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Wales can tackle climate change while protecting industry, jobs and future generations

Wales can play a leading role in tackling climate change while growing its economy and improving the wellbeing of its population, the Committee on Climate Change says today in a new report.

Building a low-carbon economy in Wales – Setting Welsh carbon targets provides independent advice to the Welsh Government on the level at which to set Welsh carbon budgets and interim targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Wales has committed to a legally-binding target to reduce its emissions in 2050 by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels. The Committee recommends that the first carbon budget for the period 2016-20 limits emissions to an average of 23% below 1990 levels, and the second carbon budget (2021-25) to an average of 33% below 1990 levels. The Welsh carbon budgets set out a pathway to meeting the 2050 target whilst ensuring that costs to businesses and households are manageable, and providing significant benefits to Welsh society including cleaner air and reduced fuel poverty.

Emissions in Wales have fallen by 19% from 1990 to 2015. This compares with a 37% reduction for the UK as a whole over the same period. The Committee’s assessment suggests that achieving an 80% reduction by 2050 in Wales will be more challenging than the equivalent reduction for the UK.

The Committee’s advice therefore takes into account specific factors relating to the Welsh economy and its sources of emissions. For example, ways to reduce emissions from electricity generation and waste are relatively easy to determine. In other sectors, including agriculture and industry, emissions will be harder to cut. To protect vital Welsh industry, including steel production, the Committee recommends early decarbonisation of electricity generation and waste and moves away from the use of fluorinated gases. Emissions reductions from industry take place later, in the 2030s and 2040s.

The Committee also makes a number of recommendations about reducing emissions in sectors where powers are devolved to the Welsh Government, including:

  • Ensure buildings are highly energy efficient. Improvements to the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings is of major importance in order to reduce emissions, energy bills and levels of fuel poverty in Wales. The Welsh Government should use its devolved powers to ensure that new buildings are highly energy efficient and are designed to enable the installation of low-carbon heating systems.
  • Reduce emissions from transport. Increased use of public transport and active travel, such as cycling and walking, will help Wales to meet its emissions targets and provide wider benefits to Welsh society. Uptake of electric vehicles has been slow in Wales to date. A better network of charging points is needed, especially in mid-Wales, as well as improved electric vehicle parking and use of priority lanes.
  • Reduce emissions from agriculture. Agricultural emissions account for 13% of Wales’ emissions. The Welsh Government should move beyond the current voluntary approach to reducing emissions from farming. It should consider replacing the Common Agricultural Policy with a framework that supports action to reduce emissions and improves the resilience of the natural environment to the impacts of climate change.
  • Increase tree planting. Whilst the Welsh Government has previously announced highly ambitious tree-planting targets, current rates are far below the level required. The Committee advises that tree planting rates should increase to at least 4,000 hectares per year.
  • Provide more electricity from low-carbon sources. Wales recently announced its intention to generate 70% of its electricity consumption from renewables by 2030. This is consistent with the Committee’s scenarios and complements emissions reduction targets in the Environment (Wales) Act. Renewable electricity generation in Wales can contribute to decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity system as a whole and provide economic benefits in Wales.

Lord Deben, CCC Chairman said: “Wales has set itself an ambitious but achievable emissions reduction target for 2050 as part of the global effort to tackle climate change. The carbon targets we are recommending today present a pathway for Wales to decarbonise its economy while protecting Welsh industry, jobs and future generations.”

Notes to Editors

  1. In March 2016, the Environment (Wales) Act received Royal Assent. It sets a 2050 target to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels and provides the legislative framework for establishing a carbon budgeting approach in Wales. The Act requires that before the end of 2018, Welsh Ministers must set in regulation interim emissions targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040, together with 5-year carbon budgets for the periods 2016-2020 and 2021-2025. The Environment Act is part of a wider framework in Wales, including the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, which places the need to tackle climate change within the context of goals for wider society.
  2. The Committee was asked by the Welsh Government to provide independent advice on the setting of carbon budgets and interim emissions targets. Prior to today’s report, in April 2017 the Committee advised on carbon accounting and design of Welsh carbon targets. The Welsh Government stated in July that it accepted the Committee’s recommendations on the design of the targets, including that they should be set on the basis of actual emissions in Wales, unadjusted for trading.
  3. Interim targets. The targets recommend by the Committee for 2020, 2030 and 2040 are on a path to the target of an 80% reduction in Welsh emissions by 2050. Of these, the key targets are those from 2030 onwards, as there is relatively little that the Welsh Government can do in policy terms to meet the 2020 target. The target for 2020 reflects anticipated reductions in emissions from fossil fuel power generation, especially coal.
    Recommended interim target for 2020: an emissions reduction of 27% on 1990 levels.
    Recommended interim target for 2030: an emissions reduction of 45% on 1990 levels.
    Recommended interim target for 2040: an emissions reduction of 67% on 1990 levels.
  4. Adjustment in case of the Aberthaw coal plant closing before 2025. The recommended levels of the 2020 target and the first two carbon budgets allow for continued generation, though declining, from the large Aberthaw coal-fired power station in South Wales. If emissions from this coal plant cease prior to 2025, these targets should be tightened in order to maintain the ambition embodied in the recommended 2020 target and carbon budgets across the rest of the Welsh economy. The Committee’s recommendations (in Chapter 5 of the report) set out the appropriate adjustments. For example, closure of the coal plant before 2020 should lead to Wales’ 2020 interim target being tightened to a reduction of 34% on 1990 levels.
  5. Carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Committee’s analysis for Wales allows for an important role for carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) applied to heavy industry. However, given potential CO2 storage sites are not conveniently situated for sequestration of Welsh emissions, it is unlikely that CCS energy generation (e.g. power stations) would be sited in Wales rather than elsewhere in the UK. For this reason, we do not assume any deployment of bioenergy with CCS (i.e. BECCS) or application to fossil power stations in our Welsh scenarios. The absence of BECCS in particular means that it is extremely hard for overall emissions in Wales to reach very low levels.