Beth Winter MP and local activist Morien Morgan.
For the past week there have been extensive ‘We Want to Live – Rydyn ni Eisiau Byw’ climate protests across the UK, including here in Wales, to highlight the dangers of the climate crisis and to promote and garner support for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which calls upon government to take immediate and radical action to address the climate emergency.
In 2020 the constituency of Cynon Valley which I represent and where Morien Morgan and I both live saw some of the worst effects of climate change. We had the floods in February, which had a devastating impact upon the community and residents, followed by a heatwave and further flash flooding during the summer months. During these summer months Morien and I had extensive discussions about the effects of climate change.
We are both passionately committed to doing everything we can to address the impending climate crisis. Morien is a retired head teacher, a community councillor, a leading member of my local Labour Party and has been a life-long climate activist and is a member of Extinction Rebellion. I have participated in many climate discussions and demonstrations in Wales and since entering parliament have joined the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group. Last week I declared my public support for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which was presented to Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas on 2 September 2020.
Having worked with Friends of the Earth I am fully appreciative of the urgency of this issue, and respect the views of XR members like Morien, who feel that peaceful civil disobedience is the only way now to move this crisis up the public agenda. Recent demonstrations in London and Cardiff, both of which I was able to attend, support the need to make sure that the message that action to tackle climate change is urgently needed is put loud and clear to the public. While understanding that for many people who are struggling economically – having to pay bills, and put food on the table – this can seem a remote issue, we must make it clear that there is nothing remote about this. As Morien says, “Nobody is going to thank us for not telling the truth when the queues we saw in the shops back at the beginning of Covid pale into insignificance because we could be in a position of Worldwide crop failures fairly rapidly.” And while there may be differences of view about some of the methods used to get that truth out there – any attempt to criminalise an organisation whose sole aim is to save this planet, must be resisted. It is the lack of action to tackle climate change and protect our children’s future that is the real act of vandalism.
We both believe that fundamental changes in society are required if the climate crisis is to be avoided or, at least, made less harmful. It’s the large corporations that are responsible for two thirds of carbon emissions. But we can also take action individually and locally to begin to improve our environment. We need to change the way we think so that everything we decide and do is measured against the impact of climate change – from a decision to build a new road to determining how we work, what we eat, how we travel.
But we cannot stop the acceleration of carbon emissions unless we change the way society works – end the exploitation of fossil fuels and put people before profit. To echo the views of Naomi Klein and Professor Tim Jackson, in order to avoid climate disaster we cannot sustain the current way of organising the world economy, exploiting all natural resources in the name of profit.
We need a Green New Deal urgently if we are to tackle these issues in the UK, and the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill will enable us to move forward on this.
We must be conscious at the same time of the need to promote local industry here in Wales – and what an opportunity we have to do things differently. We have skilled workers in the aviation industry whose jobs are threatened and who could transfer their skills to developing green technologies given the right support and investment. I will continue as an MP to do all I can to seek adequate funding for Wales to allow such developments to take place. We could be a world leader in moving towards a carbon neutral economy. We have the resources to do so much.
We must also look to the future and the next generation. As Morien says, “We can’t let future generations down and say ‘It’s too late now. We’re on the Titanic so let’s open the drink cabinet, strike up the band and dance until the end.’” We both have families with young people of whom we are incredibly proud as they too participated in the school strikes demonstrations last year.
We need to bring together as many sections of the population as possible in unity on this vital issue as our very existence as a human race and as a planet depends on tackling this. This is bigger than any party political stance. I’ll let Morien have the last words – “This crisis is existential. We must act now”.