Joyce Watson MS’s column for Mid Wales Journal

All roads lead to Glasgow this week, as world leaders come together to make crucial commitments and decisions on how we can all respond to the climate emergency. Actually, not all roads – Mark Drakeford caught the train and Boris Johnson hopped on a private plane. Different styles of leadership.

Like its leader, the Welsh Government walks the walk. It was the first government in the world to declare a climate emergency back in April 2019. Now it has launched a plan to make Wales a greenhouse gas neutral country by 2050. Net Zero Wales sets out a decade of action, cutting across all departments. Education, health, the economy – every sector has a part to play.

At the Senedd on Tuesday I asked Mark about housing. As chair of the Welsh Parliament’s construction industry cross-party group, I am mindful that buildings account for just under a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from fossil fuel heating. Tackling climate change really does begin at home.

So the Welsh Government is determined to make our homes more energy efficient. It is leading the way. Deputy climate change minister Lee Waters has announced £150m for insulation, clean energy and carbon reduction in existing social housing. And the 20,000 new social homes for rent that will be built in the next five years will be so good that they can be kept warm without the use of fossil fuels. Cleaner air and cheaper bills. I urged private developers to adopt the same standards as soon as possible.

Personally and collectively, meeting the climate challenge means taking tough decisions. Sometimes it is about not doing things, whether that’s building a new road or jetting off on holiday. But it also presents new opportunities. Greener housing means new building skills and more Mid Wales timber. Fewer trips abroad mean more staycations and Welsh holidays, boosting the local economy. We can bring these things together – the Welsh Government has set aside £7m for 29 new nature projects, ten in Powys, creating and improving wonderful places to visit and the environment.

Our rural communities could do with the boost. Last week’s UK Budget slashed funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales for the second year running. The Farmers’ Union of Wales calculates the loss as an average of £37 million per year for the next three years. The Conservative manifesto pledged to match European funding – another broken promise. Different styles of leadership.