10 June 2019
Green Party conference June 2019
Wales Green Party leader’s speech.
Bore da / Good morning conference
Greetings from Wales, at such an exciting time for our Party as part of the Green Wave sweeping across Europe.
Congratulations from Wales to our seven recently elected Green MEPs, a vital part of that wave, who will play a crucial role in transforming the EU into an institution fit to face the challenges of the 21st Century. Congratulations also to all involved in the European election campaign. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of such a dedicated and passionate team. Greens really do work differently, and we are increasingly seeing the results of that work, and I look forward to seeing even more Greens elected across every level of government in England and Wales in the coming years.
Congratulations from Wales to all those local parties in England that achieved those fantastic results in the local elections. This grassroots work at community level is the reason our Party is growing, and Greens are winning.
Closer to home, a final congratulations to, our hard working and tireless Deputy Leader, Amelia Womack on tripling the Green vote share in the recent Newport West by election with a campaign that significantly raised our Green profile. Something, that I have no doubt, played a major part in our increased Welsh vote in the European election.
On the subject of Newport, many of you will be aware, that we had some good news in Wales last week, with the First Minister’s announcement that plans for building an M4 relief road outside Newport have finally been scrapped. This was absolutely the right decision and one that should have been made many years ago. At a time when the climate emergency is being recognised at every level of Welsh government it would have been an act of criminal folly, and a betrayal of future generations, to go ahead with a road building scheme based on 1970’s transport policy. The campaign against this road has been a long one going back to the 90’s, and Welsh Greens have been an active part of that campaign, alongside a wide variety of community and environmental organisations, from the very beginning. The First Minister’s statement is a tribute to the work of all those activists. Campaigning works. We are winning.
In many ways, First Minister Mark Drakeford had no choice, as head of a government that has acknowledged the climate emergency and introduced the pioneering well Being of Future Generations Act, he could not ignore the climate threatening implications of a programme of increased road building. An important precedent has been set, one that can only help us as we push the Welsh government towards serious action in tackling the climate crisis.
As Greens, we welcome the Welsh government’s recognition of a climate emergency, along with many Welsh local authorities. The last few years have been a wake-up call for the severity of this crisis.
We have just experienced the most traumatic year globally in terms of climate – deadly wildfires, catastrophic floods, impacts on food production, and a huge rise in the number of climate refugees. The recent evidence about massive insect loss and wider extinctions of life also point to the need for urgent transformation of our economies, societies and our politics.
The implications of a collapsing climate are finally beginning to sink in. If we act effectively now, we are still locked into a period of climate change impacts for which we must prepare. That is why Wales Green Party will support all those seeking declarations of emergency.
But what does a climate emergency mean?
The point of declaring an emergency is that we must reorganise our priorities. Emergency means that immediate remedial action must be taken, and existing measures toughened up. Making good political noises is a start but the systems we need to rescue are not impressed by noise. As one placard seen on a recent demo put it;
Ice doesn’t have an agenda – it just melts!
Emergency means that we must step up our search for effective measures, and fund implementation. Emergency means some hard political choices must be made and difficult messages be given – hard but not impossible. Greens believe that there are ways forward that can gain widespread support for the measures that are necessary.
We have all seen the dramatic pictures and the news headlines about the worst climate and ecological disasters. We hear less about the stories of the aftermath of such events. The long slow recovery of communities often hampered by inadequate political will and funds, the blighted communities and the increases in inequality that result. The living environment matters hugely to all communities, people notice when wildlife is in decline, or local places are full of rubbish. Younger and older people suffer especially from dangerous levels of air pollution and the lack of good public transport. When climate impacts strike, inequality worsens. These are well-being issues across the generations, and we must recognise these human dimensions in our response to climate emergency. Social and economic equality and security for all are key to tackling this crisis. We in the Greens have long recognised this. Our longstanding opposition to the politically driven austerity agenda being just one example.
It is also important to consider the history of Wales in understanding the challenges and potentials of this moment in time, this crisis. As an early colonised nation, Wales has been developed in a classic extractive pattern, with infrastructure designed for these purposes and its culture and institutions suppressed or destroyed over time. Wales made a huge contribution to the first Industrial Revolution based on fossil fuel energy, founding the Welsh mining, steel and industrial port communities and now Wales has the potential to lead the second Industrial Revolution, a revolution based on clean, green renewable energy. All that is needed is the political will. This is why the need for elected Green representation at every level of Welsh government is so urgent. We need to see Greens at the heart of Welsh government, a Welsh government with real and meaningful powers over our nation’s future.
Wales Green Party believes that Wales should have as much decision making power, up to and including full independence, as voted for by the people of Wales in any referendum. As an internationalist party that believes in localism and devolving power to the lowest level, we know just how much good action takes place at a local level.
And in many ways, Wales could be ahead of the game when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. We had the passing of the historic Well-being of Future Generations Act by the Welsh government back in 2015. Rightly hailed at the time by the United Nations as a ground-breaking piece of legislation, a shining example to other nations of how legislation could be used for the benefit of all, and not the short-sighted interests of a few. This should have been, and still could be a game changer.
Four frustrating years on, we are still waiting for those well meaning words to be translated into meaningful actions. That said, the first Minister’s scrapping of the M4 relief road is a hopeful and welcome sign that the implications of the Act are finally influencing policy. Yet policy and decision making in so many areas still lag woefully behind.
In Cardiff last year we had a situation where Cardiff Community Energy, a cooperative with local Greens in leading positions, were on the verge of finalising a deal to install solar panels and solar water heating on all of Cardiff’s leisure centres. After many years of work and negotiations the plug was pulled at the last minute by Cardiff Council. This just isn’t good enough.
Just outside Bridgend, we have the inspirational Solcer House. The house, a Cardiff University project, is an example of just what could be done to tackle the housing crisis. A house that generates more power than it uses while providing affordable, sustainable housing. Instead we see the continued building of vast estates of housing built using last century techniques and reliant on continued car usage. This just isn’t good enough.
At a Westminster level, we have the continued refusal to support the game changing Swansea Tidal Lagoon, while desperately searching for new investors for a long discredited nuclear industry. This just isn’t good enough.
Wales deserves better. As a nation with unrivalled natural resources and a long history of tackling social injustice, Wales could and should be leading the way in creating a greener and fairer future. Greens are the change that Wales needs. Greens promoting a Green New Deal. Greens introducing a Citizen’s Income. Greens standing up to the rise of the far right. Greens fighting to keep our place in Europe.
In just under two years’ time, Wales Green Party will be taking part in the next National Assembly for Wales elections. On current polling, backed up by our European election results, we are on track to get our first elected Greens onto the last legislative body in the UK without Green representation. This will be a game changer, for Wales and for the UK. The Green wave is not going away. With your help and support we can, we must, and we will get the elected Green representation that Wales so desperately needs.
Thank you / Diolch
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