(Title Image: Climate Change Commission for Wales)
Chair of the Environment Committee, Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East), warned AMs that Welsh greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry were either flat or heading in the wrong direction after big declines across the rest of the UK. He was in no doubt who was to blame:
“I feel a bit bad about this because I’m blaming the Welsh Government for the increase in these levels, but we could be reducing them if the Government at Westminster had supported the tidal lagoon, which would have produced energy that would not be costing so much in terms of emissions.”
Committee Chair, Mike Hedges AM
The new Shadow Secretary for Environment & Rural Affairs, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), talked up the prospect of electric and low carbon vehicles, as well as the potential positive impact of reforestation programmes – targets for which, he added, were still being missed.
“The Government, to its credit, had a very ambitious target of 100,000 hectares to be planted, and it hasn’t even scratched the surface….I think there are still 96,000 hectares to be met if that target is to be delivered in the time frame the Government set itself.”
-Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Secretary, Andrew RT Davies AM
Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) was in no doubt the Welsh Government will fail to hit its targets. He warned the “freezing” of some EU environmental powers in London after Brexit may frustrate things further. He was also disappointed the government refused to accept the need for a full review of the Active Travel Act.
Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) was more positive, particularly in the realm of energy efficiency, talking up the “huge progress” that’s been made in innovative housing programmes which result in homes generating more energy than they consume; though they’re still only small-scale developments for now.
After a contribution from UKIP’s Neil Hamilton in which he reaffirmed a commitment to climate change denialism, Caroline Jones AM (Ind, South Wales West) – while not mentioning names – took a barbed swipe:
“Climate change is the biggest threat facing our planet, and those who deny its impact or our role in creating it have thankfully been relegated to the fringe, along with the other crackpot conspiracy theorists, such as the flat-earthers or those who believe that lunar landings were fake.”
– Caroline Jones AM
She hoped initiatives – such as the one in Caerphilly on electric public transport – can be replicated across Wales with government support.
Already making progress
Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), accepted all but one of the Committee’s recommendations and said progress was already been made on some of them, with a particular commitment to retrofitting all homes.
“We’ve established an advisory group on the decarbonisation of homes in Wales to advise Ministers on a programme of action to retrofit all residential properties by 2050 to meet the requirements of the Environment Act, and we’ll have that report next year.”
– Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths
The Secretary also confirmed a “realistic and practical” woodlands strategy was being developed by the Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn).
In reply, Mike Hedges AM believed the government were moving in the right direction but stressed the need for greater renewable energy generating capacity to cope with a switch to electric vehicles.