Public Sector Decarbonisation
Plenary Tuesday 27 June 201716:59:00
Spoken Contribution – 16:59:00
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Thanks to the Government for bringing today’s debate. We are interested in environmental issues in UKIP and, particularly, we are concerned at the worsening air quality. This is an aspect specifically raised by Plaid Cymru in their amendment 4 today. We cannot escape the growing health menace posed by the worsening quality of the air around us, as evidenced by the increasing prevalence of asthma and other related health conditions. Many urban communities in Wales are suffering from worsening air quality and there has been recent evidence that Crymlyn in south-east Wales has one of the worst environments for air quality in the whole of the UK. This is disturbing enough for the residents of Crymlyn, of course, but the reality is that the blight of poor air quality is affecting most of our built-up areas in Wales. We do need to do what we can to tackle this issue and we would back calls for the Welsh Government to include measures to reduce air pollution as part of their programme of decarbonising the public sector. So, we do support Plaid’s amendment 4.
I do take on board some of the points that Mike Hedges just raised regarding what is referred to as denial of climate change. I think, sometimes, the phrase itself is slightly misleading because there is, sometimes, not a denial that climate change is happening, but rather scepticism over how much of climate change is caused by the man-made elements. So, perhaps, sometimes, there are more nuances than a simple, binary choice of whether or not we accept climate change. So, hopefully you will recognise that there are nuances of opinion on this issue.
The Government’s motion as a whole, we do oppose. We think that a lot of effort is expended internationally and on a UK level in attempting to reduce carbon emissions to very little positive effect. Again, I take on board what Mike Hedges just said, that we do need to make an effort in Wales. However, our basic view, our basic premise is that our UK carbon emissions are dwarfed by those emanating from China, for instance. Action to reduce global emissions can only effectively be taken at global level, and must involve binding legislation severely restricting the polluting impact of China and other large-scale polluter nations.
In the UK, there is a considerable negative effect in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions in terms of how these efforts hit the pockets of ordinary people. The Global Warming Policy Foundation produced a report in December 2016 stating that, on average, every British household is paying over £300 a year to cut carbon emissions. This is to pay for the switch to more expensive energy sources in compliance with the Climate Change Act 2008. At Welsh Government level, there is also going to be a cost to the public of implementing these decarbonisation measures, and, ultimately, as several speakers have mentioned today, the Welsh public sector doesn’t make a significant impact on carbon emissions. According to the Welsh Government’s own website, the latest statistics indicate that the public sector is responsible for less than 1 per cent of total carbon emissions in Wales, which the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged in her opening remarks. Another speaker referred to that figure as well, so there seems to be consensus around that figure. So, we do wonder why such great effort is being put into further reducing emissions in a sector that is so very insignificant in the bigger picture.