Reply as Chair of Climate Change Committee – Debate by Individual Members under Standing Order 11.21(iv): Climate Change 4 October 2017

  • 16:19

    Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. First of all, can I thank Simon Thomas, not only for introducing the debate, but for going around and getting people to sign up for it? Because it really is important that we do start debating issues like this. ‘Reduce carbon use by 80 per cent’—that’s a tremendous aim. How are we going to do it? Well, it’s got to be personal contributions, I think Simon Thomas is absolutely right on that, and we need to take personal responsibility for it. I have no idea what my personal carbon use is. I would guess that’s probably true of everybody or nearly everybody in this room. Would I like to reduce it? Yes, but I don’t know whether I’m reducing it from a lot or from very little. So, should I be debited for its use? Yes, I should feel it was costing me something. Even if it wasn’t money, it was costing me a bad feeling, because I was actually using more carbon than I should. The more we think about it, the more we reduce it. I think that people take that with expenditure. If you count every penny you spend, you spend an awful lot less. It’ll be exactly the same with carbon, won’t it? If you count what you used, it would be an awful lot less. As Simon Thomas said, it’s not a tax, but it’s about responsibility.
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    Jenny Rathbone is absolutely right: legislation only goes so far. We all need to make an effort to work at doing things to reduce our carbon use. And food—one of my rules in our house: we never buy any food that is better travelled than I am, and I think that—. I won’t ask Jenny Rathbone to do that because I know how well-travelled she is, but we don’t buy food that comes from countries that are further than I’ve ever travelled, and I think that’s something we could perhaps all give some thought to. It comes from an awful lot of exotic countries, carrying lots of air miles, and we need to consider carefully what we eat. I think this really is important, and I speak as somebody who’s a fan of buying local Welsh produce, so that certainly helps.
    I agree with Neil Hamilton: air quality is important. I think everybody agrees air quality is important, and we’re seeing the improvements taking place in the Hafod recently. Carbon dioxide is not a poison—absolutely right. It is, however, a greenhouse gas. It will lead to temperature rises. We know that because the temperature of the earth should be running around about -24, -26 degrees centigrade if there was no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We want some of it to get it up to a liveable temperature. What we don’t want is to get too much of it, which moves it to a temperature at which we cannot live. I think that, Neil, the Conservatives in the 1980s forced up energy costs, which led to the destruction of the aluminium industry across the whole of south Wales. You might have been a member of them in those days.
    Computer models need updating. They always need updating. A part of my job many years ago was writing computer models, and you update them when you get further data, but we all know that the temperatures are increasing. They have increased, and the Americans are getting the benefits of it, if you call it that, from the hurricanes they’re getting. I’ll give way.
    Academics accept that the temperatures have risen by 0.9 degrees centigrade since the mid-nineteenth century. We’re not talking about game-changing figures here.
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    Yes, but it’s an average, isn’t it? And so you’ve only got to see how much ice is breaking off in both Antarctica and in the Arctic, and that’s going to lead to flooding in a large number of low-lying areas, and possibly countries disappearing.
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    The other thing I was going to say is, if you want to help the poor: better insulation. Many of us have visited people in their houses, which are certainly not warm. They probably spend more on keeping their house warm than I do, but because they’ve got poor central heating, they’ve got windows that are single-glazed, they’ve got gaps between the frame and the wall, they’ve got cold air coming in—. That would make a bigger effect than any extra charges.
    Can I thank the Minister for her comments? And increasing carbon consciousness—we do need to know what we’re doing. The Welsh Government’s support for stopping global temperature rises is well known, and something I and, I’m sure, most people, if not everybody, in this room, really appreciates, because it’s a bit like the straw and the camel’s back, isn’t it? Yes, we’re only a small country, but if every small country did exactly the same thing and kept on pushing temperatures up, then it would all go up.
    I really support the ambitions of the Cabinet Secretary that we’ve got to be ambitious because, as somebody once said, it’s only one world we’ve got. The fact that some of us in the west use up the world’s resources as if there are three worlds doesn’t mean that we have three worlds to exploit. So, we need to start reducing what we do, and preventative measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions—we cannot ask for more than that. But, really, I come back to what Simon Thomas started with: personal responsibility. If people know how much carbon they’re using, most people will try and reduce it, and that’s really what this is asking for. Thank you.

    October 6th, 2017 | Mike Hedges AM | No Comments |

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