Friday, 16 July 2010

All talk?

Posted on This is My Truth on July 16th

I understand that last Monday the Cabinet finalised the Assembly Government’s Climate Change Strategy to be launched in October. From May all parties in the Assembly are committed to starting cutting our carbon emissions by 3% every year. Ministers have been justifiably proud that this makes the Welsh Assembly Government one the world’s leading regional Government’s. Indeed, one of Carwyn Jones’ first acts as First Minister was to head to Copenhagen to represent Wales and parade our record.

But we are some way off matching the rhetoric with action.

Had the ‘Rainbow Alliance’ been formed between Plaid, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in 2007 Government Ministers would have pledged to cut 3% a year from all Welsh emissions starting immediately and delivered by 2011. The One Wales agreement had a watered down version. The 3% target would only apply to devolved areas (so the fear of shutting down the steelworks at Port Talbot could be avoided) and would only come into effect after 2011.

Between then and now WAG officials have been trying to find ways of achieving the cut, and indeed one senior civil servant has been arguing internally that the 3% target is unachievable and should therefore be dropped. He's been slapped down; instead the target has been watered down further still.

It is now believed that less than half the 3% target can be achieved by WAG. To achieve the remaining emissions cuts WAG are relying on policies being introduced by the UK Government being achieved, for example electric cars. And that assumes that the bits WAG are banking on being able to deliver will do so - which is quite an assumption. The end result may well be lower than 1% emission cuts.

So we've gone from 3% now (aka 2007), to possibly less than 1% after 2011.

Now of course the economic downturn will result in a drop in emission as a consequence of falling output, and that may well help the next Assembly Government present figures in its early years to show it is on the right track. But the work that the respected Tyndall Centre has been doing for the Welsh Climate Change Commission shows that we need cuts in carbon emission of 9% per year in order to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels.

We’re a million miles for achieving anything like that. Environmental NGOs and advisers are in despair at the pace of progress but are self-censoring for fear of upsetting Ministers. This is difficult territory and I make no criticism of that. Leadership on this issue needs to be shared.

It is easy for all parties to pass motions in the Assembly promising cuts in ten years time. The tough politics is delivering cuts in the early years.

Over the next few months work on writing manifestos will intensify. If the political parties are sincere in wanting Wales to take a leading role in tackling climate change they must commit to a programme of Government which delivers cuts in devolved areas of at least 3% every year.

It can be done. There is little point in Wales having some of the world's best strategies if we do not deliver them.

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