Here’s my speech from this week’s Westminster Hall debate on measures to tackle climate change in Wales:
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) on securing this timely and important debate ahead of COP26 this autumn.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), I was reminded of the proximity of the conference this week when my hon. Friend and I welcomed and spoke at an event for the Young Christian Climate Network, which was stopping in Newport as part of an epic 1,000-mile relay on its way to the conference in Glasgow, not only to raise awareness of climate change, but to raise awareness of the UK Government’s promises to tackle climate change. It really did typify the dedication to climate justice shared by so many young people across our society—a generation that will really help to define the future of the planet left to them, so I thank them.
I also want to point out that in Newport East we have two of Wales’s 12 youth climate ambassadors, Maham Aziz and Poppy Stowell-Evans, who very much reflect that passion for a sustainable future. Members can hear more from Poppy, who will speak virtually at the all-party parliamentary group on youth action against climate change next week, so watch this space. The youth climate ambassadors’ campaigns are around making businesses in Wales more responsible for their carbon emissions, and they focus on the amount of plastic that people use. Those are initiatives that we would all like to get behind.
There are lots of volunteers and organisations across my constituency doing great work to restore local habitats and biodiversity, which goes hand in hand with the fight against climate change. I want to thank the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for its work in the Newport wetlands, the Gwent Wildlife Trust in Magor Marsh, the Rogiet wildlife-friendly village team, the Woodlanders, and the Bee Initiative at Penhow. As the young marchers we met last week said, “This is a critical decade for action to prevent climate change and for action to prevent future harm to our planet.”
The Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee’s third assessment report was published last month. It highlighted that in our children’s lifetime, Wales will experience wetter winters with drier, hotter summers and sea level rises of up to 2½ feet along our coast. I have looked at the maps and I have a coastal constituency, which is why it is so important, as other hon. Members have said, that the Welsh Labour Government have set a legal and ambitious commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and are pushing to get that ambition even sooner. Ambition is critical. Inaction is not an option; nor is doing the minimum.
We were the first country in the world—I was here at the time, along with the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies)—to pass a Climate Change Act in 2008, and under the Welsh Labour Government we were the first country in the world to enshrine in law the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, ensuring that any decision that our Government make must serve the needs of our children and grandchildren, including on environmental issues. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gower said, we have a Minister and Deputy Minister for Climate Change, too.
Others have highlighted our national recycling rate, which is at an all-time high of 65%. I say to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) that the UK Government could learn from that as we are the third best recycling nation in the world and the best in Europe. I thank Wastesavers at Newport Council for its work, and I look forward to the new youth centre in Magor opening shortly. As others have mentioned, we also have the national forest for Wales to improve air quality and remove harmful greenhouse gases from the community.
Others want to speak, so I will finish here. There is clearly much more to do. Lots of hon. Members have mentioned decarbonising steel. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) was right about the dangers of importing steel, which can make things worse. UK steel should be right at the heart of a green recovery, in terms of jobs and new skills, but also in terms of providing steel for solar energy, the tidal lagoons and for electrification. Green jobs for the future in new industries are important to us, too, as are transport, housing and energy efficiency—all of which are in Labour’s green recovery plan.
Wales and Labour have shown a lead on environmental issues, which the UK Government would do well to follow. As the host of COP26, the UK Government must strain every sinew to keep the possibility of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees, in line with the goals of the Paris agreement. We owe that to the young people who are out there campaigning for that this week.