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Julie James, Minister for Climate Change

First published:
9 June 2023
Last updated:

Following advice from the Climate Change Committee, the Senedd agreed our first statutory decarbonisation targets in 2018. The were set at 27 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and an average reduction of 23 percent over the period of carbon budget 1. The targets were against our baseline year of 1990. Last year, in line with legislation, we published our  Final Statement for our first carbon budget, confirming that the Welsh Government had not only met the targets but had surpassed them.

In the Statement, I outlined whilst it was positive, there are challenges ahead. To achieve our second carbon budget for 2021-26 we need to follow through on commitments made, such as the trebling of our peatland restoration target, and to develop further policies to accelerate action. The Committee have advised us that we must build on positive progress and take further steps now in order to be on track to continue to meet our targets for the second half of this decade.

I welcome the publication of the Climate Change Committee’s independent Progress report: Reducing emissions in Wales 2023. In the report, I am pleased the CCC have acknowledged where we have made progress such as the progress on local energy planning, development of our skills plan, the “significant and laudable decisions” to change to a default 20mph speed limit and introduce environmental requirements for future road-building, and the recognition that our focus on active travel is making a difference, with Wales having committed more funding per capita to active travel than the UK Government.

I am also grateful to the committee for identifying those areas we should prioritise for further action. A series of actions have been taken forward since the report was developed which will contribute to delivering on the Committee’s recommendations.

The CCC call on us to prioritise our plans to decarbonise public buildings and socially rented homes, describing the need for a detailed plan for delivering energy efficiency measures and low-carbon heat.

Following consultation and intensive engagement with the sector we expect to publish the new Welsh Housing Quality Standard this Autumn. We will also shortly publish details of the new Warm Homes Programme.   

The need for agri-environment financial support to facilitate transition to the Sustainable Farming Scheme is identified as another priority, as is accelerating woodland creation in Wales. We have extended existing agri-environment contracts for 2023 and new schemes have been implemented to encourage more planting until 2025, including the woodland creation grant, Investment grant and the small woodlands scheme.

Even in areas where good progress had been made the committee call on us to do more. This includes contentious areas like the need to reduce emissions from agriculture and the need to deliver further reductions in levels of traffic. We are clear – we agree with the committee that now is the time to strengthen our resolve to make difficult decisions, and not a time for the distraction or delay argued for by critics of the environmental agenda. We hope that this report can help to bring about greater cross-party support in the Senedd for measures to reduce emissions and measures that help those affected by change to adapt.

We have always looked to take a team Wales approach, with a Wales plan, not just a Welsh Government plan. I am glad to see the Committee highlighting the important role of others including the UK Government in some of our biggest emitting sectors such as Energy, Industry and Transport. However, the report also highlights the UK Government has a key role in some of our devolved areas and highlights we have significant risks from lack of UK Government action in areas such as buildings, energy efficiency and low-carbon heat in non-fuel-poor homes. I will continue to press UK Ministers to take the actions within their responsibilities which will enable delivery of decarbonisation whilst protecting social justice. This includes developing further mechanisms to mobilise housing renovation and decarbonisation at scale and creating the funding packages required to enable and incentivise industry in Wales to decarbonise so we can avoid the economic and environmental harm of offshoring the UK’s emissions.  

Climate change requires everyone to act. Now the focus is on the delivery of Net Zero Wales. I welcome the report and will now carefully consider its conclusions before publishing our response before the end of the year.