Climate Crossroads

On the 20th of January, 2017, the US Presidency changed hands. Obama was a pioneer in tackling Climate Change, Trump said, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Donald Trump has ordered the ‘Environmental Protection Agency’ to delete all climate change information from its website. Additionally, Trump’s Science Adviser, William Happer, is a climate change enthusiast, firmly believing that further elevated CO2 levels would be beneficial for humanity.

Brexit poses a risk to Global Warming progress. In our haste for trade deals, the government must not sell our environment to Donald Trump’s America or any other environmentally regressive nation. The EU has pioneered in environmental protection and regulation – making the world and local environment a better place to live.

Friends of the Earth describe the EU’s “profound impact on UK environmental policy”. We earned the unattractive reputation for being the ‘Dirty Man of Europe’ in the 70s and 80s. EU membership consequently had a revolutionary effect upon UK environmental policy, primarily through requiring a shift in policy style and goals.

As we leave the EU, it is essential for us to continue to improve our environment and use international bodies and treaties to push for Climate Change acceptance and action. The Paris Agreement was a progressive step and means we have targets set to help reduce Climate Change. However, the pledges introduced in the agreement are unlikely to be enforced by all parties and, even if they were, are unlikely meet the target of a rise in global temperatures of less than 2°C. We must push further on an international playing field and ensure radical action is taken to protect our future.

An internationalist approach is essential to tackling this cross-border crisis. But we can be a beacon of progressive environmentalist politics. Wales can lead in securing the world’s future.

A proper carbon tax is in order. A carbon tax is a fee for making users of fossil fuels pay for climate damage their fuel use imposes by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and for motivating switches to clean energy. A carbon tax is paid at the point where fuels are extracted from the Earth and put into the stream of commerce, or are imported.

The UK has maintained a carbon tax since 2013. Technically, the tax is administered as a “carbon price floor” that functions as the minimum price that fossil fuel producers pay to emit CO2. Whenever the carbon price emanating from the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) is less than the UK minimum the producers pay the difference to the British Treasury. The carbon tax is referred as a “top up” tax since it was intended to top up European carbon prices. The mandated rate for 2016 was £18 per metric ton. The future of the carbon price floor is uncertain; it has only be fixed to 2021. As we leave the EU, we must go one step further and dramatically reform the price floor to a fully-fledged carbon tax.

Once tax raising powers are devolved, the Senedd – and devolved administrations in other Home Nations – could implement a carbon tax, with profits funding construction of renewable energy sources and protection of habitats and environments. The Paris Agreement missed a crucial opportunity to have an international tax on Carbon. It’s up to us to set an example.

We need a nationalised energy company. An energy supplier driven not by short term profit, but by long term sustainability and low costs for consumers would be of benefit for all. This is not a radical idea. The vast majority of the British public support renationalisation of energy, even Conservative voters support this proposal. Plaid Cymru proposed Ynni Cymru – a “not for dividend” energy company focused on sustainability – in the previous Assembly election. This is the sort of policy that we desperately need to enact.

Finally, Wales needs to make the most of our natural resources. We have the potential to be an energy powerhouse. We used to be one, using our coal deposits to fuel the industrial revolution. Now, we can use our vast renewable sources to kickstart the next technological revolution. Without large supplies of electricity, Wales and the UK will fall behind the emerging economies. Without sustainable and renewable energy sources, we risk our planet’s future.

This is a crisis that surpasses borders. We need an internationalist response. But, Wales can set an example for a sustainable future.

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