Page last updated at 20:22 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009

Leadership trio's eco-credentials

GM crop
Whoever will be Wales' new leader will face hostile attitudes to GM crops

BBC Wales environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd considers where the three candidates for the Welsh Labour leadership stand on nuclear power, coal and GM crops.


The Senedd in Cardiff Bay is one of Wales' greenest buildings.

It is the political home of Health Minister Edwina Hart, Counsel General Carwyn Jones and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM Huw Lewis, who all want to be Wales' next leader.

They want to reduce carbon emissions and for Wales to be more sustainable - but can they back it up?

Lila Haines from Oxfam Cymru said she was "heartened" that the three recognised the need for a "serious approach" and for cutting carbon emissions.

"I hope they'd keep in mind that the poor of Wales, as well as the poor of the rest of the world, are those who are likely to suffer first, to be in the front line when it comes to climate charge hitting hard in Wales," she said.

If we are going to move forward it should be science based, and we should never close our eyes to new technology
Dai Davies, NFU Cymru

"However, I have some reservations about the extent to which they've actually thought through the implications of that headline commitment, when it comes to the individual sectors of the manifestos," she added.

Energy and how we get electricity is becoming increasingly important.

The UK government showed its appetite for nuclear again on Monday, as it unveiled a list of 10 proposed sites for a new generation of nuclear power stations, including Wylfa on Anglesey.

So where do the contenders stand?

Huw Lewis supports nuclear power and a Seven Barrage.

He still wants coal to be mined but is less sure about opencast. Ironically, the massive Ffos y Fran opencast site is in his constituency.

Opencast mining

Carwyn Jones supports a second Wylfa nuclear plant on Anglesey.

Welsh coal, he says, should be used in Wales rather than importing from abroad.

But he is opposed to opencast mining, including extending the Parc Slip site, near Kenfig Hill in his Bridgend constituency.

Health Minister Edwina Hart is wary about nuclear power, especially nuclear waste.

In her manifesto she says "...only the highest degree of scepticism is sensible".

She supports all types of coal mining, especially if carbon-capture technology is implemented.

Ms Haines expressed doubts about the concept of such advances making the fossil fuel environment friendly.

'GM-free Wales'

"The idea that coal can be clean is one that is very hard to take on board," she said.

"I think this really shows that we do need to give an awful lot more consideration to how Wales actually goes about hitting its current targets of 3% a year cuts in carbon, and trebling that target [to 9%] because that's what the science now indicates we actually need to be doing."

Agriculture is barely mentioned in the manifestos, but there are hostile attitudes to genetically modified crops.

Mrs Hart and Mr Jones want Wales to be GM-free, while Huw Lewis is sceptical that such a policy can be delivered.

NFU Cymru president Dai Davies urged the three would-be leaders to decide their views on this controversial issue on the best available evidence.

'Science not pre-conception'

"If we are going to move forward it should be science based, and we should never close our eyes to new technology," he warned.

"We are facing a crisis as far as climate change is concerned, and also feed security.

"We don't know at what stage GM may play a major part as far as that is concerned," he added.

Mr Davies insisted it was essential decisions were based on "science not pre-conception".

The emphasis in these manifestos is to ask for votes from Labour supporters, rather than backing from the wider electorate.

And whichever policies - green or otherwise - they may want to follow, that may well be constrained by the budget and being in a coalition government.




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