Agenda item



“The effects of climate change are being felt in Carmarthenshire, last year we had flooding that caused homelessness, damage and death. What are the council putting in place to ensure my future, living, working and raising a family in Carmarthen is safe.”


The effects of climate change are being felt in Carmarthenshire, last year we had flooding that caused homelessness, damage and death. What are the council putting in place to ensure my future, living, working and raising a family in Carmarthen is safe.”


Response by Councillor Emlyn Dole, Leader of the Council:-


Can I first of all thank Coral Sylvan for raising this question with us. Before I answer this question, I want to thank, not only for the question, but to thank Coral for coming here this morning, because I think she’s breaking new ground in the history of Carmarthenshire County Council. I don’t think we’ve had somebody as young as eleven years old coming here before to challenge us with a question, which is challenging, and which is asking us to consider the future in the context of her generation. I’m not surprised if we we’re listening to a leader of the council for the future. I think that its’ great to welcome you here formally to the Chamber and to respond to a question which does require our attention as councillors, as a county council and as local authorities across Wales.


For years we’ve heard that young people seem to be taking no interest in politics and the world around them.  Well, there are signs that things are changing. I was told by somebody who I enjoyed back in the seventy’s, Bob Dylan, that times they are a-changing. And they are. They are changing in terms of the youngsters who are willing to stand up and to be counted and to ask the right and the pertinent questions, and to hear that there’s an interest in politics and the world around us is very heartening indeed.


I’m sitting right opposite the Director of Education and I’m sure you won’t agree with me here but I was pretty impressed that pupils from around the UK went "on strike" last Friday as part of a global campaign for action on climate change. Do you know what, I was driving home last Friday evening. I was on the A48 and nearly caused an accident because I was listening to the news about the strike, the effects and people talking about that and they quoted a spokesman from the Department of Education at the U.K. Government who said, and that’s why I nearly crashed, term time leave should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and I thought to myself, when I recovered the steering, how about the future of the planet, how exceptional is that?. I guess that’s pretty exceptional for us all.  


Students around the country walked out of schools to call on the government to declare a climate emergency and take action and active steps to tackle that problem. Protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities across the U.K. with an estimated 15,000 students taking part. They carried placards, some reading: "There is no planet B." It’s so important that young people are allowed to have their say and that they take a keen interest in the world around them. On the specific question that you asked, I can tell you that since the flooding that you speak of, the County Council has asked for an assessment of what exactly happened across our county towards the end of last year. We want to establish clearly and exactly what our future priorities should be in that context.


Scientific evidence paints a very clear picture: Climate change is happening, it’s caused in large by human activity, and it will have many serious and potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Now, I’m not a scientist nor, am I scientifically minded but I do know that Darwin when he published the ‘Origin of Species’ he actually borrowed some stuff from a very eminent Welshman, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d already published his theory of evolution on natural selection. Some have called it the survival of the fittest and, in that context, it’s strange to think that here we are discussing the future of the planet as that species in the context of natural selection, when you thought that we would have taken that opportunity to behave responsibly and judiciously, given our place in that system and seen it as a chance and opportunity to behave responsibly. Unfortunately, we seem to have taken it as a licence to destroy and to pollute. That evidence is clear with the scientists. There will be potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Greenhouse gas emissions from cars, from power plants and other man-made sources as you know rather than natural variations in climate are the primary cause, whatever Donald Trump says. These emissions include carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas which has reached a concentration level in our atmosphere that the Earth hasn’t seen for more than 400,000 years. These greenhouse gases act like a blanket, trapping the sun’s warmth near the earth’s surface, and affecting the planet’s climate system because of that.


Here in Carmarthenshire, we need to decide what adaptations we need to make to meet the challenge of that changing climate.


We’ve recently teamed up with other organisations in this part of the world to set up, I think an important project that’s been given the snappy title: ‘Severe Weather Assessment: local experiences and future priorities’’.  It’s being led by Natural Resources Wales and will cover the counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys – that’s almost half the land mass of Wales.


The results would be used to inform, to engage and educate the public and to make recommendations for transport, for housing, for flood, for environmental, waste & other policies here in Carmarthenshire and in our neighbouring authorities.


We’ll be reviewing the effects of recent and past major weather events using information supplied by organisations that work in the public sector such as the police, the fire brigade and the health service to name but a few.


We have to come to terms with the fact that dramatic floods like the ones we experienced in October are going happen more frequently, but we also need to decide how best to cope with them.  There will be communities throughout the county that are more vulnerable than others to high tides and to flooding rivers.  They need to be identified and we all need to know how best to look after the welfare of the people who live there. 


