Environment and Climate Change
Priority A – Taking Sustainable Development Seriously
The Welsh Government should honour its constitution and seek to undertake all of its functions with sustainable development as a key guiding principle – this has got to progress beyond an activity for the Environment Minister alone! We look for a specific commitment to see:
Genuine and significant progress towards a “one planet Wales” with a retained commitment to eco foot-printing as the main monitoring technique (i.e. measuring the impact that we have – including our use of imported resources and travelling abroad, especially by air).
Continued encouragement of Welsh civil society to engage with the sustainable development agenda at home and in partnership with communities around the world.
Priority B – An aspiration for a Zero Carbon Wales By 2030
The route to this goal for Britain has been plotted by the Centre for Alternative Technology but we recognise that not all of the powers required for its implementation are held in Wales. We would never-the-less seek a commitment for relevant actions including:
- Welsh and local government leadership by “putting their own house in order” particularly in terms of energy use and procurement.
- Using devolved powers, its own estate and EU funding programmes effectively to, for instance, increase carbon sequestration in the Welsh landscape whilst significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from Welsh agriculture.
- Ensure that expenditure on transport is focussed on delivering sustainable options with the reduction of greenhouse gas and other undesirable emissions as a priority objective.
Priority C – An Emphasis on the Production of Renewable Electricity
The emphasis on electricity as a key part of the energy mix is likely to increase as we switch to electric vehicles and more electrical heating (heat pumps). All forms of renewable electricity should be explored – including wind power, on- and off-shore, solar and hydro-power. There should be a particular emphasis on wave and tidal power.
Power from sustainably produced biomass (including biogas) should only be encouraged where the “waste” heat is effectively recovered as part of a combined heat and power unit. As most renewable electricity is intermittent the development of storage techniques should go hand-in-hand with the deployment of the generation capacity -especially pumped storage and the generation of hydrogen/methane through electrolysis. The electricity grid needs up-dating in order that it reflects a new pattern of more local generation.
Priority D – Sustainable Housing
Waste of energy through poor housing design is a major issue. New houses must be built to the best low carbon standards, especially in terms of insulation and sustained low energy use. There must also be a major effort to continue to improve the status of the current stock of housing, seeking to bring them at least to level C on the current Energy Performance Certificate ratings. The incorporation of low carbon heating solutions (solar thermal, efficient wood fuel stoves and boilers, and heat pumps) into the existing and new building stock should be a priority. The planning system should ensure that new housing is so sited as to allow efficient servicing by public transport.
Priority E – Working Towards Zero Waste
Waste is a major source of carbon production – in terms of the carbon and other finite natural resources that have been used in manufacture, and the production of methane from land-fill. The aim must be for zero landfill and the effective implementation of the “waste-hierarchy” (reduce, re-use, recycle, recover). This will require careful thought, but must include severe reduction in the use of packaging, the use of anaerobic digesters to process as much readily bio-degradable waste as possible, and the use of properly regulated combined heat and power incinerators for (genuinely) residual waste.
We recognise that this is an enormous and complex subject and that we can only “scratch the surface” in this brief but we believe that these aims, as outlined, would not only be a major step in our care for God’s creation, but they would also provide a much needed boost to the economy – in terms of the research and production needed to provide these new technologies, and through jobs created in the construction industry as new infrastructure is put in place, new houses are built and old houses are refurbished. We recognise that the commitments that we are seeking will require significant expenditure but we are also firmly convinced that this would constitute a very wise investment that would negate the need for even greater investment in years to come.
We commend these points to those who seek to govern Wales in our name.
Caring for the natural world is important to Christians. From the beginning, scripture teaches that God created it and gave humankind "dominion" (i.e. responsibility) over it, inviting us to "work it and take care of it". We also have a God-given mandate to care for "the stranger, the orphan, and the widow" – the poorest in society. Our failure to care for creation, especially through our part in climate change, is also an assault on those who are poorest in our societies – especially those in the majority world.
As Christians, we share responsibility for this failure, and have to accept the challenge to heal and protect our world. Within this general concern, we accept the scientific evidence and consensus that highlights climate change as the greatest threat to our planet, and seek to slow down and then reverse the impacts that humanity’s over-use of the earth’s resources has played within it.
With that understanding, we commend the Welsh Government for their commitment to a sustainable Wales, but need to see those words transferred into action. To that end, we call for a further commitment to the above.