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Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

First published:
17 December 2020
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Today the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has published its progress report for Wales and its advice for Wales’ emissions pathway to 2050. Drawing on the most recent data to 2018, the CCC recognises Wales is on track to meet Carbon Budget 1 (2016-20) as long as emissions do not increase in 2019 and 2020.

Last year, the advice of the CCC was that the highest possible ambition for Wales was a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050. On the basis of the evidence and their analysis they were clear we should not aim below that target but equally to aim higher would not be credible. I accepted the advice and committed to increasing Wales’ 2050 emissions reduction target from 80% to 95% in line with their recommendation. This would represent Wales’ fair contribution to the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement and make a contribution equal to those of the other nations of the UK towards a shared net zero goal.

On accepting the advice I was also clear that our ambition in Wales should be in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement in which richer, developed nations should set in law a net zero target by the middle of this century. On this basis and over the last year Welsh Government have worked with CCC and Welsh stakeholders to draw on further evidence and analysis to test the credibility of this ambition. The advice from the CCC today is clear on the basis of evidence and independent analysis they can confirm there is a credible, feasible and affordable path to net zero for Wales by 2050.

This dialogue between CCC and those, including the Welsh Government, who wish to raise the ambition of Wales’ action on climate reflects the principle of progression in the Paris Agreement. In setting a more ambitious path for Wales we will not take the easy option of determining for ourselves an attractive target years in the future only to leave the question of how it can credibly be delivered to future administrations and future generations. Instead of taking that easy option we have remained committed to subjecting our ambitions to the independent scrutiny of the CCC. In doing so, we create a solid foundation to build a low carbon Wales.

We will now consider the advice, along with other evidence as required by the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. I intend to bring regulations to the Senedd early next year to update Wales’ emissions reduction pathway to set a path to net zero, well ahead of the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP26 (COP26) in November. Progress in emissions reduction in Wales will rely on accelerated action from governments in Cardiff and Westminster, business and communities; to succeed it must be a team Wales approach.

Last week the UN reported the current pledges under the Paris Agreement put the world on the path to a 3.2°C increase this century, even if they are all fully delivered. The impact of this level of warming could cause even more devastating extreme weather events in Wales, could displace hundreds of millions of people around the world, and could cause irreparable damage to the most iconic and vital ecosystems in Wales and globally. In this context, every additional reduction in emissions we can achieve will make a difference to the world we will hand on to future generations. The action we take in Wales can and must be a contribution to the global struggle against catastrophic climate change as well as reducing the emissions generated within our own borders.

In this context we welcome the challenge put to us by CCC in their advice. They tell us the 2020s will be the “decisive decade” and our plan for the second carbon budget to be published in 2021 should focus on the need to “outperform” the recommended 37% average reduction in emissions with a clear line of sight to a 58% average reduction through the third carbon budget up to 2030, in order to set Wales on the path to net zero by 2050.

We will continue to follow the principle of progression, working with the CCC and with partners and communities in Wales to identify ways in which Wales can make an even greater contribution to the global response to the climate emergency.

The CCC are also clear there is more we must do to meet our existing obligations. The CCC have praised the way in which we have fully integrated our response to the climate and nature emergencies in our priorities for reconstruction of our economy in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. They highlight our world beating record on recycling, our proactive role in supporting the deployment of renewable energy at scale in Wales, and our ambitions for our new transport strategy.

They are also clear gaps remain, particularly where there is a need for a coherent UK-wide approach and where the responsibility for regulation of emissions are reserved to the government in Westminster. There are also areas of devolved responsibility where much more rapid progress must be made, including rates of tree planting and emissions reduction from agriculture. These areas must be a particular focus for Welsh Government and all Welsh stakeholders as we prepare to put even more stringent targets in regulation before the Senedd early next year.

The CCC advice is of the highest possible standard but it inevitably involves assumptions to be made, reflecting uncertainties no level of analysis can entirely overcome. These include how willing we will be to change our lifestyles – our homes, our diet, our travel habits – and the rate and success of technological innovation to displace the carbon-intensive technologies on which we currently rely. In this sense, the future is unwritten and our responsibility to future generations is to shape it for the better.

Our commitment as a government is to support Wales’ highest possible ambition in our response to the climate and nature emergency. We have taken action, which pushes the limit of our devolved powers:

  • We have taken a market-shaping approach to the development of zero carbon housing and the decarbonisation of existing homes, through public-sector led exemplar programmes sites that show the market what is possible.
  • During the pandemic, we have expanded our circular economy fund by more than 300% to support Wales to move beyond recycling, as a part of which we are investing in town centre infrastructure to increase re-use and repair.
  • We have continued to work in international solidarity with communities in Wales, Uganda and elsewhere to safeguard an area of rain forest twice the size of Wales, and last year youth activists from Wales and Uganda simultaneously planted trees to celebrate the planting of the ten millionth tree in the Mbale Tree Planting Project in Uganda.
  • To lock-in the positive benefits we have seen from more people working at home, our goal is to have 30% of people working remotely in the future. We are working in partnership with trade unions and businesses to ensure the right support and facilities are in place.
  • We have funded businesses of all kinds in Wales to reduce their emissions through programmes such as the EU-funded SMART Cymru program which provides grants of up to £50,000.
  • We held the first Wales Climate Week in November, with more than 2000 people participating to make their contribution to an all-Wales plan in which the commitments of government are matched by commitments from other public bodies, from businesses and from communities.

Where we have seen success in emissions reduction it has involved collaborative efforts at every level, from households and communities making changes as well as businesses and public bodies creating the circumstances which enable those changes. This kind of collaboration allows us to achieve positive progress beyond the limits of devolved powers, to achieve change that goes beyond anything evidence from the past can tell us with confidence is possible and to facilitate an economic transformation beyond that which can be achieved by the force of regulation alone.

I would urge all those who share our commitment to a world-leading response to the climate emergency in Wales to consider for themselves the CCC advice and the challenges to Wales contained in it, to work with us to accelerate our action on climate and to work with us to identify those areas where through collective effort we can go even further.