Minister quizzed on what the “climate emergency” means in practice

(Title Image: Natural Resources Wales/Crown Copyright)

Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s environment questions.

The climate emergency and policy

With a supposed £1.5billion freed up by the scrapping of the Newport bypass, Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) wondered what would happen next. Had any of the money been earmarked for environmental improvements?

Energy, Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), told him discussions were ongoing. Some or most of the money would inevitably go on alternatives to the bypass.

Llyr Gruffydd then asked what impact the climate emergency declaration would have on the remit of Welsh Government-sponsored bodies like Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)?

The answer: it was being looked at.

“I meet with NRW on a monthly basis, so we’ve certainly discussed the climate emergency and what they’re looking at doing. I know, for instance, that NRW are looking at what extra land they have for planting trees. I think they’ve got some land that they’ve banked, which can be reforested, and we need to look at….money for that. HCC I’m due to meet in the near future and, again, it will be on the agenda.”
– Energy, Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths

Planning for the climate emergency

Shadow Environment Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), went through recent Cabinet minutes and found that the Minister’s decision to declare a “climate emergency” was tagged on to the end under “any other business”. This implies there hasn’t been much planning or discussion within the government on what a climate emergency actually meant in practice.

“We’ve heard since those declarations that Government….is having to deal will all these issues around their policy portfolio, but that minute doesn’t clearly indicate to me that there has been that discussion and so….you’re telling us there has. For example, can you tell me how many jobs will be lost in the Welsh economy because of the transition and how many jobs might be created in the green revolution that we hope to see?”
– Shadow Environment Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM

The Minister said the Cabinet minutes don’t properly reflect the discussions that went on before the declaration. She couldn’t give a figure regarding the jobs question, but there were definite opportunities within low-carbon industries to create jobs. The Chief Economist has offered advice on that regard and the Minister will check as to whether she can make that available to AMs.

Promoting tourism on NRW land

David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) said the land around many parts of Wales previously home to mining – particularly the Afan Valley – is owned by the Welsh Government and managed by NRW. It was therefore important that no unnecessary barriers are placed to prevent the development of tourism, as mountain biking has been used to some success in the Afan Valley.

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) added that there were opportunities to involve schoolchildren in replanting exercises – both in terms of land management and teaching understanding on how forestry is involved in tackling climate change. Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) made a similar point about biodiversity.

The Minister understood the importance of working with NRW, particularly in the context of a proposed tourist resort development near Croeserw. She also accepted that tree planting efforts were too slow – though NRW were already working with schools.

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