Wales has made good progress towards reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change, despite a sharp emissions increase in 2010 due to particularly cold winter temperatures, says a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). It also finds Wales’ flood defence budget better protected than England, although this is still unlikely to keep pace with the growing risk of flooding from climate change.
On the implementation of emission reduction measures, there has been good progress in the residential and waste sectors. Wales has a 53% household recycling rate. This is the highest across the UK, and Wales is the only country within the UK where all local authorities provide for separate food waste collections. The Welsh Government continues to fund the ‘arbed’ residential energy investment scheme, and has successfully drawn in funding from Great Britain wide schemes to support energy efficiency improvement and investment in renewable heat.
However, challenges remain. The Committee has made a number of recommendations to build on progress achieved:
- The effect of exceptionally cold winter temperatures, as seen in 2010, coupled with high rates of fuel poverty, highlights the need to increase roll out of residential energy efficiency measures. In particular, the Welsh Government should set out its strategy for promoting the Green Deal and ensure Wales continues to receive a commensurate share of funding from supplier programmes (i.e. the ECO).
- The development of a renewable heat strategy will help to ensure that Wales makes good use of Great Britain level funding and addresses barriers to uptake.
- More generally, continued and increased effort will be required across all sectors, to meet Wales’ challenging emission targets.
- It will be important for the Welsh Government to complete its monitoring framework in order to be able to report effectively on progress meeting emissions reduction targets.
On progress in adapting to climate change, the Committee found that:
- Development in the coastal floodplain has grown twice as fast than outside it since 2001, although the rate of increase has declined somewhat since 2008.
- The majority of this development is well protected from flooding – either by flood defences or resilience measures at the property level. However, just over one-fifth of floodplain development occurred in areas currently at significant risk of flooding.
- The area of hard surfacing in Welsh towns and cities has increased at the expense of green space, with potentially adverse implications for surface water flood risk over coming decades.
The Committee’s recommendations for developing the adaptation policy framework suggest the Welsh Government:
- Sets out how it will ensure that businesses have a clear source of advice on adaptation – to complement current advice being given to the public sector.
- Ensures the remaining sectoral adaptation plans (for infrastructure, business and tourism, and communities) are produced over the coming year.
- Implements a robust planning policy in relation to development in the floodplain and the design of urban areas.
The Welsh Government also asked the Committee to assess potential climate change provisions in the context of the upcoming Environment Bill. This provides an opportunity to put the current approach on a statutory basis. It could be helpful in addressing uncertainty and strengthening incentives if statutory targets were to be based on a robust assessment of cost-effective abatement potential and within the Welsh Government’s sphere of influence.
A statutory duty on public bodies on mitigation and adaptation objectives could be helpful but needs consideration of the tie-in with the proposed Sustainable Development duty in Wales.
David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee said:
“ Wales continues to make good progress in reducing emissions, particularly through residential energy efficiency improvement and waste policies. But Welsh targets remain very challenging and much remains to be done. More is needed on energy efficiency improvement, renewable heat, and renewable power generation, and opportunities to reduce surface transport emissions should also be further explored in order that Wales’ targets are to be achieved.”