Welsh Government has set out its legal commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but is pushing to “get there sooner” as it gets ready for COP26 [26th United Nations’ Climate Change Conference of the Parties] in November.
The move comes following a recommendation report by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that revealed net zero emissions, previously thought unachievable and unaffordable by experts, was now possible with ambitious policy and a ‘Team Wales’ effort.
The new evidence from the CCC says greater reductions within the industrial sector will help achieve this goal, as a large proportion of Welsh emissions come from a small number of big emitters, such as Port Talbot steelworks.
The report also highlights the need for everyone in Wales to do their bit to drive emissions down, with more than half of the recommendations being partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes with a large reduction in the amount of energy and natural resources we use. This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, shop and heat our homes, while switching to lower carbon diets.
The report also draws attention to the inter-dependency of UK and Welsh actions and targets. The UK cannot reach net zero without action in Wales, but equally Wales needs the UK Government to step up to the challenge and ensure a swift, fair and equitable transition to a low carbon future.
Welsh Government has already announced a suite of measures this year to respond to the climate emergency and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. These changes go beyond carbon saving targets as they will benefit the health of the people of Wales and give its wildlife and natural world a chance to prosper.
These include plans on achieving cleaner air, putting an end to harmful agricultural pollution, a decisive shift away from fossil fuel extraction and towards green energy, working towards a net zero public sector in Wales by 2030, and going beyond recycling and making Wales a zero waste nation.
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has also announced the creation of a National Forest for Wales, where a connected forest ecosystem will extend the length of the country.
The recommended emissions reductions pathway set by CCC in their advice would mean Wales will meet its commitments under the landmark Paris Agreement, in a bid to limit global heating to 1.5°C. However, new science points to a much graver global trajectory, with a recent report by the United Nations estimating the world is on track to warm by more than 3°C. This is predicted to cause more destructive weather events, the displacement of hundreds of millions of people around the world, and irreparable damage to the world’s ecosystems.
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said:
“We were the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, but now we will use the new science to make our long-held ambition of a Net Zero Wales, a reality. While we have set our intention to achieve this by 2050 in law today, we will continue to do all we can to get there sooner. The global climate outlook is grave, and we will not shy away from stopping harmful emissions being pumped into our atmosphere and heating our planet. Business as usual is not an option.
“As with Covid, climate change will impact us all, but the stark reality remains that our most vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest. The transition towards a Net Zero Wales must be fair and just, a green and clean future which means good quality jobs and leaves no communities behind.
“Recent flooding events have painfully reminded us the havoc our changing weather is already wreaking. The science is telling us events such as these will continue to increase and intensify as our world gets warmer.
“While we are a small country, we punch big when it comes to doing the right thing. Wales was one of the worst recyclers in the world before devolution, and now it’s one of the best. We were central to the industrial revolution as we supplied the world with coal from our hillsides, but now we look to a future of green energy and jobs. We also banned fracking as we knew the risks to our environment and the safety to the people of Wales were far too high.
“Perhaps most importantly, we are the first country in the world to have enshrined in law a Future Generations Act. This means that any decision the government makes today must be the right thing for our children and grandchildren, and their children too.
“These ambitious new targets to make a Net Zero Wales is the right thing to do, but not the easiest thing to do. Through Covid we have shown a Team Wales effort that has saved lives and protected our NHS, and I am calling on everyone to use the same spirit to build the Wales we want for our future generations.”