Global warming is the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced. Unless urgent global action is taken to begin reducing the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, we face an uncontrollable and irreversible heating of the planet that will threaten the very existence of human society. We are already witnessing some of the early effects of the relentless warming of our planet – firestorms, droughts, flooding (some of it in Wales), widespread and increasing species extinctions and rising sea levels. Cardiff has been designated the second most at risk from rising sea levels in Europe and sixth in the world.
At our 2019 National Conference, our party overwhelmingly adopted a socialist Green New Deal, with a target of transition to zero carbon by as close as possible to 2030. The Green New Deal, to quote Keir Starmer:
offers a pathway to build to a green industrial strategy driven not by the relentless pursuit of profit and growth, but by a moral purpose. It is the right approach and we must now hardwire it into everything that we do as a Party and as a country.’Keir Starmer, 2019 Labour National Conference
Since those words were written in January, our economy and society have been shaken by the Covid 19 pandemic. The economic crisis, caused by the pandemic, combined with the damaging effects of Brexit, overlaid onto our existing chronic problems of poverty and social and economic inequality, is likely to hit us especially hard. An ambitious strategy that looks to go beyond simply returning to business as usual is urgently needed The party’s commitment to working with trade unions to develop a radical programme of large scale green infrastructural investment and job creation while working towards decarbonisation by 2030 puts us in a strong position to face the economic storm.
It is vital that our environmental policies are seen as central to both combatting global warming and the economic and social regeneration of Wales on a socialist basis. However, a Welsh Labour Government will have to try to implement a specifically Welsh Green New Deal strategy within the tight financial and legal constraints imposed on it by a hostile Government in Westminster. This calls for both more imaginative and radical policies and a willingness to take on the Tories in Westminster – pushing against the limits of the Welsh Government’s powers when necessary. We will need to make clear when and how those financial and legal limitations are preventing us from dealing with our environmental, economic and social crises and campaign for the autonomy we need deal with them.
The Senedd was the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency Welsh Government has included all greenhouse gas emissions produced in Wales, including those from aviation and shipping in its analysis and target setting. But when it comes to decarbonisation, the current target is 2050 – almost certainly far too late to have a chance of limiting global warming to a rise of 1.5C. The Welsh Government is already committed to achieving a zero carbon public sector by 2030 and to Wales generating 70% of its electricity consumption from renewable energy by the same date. However, the scale and urgency of the crisis we face demands that we should adopt that 2030 zero carbon target for Wales as a whole, while being open about the fact that hitting, or even approaching, it will require implementing ambitious and sometimes contentious policies. It is absolutely vital that we build the widest possible popular support for the measures necessary to achieve this target and as part of that, the Welsh Government’s commitment to the creation of Citizens’ Assemblies is therefore very welcome.
A Welsh Green New Deal
In order to confront the interlocking climate and economic crises we face in Wales, we need a radical low carbon economic stimulus to boost the Welsh economy through action to cut emissions from our buildings, industry, transport and land, increase energy efficiency and invest in a massive programme to develop our renewable energy resources – in other words, a Welsh Green New Deal.
Key elements of such a programme should include:
The measures listed above would create tens of thousands of sustainable, well-paid, unionised new jobs a year across Wales. Alongside Welsh Government spending, other Welsh resources, such as Welsh Local Government pension schemes (collective investment of approximately £15 billion) could, in part, be invested into renewable projects.
Food is the cornerstone of existence, tying into multiple other policy areas across the whole of devolved government (health and social care, education, anti-poverty, wellbeing, agriculture and environment, to name a few). It is therefore critical that we have a food strategy fit for purpose, one that is collaborative in its approach. However, the Welsh Government’s current food strategy is disconnected, with insufficient collaboration across the devolved policy spectrum.
To support our vision of an agro-ecology, circular and foundational economy (key tenets of the current Labour administration, one way to ensure this collaboration is to create a Wales Food Commission. This Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy which will deliver for our environment, health, economy and society. This new strategy would drive and reward sustainable Farm & Fishing to Fork supply chains, address food waste and promote healthy, sustainable diets and consumption for all.
A key part of this strategy will be public sector procurement. Procurement will be a central driver in ensuring collaborative working, focussing on significant areas including:
In conclusion, food and farming are being overlooked as a way to drive economic recovery in Wales. We need to learn from the Covid-19 crisis to develop a resilient, fair, sustainable system of food, farming and fishing that works for everyone. A food system which provides everyone with healthy food and also fit to tackle food poverty, climate change and restore nature, whilst providing good and safe livelihoods. The creation of an independent, representative Wales Food Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy to bring about a food system fit for the 21st Century in Wales.
