger scale.

Galvanising people, organisations and businesses into action

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham) told AMs the climate emergency declaration should act as a rallying call. The level of support from the public for the climate emergency campaign reflected their desire for governments to tell the truth about the situation and the possible impacts.

“Our Environment Act 2016, for example, places legal duties on Welsh Ministers and public bodies to maintain and enhance biodiversity. There is a requirement to produce their first report on how they are fulfilling their duty by the end of this year, and our environment Act also includes legally binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across the Welsh economy.”
– Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths

Any targets had to be set based on the best evidence and advice and, in doing so, the Welsh Government has now set a target for emissions to be 95% lower (compared to 1990) by 2050 with the possibility that more ambitious targets will be set in the future.

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