Committee members “annoyed” by Welsh Government response to low-carbon home report

(Title Image: Cardiff University)

Yesterday, AMs discussed the Environment Committee’s report on low carbon housing (summary here).

A Pressing Need

Chair of the Committee, Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) said there was a pressing need to meet commitments to reduce carbon emissions and eliminate fuel poverty. The fuel poverty target has already been missed and the Committee’s headline recommendation was for a 10-year Welsh Government programme to develop low-carbon housing.

“We were also concerned to hear stakeholders telling us that existing building standards are not being enforced. Clearly, the system is not functioning. The inspection system needs to be far more rigorous and independent. We have called on the Government to introduce a quality mark for energy saving measures in new builds and retrofit technology to increase consumer confidence in low-carbon homes.”
– Committee Chair, Mike Hedges AM

He said there was a “sense of deja vu” about the Welsh Government’s response – recommendations that were accepted in principle, but little detail on actions other than discussions with expert advisory groups and panels.

This was picked up by Shadow Environment Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central):

“I share Mike’s annoyance, really, with this system of responding to reports and saying ‘accept in principle’. Now, I thought that the Permanent Secretary had already made a commitment that the Welsh Government would not be making this sort of response; it would be doing just what Mike Hedges said: accept, reject, or accept partially. I do wonder, Deputy Presiding Officer, if the Welsh Government were asked, ‘What’s your view about the 10 commandments?’, they’d say, ‘Accept in principle’.”
– David Melding AM

Bold & Long-Term Action

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) – who has only just joined the Committee – pressed the Welsh Government to take “bold and decisive long-term action” to meet its carbon emission commitments.

“The scale and pace of delivering highly energy-efficient homes needs to be urgently increased, or, of course, we’ll fail to meet the challenges that we face. And some of these messages I’ll be expanding upon in our later debate on climate change.”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM

In 2016-17, Llyr added, there were 540 excess deaths as a result of cold homes. He also criticised the Welsh Government for missing an opportunity to set a higher target for energy efficiency; they had an option of setting a 40% or 25% improvement following a consultation but opted for 8%.

Challenges & Opportunities

The Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), said a range of solutions was needed to reduce carbon emissions. New carbon reduction targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040 will be put to AMs for approval in December and a new low carbon delivery plan will be published in March 2019.

“We’ve already committed to the development of a new programme of action that will decarbonise homes in Wales by 80 per cent by 2050. This will have clear milestones and targets. We are currently developing this programme using specifically commissioned independent research to provide a strong evidence base.”
– Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths

The Welsh Government couldn’t support the Committee’s recommendations in full because they were awaiting that independent research. However, a proper costing of home retrofitting was being worked on and its expected that 25,000 homes will have energy efficiency improvements between now and 2021 under existing programmes like Arbed.

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