Over the next few months a lot of evidence will be pulled together by individuals and organisations so that we can better prepare for the climate changes in years to come.


Local authorities are the real trailblazers in the fight against climate change. Even the United Nations estimate that local authorities across the world, like Carmarthenshire, are responsible for more than 70% of climate change reduction measures. For local leaders like myself, better air quality, lower energy costs, improved transport systems and green growth makes both political and economic sense.


You’ve already heard me mention the importance of improved rail transport and the opportunity of taking more and more freight off our roads and in a few minutes’ time you’ll hear us discuss a proposal from one of our councillors, Aled Vaughn Owen.  More than most of us, Aled recognises that there must be change, and in his notice of motion he’ll be asking us to make Carmarthenshire a net zero carbon local authority by 2030. 


I’ve spoken a lot about the plans we have for the future and the changes that we have to make.  But I should also tell you a little about the things we’ve already put in place.


About six months ago, one of our youngest councillors, Councillor Liam Bowen, submitted a notice of motion to this council requesting that we join Ceredigion Council in creating and supporting plastic-free schemes across the County.  These Plastic Free campaigns stem from a wider Surfers Against Sewage “Plastic Free Coastlines” campaign against single-use plastics, that we’re already very aware of thanks to the great work that’s been undertaken in that context by David Attenborough. The plastics we use once and throw away, such as plastic cutlery, drinks bottles and polystyrene takeaway boxes.  He asked the council to firstly reduce single-use plastics in Council buildings and offices including banning plastic cups and straws.  He also asked us to encourage businesses, organisations, schools and local communities to stop using single-use plastics and to start to use sustainable materials.  He wanted us to promote the use of sustainable materials instead of single-use plastics at all events that are supported by the Council.  And finally, we were asked to support beach cleans and any other events designed to raise awareness of issues relating to single-use plastics under those "plastic free” schemes.


You won’t be surprised to learn that he received the unanimous support of this Council


We already have a policy of integrating low and zero carbon technologies into major building works projects such as the PV installations at Ysgol Bro Dinefwr and Ysgol Carreg Hirfaen. We also delivered the first fully accredited Passivhaus school building in Wales at Burry Port


The council has taken delivery also of 28 new refuse or rubbish lorries; costing around £4million.  They provide a more efficient service to residents and also help to increase the county’s recycling rate.   They have a separate compartment to keep food waste separate from blue and black bags.  All our new vehicles are equipped with the latest emission technology making Carmarthenshire`s vehicle fleet the most modern, emission friendly fleet in Wales, if not the whole of the UK


The Council has developed safe walking and safe cycling routes through Safe routes in the Community and Safe Routes to Schools investment to encourage more sustainable travel. That work is complimented by our Road Safety teams who work with schools to promote initiatives such as the “walking bus” and our wide road safety programme.


The Environment Department has converted much of our street lighting to LED units in a bid to reduce energy costs as well as CO² emissions.


Carmarthenshire was the first Council in Wales to introduce electric pool car vehicles around seven years ago. We’ve recently secured funding for plug-in chargersfollowing an increase in electric vehicle sales.  These fast chargers will enhance our current provision in Carmarthenshire, and offer motorists a more accessible service. We’ll be looking at installing more of these points across the county to meet the growing demand for electric and plug-in hybrid cars.


Last year, the council also won a prestigious national award for a wildlife conservation project.  The project won first prize in the Excellence in Planning for Natural Environment category at the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Awards for Planning Excellence 2018 held at a ceremony in London.  These days conservation quite rightly plays an integral part in the planning process.


There’s so much more that I could tell you and even then there’s so much more that we can do again in the future. That will be part of the next discussion that I’m sure you’ll stay with us Coral to listen to. Carmarthenshire, we like to think has always been at the vanguard of social cohesion and change. This administration has no reason to back away from that in any way, but to support that for the future. I would also add for information to all councillors that Coral has sent me a link to a document, a petition, to be signed because they are taking this campaign not only to local authorities but to Welsh Government to ask them to sign up to the national climate emergency measures in Cardiff. They need 5,000 signatures before Welsh Government will listen or, accept that petition. At the moment, I think it’s about 1,200 but I’m sending that link to all 74 councillors here Coral, and thank you for the link, and I’m hoping that not only councillors will sign that petition, as that’s another 74 and officers, so that makes it nearer to 90, but they’ll also be sending that link on to residents in their own wards so that we can get to that 5,000 as quickly as we can, so you can get that petition safely in to Welsh Government.


Once again Coral, thank you very much for coming here today, for asking such a relevant question with you being so brave and the confidence that you have shown here today for the future. Thank you very much Coral.