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Net Zero Wales by 2050: Wales faces a decisive decade to get on track to an emissions-free future

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) today urges Wales to become a Net Zero nation, bringing multiple benefits for Welsh jobs, health and the natural environment.

In 2019, the Welsh Government set out its ambition to renew the Welsh economy as part of the global transition to Net Zero emissions. In new advice to Welsh ministers, the CCC demonstrates that Net Zero by 2050 is now the right target for Wales.

To achieve this goal, a major investment programme is needed across Wales. In common with the rest of the UK, that new investment can be key to the economic recovery from COVID-19 over the next decade. In many sectors, the Net Zero transition will bring real savings, as people use fewer resources and adopt cleaner, more-efficient technologies like electric cars. But the transition must also spread the costs fairly and that requires coordinated support from the Welsh and Westminster governments to manage the burden and share the benefits.

The Committee also recommends a challenging set of interim emissions targets on the pathway to a Net Zero Wales, which should be legislated in the first half of 2021. These will ensure that Wales contributes its fair share of emissions reductions to the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise, as the world prepares for the Glasgow Climate Summit in 2021.

Climate Change Committee Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “Now is the time for Wales to join the Net Zero club. The 2020s are the key period to scale up the Welsh ambition to decarbonise. No single solution, or single sector, can deliver Net Zero alone; action is required across all areas. It will bring Wales new jobs, new industries, better health, cleaner air, and real improvements to the outstanding Welsh natural environment.”

A Net Zero Wales is possible with action in four key areas:

  • Taking up low-carbon solutions. People and businesses can adopt low-carbon solutions as high-carbon options are phased out. By the early 2030s all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings will be low-carbon – largely electric. By2040, all new heavy goods vehicles should be low-carbon. The South Wales industrial cluster, and other industrial sites in Wales, will switch away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives or install carbon capture and storage technology at scale from the mid-2030s.
  • Expanding low-carbon energy supplies. New demands for clean electricity from transport, buildings and industry mean electricity supply in Wales must double by 2050. In Wales, low-carbon electricity generation will shift from 27% now to 100% by 2035, cutting Welsh power sector emissions by more than 95%. Low-carbon hydrogen, produced using electricity or from fossil gas with carbon capture and storage, is needed in shipping and parts of industry less suited to electricity use, as well as potentially in trucks.
  • Reducing demand for high-carbon activities. In line with the Committee’s recommendations for the UK as a whole, diets in Wales can shift away from meat and dairy products, waste will continue to reduce, and growth in flights and travel demand will slow. Buildings must become better insulated, and vehicle and industrial efficiency will improve. These changes can happen over time, bringing multiple benefits to the economy, health and wellbeing.
  • Transforming land. A transformation is needed in Wales’ use of land. By 2030, 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland must be planted in Wales to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, increasing to 180,000 hectares by 2050. With the right policies this can be a new source of revenue to Welsh farmers. A further 56,000 hectares of agricultural land can shift to bioenergy production by 2050. Wales’ peatlands must be restored and managed sustainably and low-carbon farming practices can be adopted widely.

In its Progress Report to the Senedd, also published today, the Committee finds that Welsh ministers are taking the challenge of climate change seriously. Wales’ emissions have fallen 31% since 1990, compared to 41% for the UK as a whole. Emissions fell by 20% in just two years from 2016 to 2018, with the closure ofWales’ last coal-fired power station.

The Welsh Government has made important policy improvements since 2017, setting an example to other parts of the UK. This includes an ambitious waste strategy and one of the world’s highest recycling rates, the development of a low-carbon delivery plan; a draft transport strategy focusing on active travel and public transport; and the inclusion of ‘green recovery principles’ in the Welsh Government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But significant gaps remain. Despite good progress, Wales is not yet on track to meet its existing, less stringent, 80% emissions target. A cohesive, economy-wide strategy for 2050, that ties in with UK-wide plans, is urgently needed if Wales is to reach Net Zero by that date.

Notes to editors:

  • Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, Wales is required to contribute to the UK 2050 Net Zero target and the UK’s carbon budgets. The Act assigns to Welsh Ministers the duty to report on the Welsh Government’s objectives, actions and future priorities regarding the impacts of climate change to the Welsh Parliament.
  • Wales accounts for around 10% of UK emissions in the CCC’s Balanced Net Zero Pathway, as set out in its Sixth Carbon Budget advice.
  • Demand for electricity is expected to double in Wales (and the rest of the UK) by 2050. The additional supply that is needed could be located in Wales or elsewhere on the GB grid.
  • Welsh territorial emissions in 2018 were 41 MtCO2e, 31% below 1990 levels. The Welsh economy has grown by 40% since 1998.