A Challenge to the Climate Movement: Meeting my local Conservative MP, Guto Bebb.

Geography student Laura writes about her experience meeting Guto Bebb, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Wales.

I was a bit nervous about visiting my local Conservative MP for the first time for a couple of reasons; firstly, I haven’t lived in Wales for very long so I hoped I would know enough about the local area, and secondly because I wasn’t sure how serious Guto would be about climate change. I have been disappointed with some of the recent changes made by the Government on climate change and hoped this wouldn’t be a barrier to having a constructive conversation with him. However, Mr Bebb gave me over an hour of his time and was very forthcoming with advice, information, his own opinions and offers to connect me with others in the constituency working on climate change. I came away from the meeting feeling so positive, it was a really great experience!

One of the things that struck me the most was that Mr Bebb did not consider himself an expert on climate change, but his general knowledge and understanding of the opportunities for renewable energy in Northern Wales was really inspiring. He has been pushing hard to secure the Government’s investment in a tidal lagoon in Swansea (you can read more about his work on this here). If successful, this will likely mean a similar project in Cardiff too. We also talked about local hydro energy and the recent development of offshore wind, which Mr Bebb is also supportive of.

Something I really valued from the meeting was Mr Bebb’s knowledge of the other side of the argument from his constituents such as those with concerns about certain local renewable energy projects. We both agreed that usually, once built, renewable energy becomes part and parcel of the landscape and no one really notices it anymore, but I was interested to learn about some of the implications of the current flood defences which are causing problems downstream, unsettling some of the local constituents. This made me realise how MPs have to hold a holistic view of the whole constituency whilst others don't necessarily understand the full picture. 

I made some challenges to Mr Bebb, for example, how the farming industry can reduce its emissions, and Mr Bebb also made some challenges to myself and the climate movement at large; mainly that actions speak louder than words. We can tell people about the need to change our lifestyles, and most people are aware of that, but as a movement we need to think carefully about how we can present our message so that it leads to real behaviour change.

The meeting certainly gave me plenty to think about!

“We all remember that the storms of December 2013 and January 2014 caused some £5m of damage to our coastal defences and badly affected homes and businesses. If a cost benefit analysis was to be done in relation to a North Wales tidal lagoon surely the savings on sea defences should be part of the consideration? I made my point, I wonder whether the Energy Minister will listen?”
— Guto Bebb MP, March 2016