'Climate emergency' declared by Welsh Government

Crowds gathered at Queen StreetImage source, Andrew Mabey
Image caption,
Protests in Cardiff last week saw cyclists ride slowly through the city, disrupting traffic

A "climate emergency" has been declared in Wales following protests demanding politicians take action on climate change.

The Welsh Government's Lesley Griffiths said she hoped the declaration would trigger "a wave of action".

Climate change threatens Wales' health, economy, infrastructure and natural environment, she said.

Plaid Cymru welcomed the move but said it should mean the proposed upgrade to the M4 should be scrapped.

Labour is expected to press the UK government to declare a national climate emergency on Wednesday.

It comes after protests by Extinction Rebellion protestors, who want politicians to declare a climate emergency.

Protests in London led to the arrests of 1,000 people, while around 200 activists disrupted traffic in Cardiff last week by cycling slowly through the city.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Extinction Rebellion wants politicians to declare a "climate emergency"

Rural affairs minister Ms Griffiths, speaking ahead of a meeting of UK and Scottish ministers in Cardiff, said: "I believe we have the determination and ingenuity in Wales to deliver a low carbon economy at the same time as making our society fairer and healthier.

"We hope that the declaration by Welsh Government today can help to trigger a wave of action at home and internationally. From our own communities, businesses and organisations to parliaments and governments around the world."

The Welsh Government is committed to achieving a "carbon neutral public sector by 2030", she said, and to coordinating action to help other parts of the economy move away from fossil fuels.

"Our sustainable development and environmental legislation is already recognised as world leading and now we must use that legislation to set a new pace of change," she added.

'Cannot be empty grandstanding'

The declaration comes two days ahead of a Plaid Cymru climate change debate in the Senedd.

Plaid environment spokesman Llyr Gruffydd said: "On Wednesday, we look forward to the Welsh parliament becoming the first in the world to officially declare such an emergency by backing Plaid Cymru's motion in the Assembly."

"This must now mean a real and immediate commitment to tackling climate change head on with concrete action and the political will to see it through," he added.

"This includes scrapping the environmental disaster that is the M4 Relief Road, divesting from fossil fuels, and ensuring that sustainability and climate is a part of the new curriculum."

On Sunday first minister Mark Drakeford suggested the decision on the road could be further delayed by the European elections - but said the decision making timetable will be set out early this week.

Plaid leader Adam Price said it was "difficult to see how pre-election sensitivity rules arise" and said it would be "unacceptable" for the first minister to delay the decision for political reasons.

Environment spokesman for the Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said: "Only recently Labour's Environment Minister set emissions targets that actually fell short of those demanded by the Paris Agreement."

"So we await to see what action will be taken to ensure this isn't just another empty pledge from a Welsh Labour Government that has consistently failed to deliver on its promises during its twenty years in government."

Image source, lovelyday12

Analysis by Steffan Messenger, BBC Wales environment correspondent

This is a symbolic move by the Welsh Government, but environmental campaigners believe it could have real power.

How do plans to spend billions of pounds on a new motorway over the nature-rich Gwent Levels square with this declaration, for instance?

Perhaps that's the most obvious question they and others like Wales' Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe have already been asking.

Ministers say it shows how seriously they're taking the issue of tackling climate change, hot on the heels of a 100-point plan to cut emissions unveiled last month.

It also comes days before a major report is set to be published by government advisers on what more Wales - and the rest of the UK - needs to do.

AMs had been set to debate the idea of making a climate emergency declaration on Wednesday anyway - in a motion put forward by Plaid Cymru.

That now looks certain to pass. It could mean the assembly becomes the first parliament in the world to make such a move.