(Title Image: Emma Eigee via Wales Online)
Climate change is all the rage at the moment and following a number of debates over the last few weeks, the Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), updated AMs on the Welsh Government’s low-carbon plan.
Meeting increased ambitions on climate change
The Minister told AMs there was a collective commitment by the Welsh Government to address climate change, with the low-carbon plan drawing together policies from all government portfolios. As of 2017, carbon emissions from Wales were 25% lower than 1990, but progress has stalled due to the siting of fossil fuel power stations in Wales as well as the impact of heavy industry.
An expert group will be set up to investigate the decarbonisation of Welsh industry. Also, tree-planting will be accelerated, there’ll be additional support for low-carbon vehicles and the use of both public transport and active travel, while an advisory group will be set up to explore how Wales can become less reliant on fossil fuels.
“….next year we will bring forward legislation to adopt a 95% carbon reduction target (compared to 1990), representing a huge increase in ambition from our current 80% target; and before the end of 2021, we will set out our next plan to meet the 2021 to 2025 budget period.”
– Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths
Shadow Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) focused, again, on the economics. There hasn’t been any serious analysis of the potential impact these initiatives would have on the economy and employment, while only 1% of the Welsh Government’s budget is spent on decarbonisation efforts.
Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) later added that there were semi-official estimates that a 95% reduction target would cost the UK £50-70billion a year. He also questioned whether it was possible to fully decarbonise an industry like steel, where coal was a fundamental raw material?
Work should move on swiftly
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) said that while the statements and a newfound sense of urgency were welcome, there were behaviours in the past from Labour which contradicts this – such as their voting down Plaid Cymru proposals to strengthen energy efficiency in new-build homes. Was there even a proper timetable for some of these new actions and measures? If we’re in an emergency situation, then surely measures should be outlined sooner rather than later?
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) said it was “great” Wales was producing 48% of our own energy needs from renewable sources, but there were still a number of things beyond the Welsh Government’s control or facing serious barriers – citing the lack of charging points in Wales as a barrier to uptake of electric vehicles.
“I don’t believe you can ever have too many trees, and I think that we ought to have a lot more woodland than we’ve got now. But have the Welsh Government got any thoughts on trying to create a series of urban forests around urban areas, like the one in Maesteg that Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) speaks very highly of?”
– Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) added that for Wales to catch up with European averages, an additional 22% of land in Wales would need to be re-forested. This would inevitably have an impact on the Welsh red meat industry and may require a rethink of school meals to include more plant-based choices.