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Citing Recent Protests, Wales Declares Climate Emergency

Announcement comes days before UK vote in Commons on possible climate emergency declaration.

Activists inflated a huge warming earth globe outside Scottish government headquarters at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh in 2017 to highlight the emergency of climate change.

Activists inflated a huge warming earth globe outside Scottish government headquarters at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh in 2017 to highlight the emergency of climate change.  (Photo: Friends of the Earth Scotland/flickr/cc)

The Welsh government on Monday declared a climate emergency in hopes that doing so would "trigger a wave of action at home and internationally."

The declaration comes a day after the Scottish first minister made a similar pronouncement.

"Tackling climate change is not an issue which can be left to individuals or to the free market," Welsh environment minister Lesley Griffiths said in a statement. "It requires collective action and the government has a central role to making that collective action possible."

"No nation in the world has yet fully grasped this challenge but just as Wales played a leading role in the first industrial revolution," said Griffiths, "I believe Wales can provide an example to others of what it means to achieve environmental growth."

"Our sustainable development and environmental legislation is already recognized as world-leading ," she added, "and now we must use that legislation to set a new pace of change."

The statement also "highlights the recent climate protests across the U.K."

The Welsh declaration drew the attention of Swedish climate protester Greta Thunberg, who catalyzed the school climate strikes. "Activism works. So act," she tweeted.

Others, like Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew R.T. Davies, expressed skepticism.

"Only recently Labour's environment minister set emissions targets that actually fell short of those demanded by the Paris Agreement," said Davies, "so we await to see what action will be taken to ensure this isn't just another empty pledge from a Welsh Labour government that has consistently failed to deliver on its promises during its twenty years in government."

Climate mobilization Extinction Rebellion gave the announcement a tepid welcome.

"This has seen them start to #TellTheTruth about some of the climate and ecological crisis," the group said. "They must now halt biodiversity loss, go net #ZeroCarbon2025, and create a #CitizensAssembly."

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The U.K.-based Youth Strike for Climate, meanwhile, pointed to Wednesday as a possible turning point.

That's when Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party will force a Commons vote on whether to declare a climate emergency, and put "Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so," the Guardian reported.

"If our Parliament does the right thing and declares a climate emergency," said Corbyn, "it could trigger... [a]ctions that could save our planet."

Pointing to the kind of sustained actions young people like Thunberg have taken, Corbyn added, "The inspiring climate activism we've seen in recent weeks must serve as a massive and necessary wake up call for rapid and dramatic action."

Others, however, wonder whether Labour was ready to go beyond a climate declaration and really walk the climate walk.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas welcomed the upcoming vote, but wrote that "with the clock ticking we must be honest about the need to go much further, about a bold vision that puts an end to the 'growth at all costs' economic model."

She added:

We cannot tackle climate change whilst at the same time backing new fossil fuel extraction. Britain's first new deep coal mine in 30 years has been given the go-ahead by Cumbria County Council—backed by Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Conservative councillors. This decision is a slap in the face for the young people striking for a future.

Corbyn, for his part, said the vote gives Parliament "the chance to be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency, which we hope will trigger a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the world."

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