Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 6:23 pm, 1st May 2019

We have heard an awful lot about the various approaches we should be taking, but what we have not heard about—this is important—is the impact this is presently having on some of our communities. I am going to do what many MPs do—talk about my constituency. Do not switch off, because what is happening in Fairbourne will be happening in other communities around the United Kingdom and around Wales in the years to come.

The sea is rising 4.7 millimetres a year in Barmouth. That is not exclusive to Barmouth; it is happening everywhere. The spring tides—they do not just happen in spring, but occur 24 times a year—are now higher than the level of the land in Fairbourne. There are 470 properties, with 1,200 people living there. There is a masterplan, but it has very little budget and virtually no statutory power. Some reckon the sea defences, which cost £6 million over the past eight years, can protect for 40 years. It is reckoned that they can be protected at a cost of £10 million, but we do not know where those people or their houses will be in 40 years’ time.

One person has understandably written to me, but she does not want her MP to talk about the challenges faced by Fairbourne. She says that the council and the environment authority are wrong, that the sea is not rising, and that, if it is, that is an unmitigated disaster for everyone, so there is no point in doing anything at all. To quote from recent correspondence:

“Fairbourne is a happy and friendly place to live and everyone gets on with life. So please don’t go stirring up old news now.”

Après moi, le déluge.

Hon. Members can see the political incentive to keep quiet. The easiest thing to do would be to keep my head down, save for the fact that that is the crux of the problem with our short-termism, our self-interest politics. Fairbourne is what a climate change emergency looks like. It is slow, but it is happening, and we have little response to it.