Land use and food production
Proposal: The climate crisis requires radical changes to land use and food production. Wales should reforest on a far greater scale and faster than planned, to counter flooding and sequester carbon. Use the remaining agricultural land to move away from meat and dairy, towards far more efficient plant-based food production.
To achieve Welsh Government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Wales by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, woodland in Wales needs to increase by 6%, to about 21% of land use, by 2050. We are not even trying. The “Climate Change Strategy for Wales” target was 5,000 hectares of new woodland every year (2010 – 2030) was reduced to 2,000 ha. In the year to April 2019, Wales planted 520 hectares of new woodland. We need to move rapidly towards a planting rate of 5,000 hectares a year to meet an interim target of 150,000 hectares.
Conversion of feed to animal food is inefficient, as little as 3% of the plant calories in feed are converted into calories in beef. Meat and dairy production create by far the highest greenhouse gas emissions of any food production (https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/what-is-the-climate-impact-of-eating-meat-and-dairy/).
Despite Wales’ need to present as wholesome and ethical to compete in the post-Brexit world, large new intensive farming factories, and small intensive (and often highly polluting) units are springing up all over the country. This must be reversed.
Fisheries and marine
Proposal: For reasons of our own survival – as well as the immense waste and atrocious cruelty of industrial “fishing” – fish should no longer be regarded as food. In the short term, we should protect small fishing communities, stop industrial fishing in Welsh waters and protect our marine ecosystem as a whole.
Our consumption of fish causes industrial “fishing”, which is killing the oceans faster than climate change or plastics pollution (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/09/seas-stop-eating-fish-fishing-industry-government) .
Welsh Government proposals in 2019 for “development of aquaculture” to find new ways to exploit sentient species is flawed: all species rely upon the ecosystem as a whole. Rather, we should be looking at other ways to find value in aquaculture, by helping Welsh producers to diversify away from food production/cropping and into other beneficial activities.
Non or partially-stunned slaughter
Proposal: Given the beneﬁcial impact it would have on animal welfare, the production of meat by non or partially stunned slaughter should be made illegal, as it has been in several other countries.
If we take their lives from animals for our own purposes, we should do everything rationally possible to do so in a way that minimises their suffering.
In Wales there has been no non-stun slaughter in recent years, an admirable record that should be maintained.
Proposal: CCTV should be compulsory in all slaughterhouses to monitor all areas where live animals are kept or killed, an appropriate independent body should be given unrestricted access to real time and stored footage, and resources sufficient to monitor and enforce CCTV systems.
CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses where live animals are handled is a vital protection to help safeguard against some of the awful brutality and other practices revealed in Animal Aid’s Farmers Fresh investigation (https://www.animalaid.org.uk/further-footage-emerges-of-horrifying-treatment-of-vulnerable-sheep-at-farmers-fresh-slaughterhouse-wales/).
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) policy position states, “All of the UK administrations should introduce mandatory CCTV in abattoirs in all areas where live animals, or animals being slaughtered, are present, with unrestricted access to real time and stored footage for OVs (official veterinarians)”. CCTV cameras have been compulsory for slaughterhouses in England since late 2018 and are due to become compulsory in Scotland, where 80% of slaughterhouses already have CCTV.
Complete the ban on fur
Proposal: Wales to ban the sale, production or import of absolutely all fur.
Despite being a cruel trade, Wales effectively still supports the fur trade, in which animals are kept living in dire conditions and killed using cruel and unreliable methods such as electrocution, drowning and gassing. Although sales of some fur are now illegal, not all, which allows criminals an opportunity to exploit.
Proposal: More resources and priority to be given to investigation and policing of rural crime, particularly involving animals.
We should support continuation of the bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing. But all these need to be more rigorously policed, together with other illegal activities (e.g. more thorough investigation of badger baiting; any “terrier man” seen with a trail hunt, equipped for digging out a fox, should be subject to automatic stop and search by police then turned away).
Proposal: Cut nitrate pollution by storing, then disposing properly, of excess slurry (use planning laws to retrospectively apply this to the large number of small, new intensive units appearing in the countryside); no more spraying slurry on waterlogged fields in the winter, while people’s homes or businesses are flooded.