Leaders Speech - Anthony Slaughter
We are living in challenging times. 2020 started with some stark reminders of the severity of the ongoing climate crisis. Wildfires raged across large swathes of the planet destroying communities and invaluable biodiversity. Other areas saw an increase in once rare extreme weather events leading to devastating flooding in communities worldwide, including here in Wales.
The climate crisis, climate emergency is not an abstract future threat. It is real. It is here and it is now.
And like the current global coronavirus pandemic it is the weakest and most vulnerable that suffer the most.
The ongoing Covid crisis has exposed the serious structural and systemic flaws in our society and highlighted the obscene and growing levels of inequality that are destroying our communities. The coming severe financial recession, a recession that will be made all the worse here in the UK by the predictable chaos of a no deal Brexit crash out, will impact heavily on these communities leaving the weakest and poorest even more vulnerable.
Covid 19 and our society’s response has challenged many long held views of the way things are or the way they should be. Starting with a recognition of who our economy and society really depend on and that government does after all have a magic money tree when it’s needed. It has exposed the deep structural flaws in our society and laid bare government claims about careful management of the economy. How much more resilient might we have been to the shock of Coronavirus if public services and local authorities had not had their funding cut to the bone year on year? The policy of austerity is being shown to have been the grotesque political act it was. And remember austerity was never inevitable – it was a result of deliberate political decisions.
We have to learn from all of this, and ensure that as we come out of this crisis, our recovery is both fair and green. No more ‘business as usual, which would merely patch over the scars of this crisis and leave us equally or more vulnerable to the next. We must not address this emergency by making others like the climate emergency worse, creating a hostile and unsustainable environment for future generations.
So how do we build a better, fairer, greener future? We start by recognising the truth that this crisis has impacted hardest on those who were already the worst off, in low-paid or insecure jobs, forced to lockdown in homes with no access to open space, or left risking their lives as carers, shelf stackers or cleaners. By recognising that this crisis of death has been prejudiced against black and ethnic minority communities.
These sacrifices need to be recognised with a meaningful commitment to build a fair and equal society
That means redesigning our economy to meet the needs of everyone in Wales for food and shelter. It’s not enough for our governments to pay lip service to a better post covid society. We must go further and make the health, resilience and wellbeing of all people the focus of all public policy.
To start, strict conditions should be applied to companies that ask for financial support during and beyond lockdown. Companies that routinely avoid taxes or have huge pay ratios should have no access to public money. There should be no bailouts for fossil fuel industries, and companies which are driving the climate crisis should be required to adopt targets in line with the Paris Agreement.
Wales has some of the most energy-inefficient homes in Europe leaving many families having to choose between eating or heating. These families now face the bleak reality of the covid 19 crisis going on through the winter.
We urgently need to insulate and retrofit all homes, not only tackling fuel poverty but creating thousands of green skilled jobs. Plans for this must start now, with a directly supported retrofit programme. Here in Wales we need to take full advantage of our abundant natural renewable energy resources, again creating thousands of new green jobs for a reskilled workforce. Wales led the original Industrial revolution. It could and should lead the second.
We have learned in the past few months how vulnerable our food system is – with no one to harvest food grown in the UK and supermarkets dependent on long supply chains. Farmers have been forced to pour milk down the drain or leave crops unpicked while families go hungry. Food insecurity has quadrupled during this crisis. Again it is the most vulnerable who suffer.
We need government support for small farms and local independent businesses and this sector must be prioritised after the immediate crisis has passed., funding for local food networks with a focus on agroecological farming so we start the shift towards a resilient, localised and regenerative food and farming system.
Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of our economy – the inequality, and the insecurity and poverty of millions of our fellow citizens. While we may all be weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.
The government has demanded huge sacrifices of everyone, some more than others. This needs to be repaid with a just economic and social system that benefits everyone.
This is why our radical Green voice is so crucial. Our vision of a just, sustainable society is truly transformative, it is the change the planet is crying out for. But noble ideas and good intentions are not enough. We need to be in a position to make our vision a reality. We need a Green voice in the room whenever decisions are being made that affect all our futures. We need, Wales needs, elected Green representation at every level of government.
And this is why next year’s Senedd election is so important. This is our chance, our opportunity to get our radical message heard, to truly engage with the people of Wales, with our communities, to challenge the stale ‘business as usual’ status quo. This will be our chance, our opportunity to make that historic breakthrough and get the elected Green representation in the Senedd that Wales so desperately needs.
These challenging times demand urgent and radical action. Warm words and soundbite slogans are not enough. Wales Green Party’s bold and ambitious plans for a Green New Deal for Wales will deliver the changes needed in Wales, providing safe, secure lives for all and ensuring carbon reduction targets are reached at the scale and pace needed to tackle the Climate Emergency.
In the coming months we will hear other parties also talking about a Green New Deal, and their growing recognition of the need for meaningful action to tackle the climate crisis is welcome, but actions so often speak louder than words. This crisis demands more than good intentions. Like many others the Welsh Government has committed to a target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We, in the Green Party, know that 2050 is too late. We must achieve net zero by 2030. 2050 is in line with neither science or equity.
This is why our plans for a Green New Deal go further and faster in recognizing the scale and the urgency of the climate crisis.
Our ambitious plans include the establishment of a Green Transformation Fund for Wales which will raise finance, through issuing bonds, to fund:
• building thousands of zero carbon new homes each year
• installing rooftop solar on every hospital
• converting thousands of houses to warm zero carbon homes each year
• replacing all diesel buses in Wales with electric buses assembled in Wales
Wales Green Party’s Green New Deal will transform Welsh society, providing Green jobs in a genuine Well-being Economy, and better, healthier living through warm homes and reduced air pollution, creating a cleaner and greener world for future generations, for people and planet.
Next year’s election is also a crucial moment for Welsh democracy. While the election of the new Senedd Cymru with increased powers is an historical moment for Wales, the entire devolution settlement is at risk, threatened by a UK government intent on clawing back powers from the devolved nations. The post Brexit power grab of the Internal Markets Bill will undermine any efforts of Welsh Government to maintain high environmental and food standards and make a mockery of the well-being of Future Generations Act. As a party that believes in the devolution of power to the lowest possible level, Greens in the Senedd would do all in our power to resist this attack on devolution. Wales Green Party believes that independence for Wales is a long term aspiration. I would argue that the current actions of the UK government make the likelihood of that aspiration happening sooner rather than later.
At a time of climate crisis, health crisis and democratic crisis Greens in the Senedd will make the difference that is needed.
Our vision for Wales will act as a global case study for what a truly sustainable society can look like, with real investment in our communities, putting people and planet first.
We can and we will get those Greens elected next year and building on that success we will get Green Councillors elected across Wales in 2022 joining Emily Durrant our Green councillor in Powys whose sterling work for her community has shown the value of a Green voice in the room.
In recent months we have seen a wave of Green election successes across the globe. From Europe, where Greens are now part of the government in eight countries to the fantastic results in New Zealand last week. People are electing Greens because they know elected Greens get things done. Wales deserves no less.
I am looking forward to working with you all in the coming months as we fight our biggest and most effective election campaign yet.
We can, we must, and we will get the elected Greens that wales so desperately needs.