On the 5th September I made it clear that as the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs I would not meet with Extinction Rebellion following their actions targeting a free press, writes Janet Finch-Saunders MS.
I went on to say that: “Their actions today are a dangerous example of hatred and intimidation which has no place in politics and I am also suggesting that all Welsh Conservative candidates for next year’s Welsh Parliament elections do not engage with them either. In doing so, I have the support of Paul Davies MS as leader of my party in the Welsh Parliament. He has met with them previously but will not do so again.”
I went on to highlight that the Welsh Government, including the First Minister Mark Drakeford, had met multiple times with Extinction Rebellion and that one of their members based in Wales had called for business people and governments to have “a bullet in the head”.
Following my comment I received a lot of support from across Wales from people who feel that Extinction Rebellion has gone too far and is actually alienating the majority of people, causing more harm to their vital cause than good.
However, what some people took from my comment is that I was a climate change denier, that I didn’t care about global warming or the future of the planet.
They couldn’t be further from the truth.
In my own constituency, I have seen the impact first hand that flooding has on people and communities and I fully accept that the changing weather patterns, the increased frequency and severity of flooding is caused by global warming and by the actions of humans.
However, we need plain talking and action, not constant virtue signalling if we are to take this challenge head-on.
Over the Summer Paul Davies MS – the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament and our next First Minister – made a speech about why devolution needs a revolution (You can still listen to it here) and he highlighted that the Welsh Labour-led Government just do not care about the task ahead of us.
He said: “Over a year ago they [Welsh Government] declared a Climate Emergency as part of the Any Other Business in a Cabinet Meeting. The ultimate act of virtue signalling confined to the closing discussion while someone is collecting up the teacups and uneaten biscuits”.
And what radical action have we seen since then? Nothing. The vacuous Welsh Labour-led Government strikes again. The black-hole that is the department of Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs.
As part of my devolution revolution in government, I will plug that black-hole and actually start delivering. No longer will government time be wasted on endless consultations that never see the light of day. There is no time for more dither and delay that epitomises not just the climate change department but the whole of Welsh Government.
As Welsh Conservatives we will take action immediately to reduce the human impact on the world.
For years we’ve been calling for a ban on single-use plastics and only now are the Welsh Government looking at it – well I say looking at it, you’ve guessed it – they’ve launched a consultation on it, which doesn’t close until the end of October. We’ll be well into 2021 before the Welsh Government are able to bring forward a ban, which will be more than a year after Scotland and England introduced theirs.
And yet it’s all OK because Wales was the first government to declare a climate emergency.
We will push ahead with the net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, new homes to be zero carbon by 2026 and along with electric cars by 2035 we will deliver electric charging stations within 30 miles of everyone in Wales.
However, these are targets. In all my working life I’ve always believed that targets shouldn’t just be met – you should exceed your targets. By having our devolution revolution we will push to get things done sooner than promised, so that the healing of the Earth can begin sooner.
Instead of targeting businesses, we will work with them to speed up the process of decarbonising our economy, ending the excessive use of plastic in unnecessary packaging and ensuring that all businesses use our natural resources in a sustainable way to play their part in our future, our long term future.
With the creation of the Office of Government Resilience and Efficiency, we won’t just go for headline-grabbing innovative projects that never get off the ground, we will actually deliver projects that help the environment whilst protecting communities – we will deliver tidal energy which utilises Wales’ coastline to also deliver flood protection measures. We will fully support businesses that need help to realign their action to be carbon neutral, especially vital industries like Welsh steel. We will work with companies to advance innovative projects such as modular reactors using our highly skilled Welsh workforce.
And for those who think being a Conservative and caring about the environment aren’t compatible, let me leave you with a quote from one of our greatest Prime Ministers:
“It’s we conservatives who are not merely friends of the Earth – we are its guardians and trustees for generations to come. The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full.”
Next year a Welsh Conservative Government will deliver for the people of Wales and the environment.
Janet Finch-Saunders MS is the MS for Aberconwy & the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs.