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Welsh Government’s Net Zero Plan Needs a Rural Focus

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The Welsh Government’s Net Zero Wales plan raises questions about an ambitious vision can be delivered, says Nigel Hollett, Director CLA Cymru.

The Plan, launched by the Climate Change Minister last week, outlines a comprehensive range of initiatives dramatically to reduce Wales’ carbon emissions, including modifying diet and sourcing food locally, and sustainable house-building projects.

Net Zero will not be achieved without harnessing land and green spaces’ natural capacity to absorb carbon. Meat & dairy products will still form a part of a healthy diet for many people, so the Welsh Government must ensure standards of welfare, quality and environmental care are maintained, and Welsh farms are protected from cheaper, unsustainable imports. We need to learn from experience during the pandemic lockdowns, that local businesses were vital in providing quality, sustainable, locally produced goods. Government needs to improve product labelling to make it easy for consumers to select local, fresh quality goods.”

Wales urgently needs affordable, sustainable homes. However, 20,000 new homes isn’t sufficient to meet society’s needs now – or in the foreseeable future.” Nigel adds, “The vision needs to account for ever-increasing demand on rural properties for local, young people, and make a contribution to finding solutions to the shortage of labour in rural communities. How these 20,000 new homes will be distributed across Wales, and how affordable they will be – and for how long – are key questions.

There needs to be a strategy to determine the distribution of benefit, above all, we need a planning and development strategy which makes best use of the existing and potential housing stock, and which enables land to be released for development, giving landowners a fair deal. Very little is said about lifting the barriers to upgrade older rural properties, where many are off-grid. The plan refers to difficulties in decarbonising rural communities, but no mention is made about how this should be overcome.

The Welsh Government’s Net Zero Plan offers an appealing vision for the future, however, many vital questions remain unanswered. Delivering it remains very challenging in rural areas.