Three years ago I attended the climate change talks in Paris and called on the Welsh Government to formally approve the Paris agreement on Climate Change.
The forests and woodlands that cover around 12% of Wales are crucial pockets of biodiversity which not only provide sanctuary for wildlife, but also protect health, education and jobs.
The move to establish our own targets to reduce carbon emissions in Wales was a historic step toward protecting our biodiversity. However the UK’s exit from the EU brings with it a set of new challenges to the environment. At the top of my list of priorities is making sure that our distinctly Welsh approach is maintained and the levels of protection we currently enjoy are not dismantled.
One of the key issues raised by concerned citizens and civil society has been the use of biofuels in transport and the burning of trees in power plants. A growing number of studies show that the current process of growing biofuels destroys wildlife habitats, contributes to deforestation and has a damaging effect on rural communities. It has proved not to be the answer. We must think more carefully about biofuels and make a distinction between the good and the bad.
This week I will be in Strasbourg for the vote in the European Parliament on the Renewable Energy Directive 2021-2030 and I will support ambitious targets on renewables and try to address some of the underlying issues concerned with the use of biofuels.
Despite the uncertainty we face with leaving the EU, we have the permission, the ambition and the legal obligation to act in the interest of future generations and incorporate sustainable development into every key area of Welsh society.
Despite the challenges, we must be ambitious, demonstrate strong leadership and forge a path to a low carbon and resource efficient future.