Drakeford: Labour will put climate crisis fight at heart of Senedd campaign

Elliot Chappell

Mark Drakeford will set out the ground on which the Welsh Labour Party will fight the Senedd election in May this year, with a programme that he will argue puts fighting the climate crisis “at the heart of everything we do”.

In a keynote speech to the Welsh Labour online ‘Spring Forward’ event on Friday morning, Drakeford is expected to outline his ambitions for the devolved nation as his party adopts the new strapline for the election: “Moving Wales Forward”.

“Our history has taught us, from the coal field to the rugby field, that when we work together we are always stronger than any one of us can be standing alone,” the Welsh Labour leader will tell those watching the online event.

“Now, as we look ahead, it is that same shared experience that gives us grounds for optimism. Not only that there is a future beyond this pandemic, but that tomorrow can be fairer and stronger than today.”

He is expected to set out a plan to create a cleaner, greener nation on a platform supporting green jobs, taking action to ban single use plastics, building low-carbon affordable homes and creating a new National Forest.

The Welsh administration announced in March last year that it would be investing £5m into a new scheme to create a national forest across the length and breadth of Wales by linking existing woodland with new forests, parkland and hedges.

Drakeford will describe an “ambition that puts meaningful action behind our urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, to put it at the heart of everything we do because we’ve proved that we can do it”.

The Welsh government announced a record-high recycling rate of 65.14% for 2019/20, exceeding its own statutory target of 64%. The nation is first in the UK for household waste recycling, second in Europe and third in the world.

The First Minister is expected to highlight some of the achievements of his government, including on recycling, while also explaining during his speech that he has the “humility to know how much more we have still to do”.

“The next Welsh Labour government will match the scale of that need with ambition. To ensure we leave a living legacy for those generations who come after us,” the First Minister will tell those attending the speech virtually.

“And to be ambitious in a way that uses the natural strengths of Wales to create the jobs and prosperity of the future. Just last year, over half the electricity we used here in Wales was generated from our own renewable sources.

“We are so lucky, in our country, to have all the natural resources we need to put Wales at the forefront of the global energy revolution which the world will need. Wind, water and wave.

“The next Welsh Labour government will make those assets work to create the jobs of the future. And in doing so make our contribution to securing the future of our beautiful but fragile planet.”

The Welsh Labour leader is expected to argue that his party has a clearly and unapologetically patriotic agenda for the devolved nation, declaring the need for a more powerful devolution settlement for Wales.

“One in which we secure home rule for Wales – in a successful United Kingdom. Internationalist, not nationalist. Outward facing, not inward looking,” he will say.

“Yes for Wales, of course – that’s what I have been throughout my whole life – but yes to a Wales that takes ownership of its own destiny alongside working people in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland who share our progressive values.

“Yes to a Wales which has the confidence of knowing that we are at our best when we break down barriers, not build them up. Where we create our future alongside others, not despite or against them.”

The Welsh Labour leader’s speech comes after Keir Starmer announced the launch of a UK-wide constitutional commission in December, describing devolution as “one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government”.

The move followed calls from across the labour movement and the UK for greater devolution, including from Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a coalition of English, Welsh and Scottish figures.

A report released last month, introduced by Drakeford, called for the transfer of power away from Westminster “through the Welsh Senedd and the Scottish parliament, to the cities and their regions, closer to people and their communities”.

The first Welsh Political Barometer poll of 2021 showed Labour ahead in the contest for the Senedd last month, with 34% of voters backing the Welsh Labour Party. This was down four points on the previous research carried out in October last year.

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