Jane Hutt responds to ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ Spending Review
Finance and Government Business Minister Jane Hutt has today responded to the UK Government’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement which sets out public spending plans for the next five years.
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Written Statement - 18th Meeting of the Climate Change Commission for Wales, 7 July 2011
This session was held in conjunction with a Higher Education showcase event, which I also addressed. This exhibition featured examples of world-class environmental research projects being taken forward by Welsh universities, and included a series of talks from leading researchers. Nearly 200 people attended the event, with strong representation from the higher education, business and third sectors.
I also took this opportunity to extend a welcome to new members of the Commission, namely Russell George AM, Shadow Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Dean, Chief Executive of Velindre NHS Trust, Dr Lorraine Whitmarsh from Cardiff University and the new youth representatives from Funky Dragon, Lewis Harding and Bethan Adshead.
In my address to Commission members, I was able to report on the progress the Welsh Government is already making in working towards our climate change targets.
I outlined the very positive results achieved through delivering the first phase of arbed, our strategic energy performance programme. In its first roll-out, arbed has supported twenty-eight area-based energy efficiency schemes in some of Wales’ most deprived areas. In practical terms, this has meant the installation of energy efficiency measures in over 6,000 households. Measures included installing of solid wall insulation to nearly 2,750 social and privately-owned homes, over 1,800 solar-PV panels in social housing properties, and solar-heated hot water equipment for 1,000 households.
One of the great successes of arbed is that it has leveraged an additional £31m investment – on top of the £30m invested by Welsh Government - from social housing providers, councils and energy companies. This included at least £10m funding from energy companies through the carbon emissions reduction obligations placed on them by the UK government through the Community Energy Saving Programme. I confirmed to the Commission that we are now in the final stages of agreeing the second phase of the arbed programme and we expect the first projects to begin in early 2012.
I informed the Commission that the Welsh Government launched the Support for Sustainable Living grant scheme in March, which will support engagement on climate change, and which will also help to develop capacity within Wales to produce demonstrable outcomes from this engagement. The first two projects to be funded were announced earlier this month: Y Dref Werdd initiative, a heat control project in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and the Cardiff Cycle Challenge, which aims to get people back onto bikes in our capital.
I also confirmed that we have also enabled access to expert advice and support for delivery and evaluation through our ‘Support for Sustainable Living’ service. The combination of the grant funding and expertise is already enabling local action across Wales.
I reported to the Commission that we are continuing to work with the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change on the emerging framework for “Green Deal”. The Welsh Government is closely monitoring the UK Government’s emerging decisions to that we can assess their potential impact in Wales. This was the subject of a recent meeting I held earlier this month with the six energy providers in Wales.
I reported that the UK Committee on Climate Change has published its third progress report to Parliament. The Committee’s report highlights that a step change in the pace of emission reduction is required across the UK in order to meet emission reduction targets, and we will be considering carefully the advice the Committee is providing on areas where greater emission savings might be achieved.
I outlined new initiatives which I have announced since taking office and I was pleased to report on the launch of the Nyth/Nest scheme. Through the Nest scheme, Welsh householders are able to receive advice and support to help them with their fuel bills. The advice is available to anybody who contacts the scheme and all householders contacting Nyth/Nest will receive some form of assistance. The key focus of Nyth/Nest is to tackle fuel poverty, but the scheme also provides an opportunity for Welsh businesses, with much of the work to be delivered through small businesses working in partnership with British Gas.
We anticipate that in its first year, Nyth/Nest will provide support and advice for up to 15,000 householders in Wales. The scheme is being delivered by British Gas and the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the Welsh Government.
I provided an update on the Building Resilience to Climate Change consultation, which closed in March and which set out our proposals for implementing the adaptation provisions of the Climate Change Act and for producing guidance for reporting authorities on assessing and preparing for the impacts of climate change. This guidance, which I intend to publish this autumn, is a key strand of the Adaptation Framework confirmed in the Climate Change Strategy.
More recently, we have also been working in partnership with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) to deliver four events across Wales to help community and voluntary sector organisations understand better how climate change is likely to affect them and the communities they work with.
I confirmed that we have set out proposals to legislate to place a duty on public bodies to promote sustainable development, embed sustainable development as their central organising principle, and create a new independent sustainable development body for Wales. A timetable to take forward these legislative proposals will be placed in due course.
In relation to the Climate Change Strategy itself, we are putting in place a comprehensive monitoring framework to measure the progress we are making on meeting emission reduction targets. This includes development of a suite of indicators to track implementation of the measures contained in the Emission Reduction Delivery Plan. This framework is consistent to that being developed by the UK Government for monitoring progress against its own Carbon Budgets. We will also be monitoring the external factors that drive emissions, such as wider economic performance, so that our performance in delivering our specific commitments can be reported in our annual report early next year within the context of wider emission trends.
The Climate Change Commission is next due to meet in North Wales in October 2011.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.