29 Oct ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY LAUNCH (Speech)
CARMARTHEN 29 OCTOBER
‘Thank you very much for coming to this , the third and penultimate event during the Labour leadership campaign in which I am setting out the policy ideas which I would wish to see advanced if I were to become Labour’s First Minister in Wales. Two weeks ago, in North Wales, I highlighted a set of proposals for our economy, because any socialist understands that economic justice is the foundation stone of everything that we look to acheive.
Last week in Blackwood, I set out proposals to advance social justice here in Wales from child poverty to social care in later life.
This evening I want to focus on environmental justice and ways in which we can live up to the ambitions of one of the most radical pieces of legislation passed in the devolution era – the Wellbeing of Future Generations’ Act.
We forget ,sometimes, that writing the sustainability principle into the original 1998 Government of Wales Act was itself a groundbreaking decision..
Today, we have to reapply that principle in the context of the 21st century- a century in which oil will run out and in which every citizen has an obligation to help reduce the share of the world’s resources we take for our own needs.
Wales has some of the greatest evironmental assets of any small country in the world.But under the surface all is far from well.
Natural Resources Wales reported in 2016 on the threat to species’ biodiversity and the impact which this produces on water quality, air quality and the quality of life for Welsh citizens.
Our basic ecosysytem is in decline. We have to make it resilient again. How is that to be done?
So tonight I want to outline some practical actions to set us on a new course.
We will invest in rural areas to enhance biodiversity, improve access to the countryside so that people from all parts of Wales can enjoy the advantages that the rural parts of Wales are bringing.
By embracing the principles of environmental growth we offer a a route to reconciling some of the historic tensions between the economy and environment, especially in rural Wales.
I want to commit to an Environmental Growth Plan for Wales and this will be my first action to halt and reverse the damage done to our natural environment -promoting industries which enhance rather than damage the natural world. This will include investing in flood alleviation, tackling coastal erosion thereby enhancing the assets we cherish………and looking to natural ways rather than defaulting automatically to concrete solutions.
It will go hand in hand with the proposals in the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit- Our Land’ with its ‘public money for public good’ principle. It will allow us, in a socialist way, to pay farmers for those things which the market will never reward …water quality, good soil ,flood prevention.
We know that there are many farmers across Wales who provide these public goods – rather than simply occupy the land they stand on – but who get little by way of economic rewards for doing so.
‘Brexit – Our Land’ and an Environmental Growth Plan can change that : keeping farmers on the land and focusing on practical actions for some small things- changing the mowing practices of local authorities, installing drinking fountains in all parts of Wales, using sloping land to create meadows, doubling allotments – to large and symbolically significant measures such as building on the fantastic success of the Wales Coastal Path and creating a new National Forest for Wales with all the advantages that can bring.
Let me turn now to energy policy, because so much of what we need to make happen here in Wales lies here in our own hands.
Wales was amazingly fortunate to be the cradle of the first industrial revolution…and the first out of it!
At the start of the next industrial revolution geography once more sits on our side- we have tremendous advantages of wind, water and waves.
Here in west Wales the experiments in marine energy are most promising eg Ramsey Sound.
These offer not just breakthrough technologies, but jobs for the future.
Jobs for the long term and for the long term health of the planet.
New technologies with long term uses…and because we have so much to gain we need to be single minded about it. and develop these as manufacturing industries. And indeed one of them may be the technology that will be used around the world!
We need to take resolute action against technologies that move in the opposite direction such as fracking.
We need to be hard headed about risks from nuclear power as well. It is still our policy as a party that nuclear power remains part of the energy policy mix. But I would establish an independant commission that ensured the population of Wales was properly advised of all the implications if they (Hinkley and Wylfa) were to be adopted. We need to be demanding on this issue and ensure that these plans do not go ahead in a way that exploits the local communities.
Because I’ve focussed on environmental issues this evening, there is a risk there that the connections between this and other agendas goes unstated.
Let me end by drawing them briefly to the surface because I hope I’ve said enough already to persuade you that the needs of our economy and the needs of our environment can be made complimentary, rather than competitive.
And because I am determined that, for compelling social justice reasons, we must bring together the needs of energy security and tackling energy poverty.
That is why I am committed to re-examining the case for a new Welsh Energy Mutual here in Wales. We have the example of Dwr Cymru here before us in Wales. This makes no profits other than to reinvest in the service it provides. A Welsh Energy Mutual might be able to develop a similar service…encouraging energy efficiency, reducing fuel poverty, advising on the best tariffs and leading to local energy production.
This is an agenda for a 21st century ….a socialist agenda .
We understand that we all do better when we act together to create collective solutions to common problems.
We can reach into the lives of those who need to have their struggles heard.
All this will lead to a greener future for now, for our children and grandchildren.
‘We do not inherit the earth from those that come before us , we borrow it from those that come after us.’