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Written Statement - Update on the implementation of the carbon budgeting framework under the Environment Act: our accounting framework

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The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs has set the ambition for the Welsh Public Sector to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

Last month I updated members outlining our progress in delivering our Decarbonisation Programme. The Programme, up until March 2019, focusses on the delivery of the requirements under the Act which are:

• Defining what emissions are counted in our Welsh account;
• Setting the decarbonisation pathway in Wales, including setting the interim targets (for 2020, 2030 and 2040) and the first two carbon budgets (for 2016-2020 and 2021-2025)  
• Setting out the actions we will take, through our collective Delivery Plan covering the first carbon budget (2016-2020).

In December 2016, the UK Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC), our independent Advisory Body, hosted a call for evidence, seeking stakeholder’s views on what emissions should be counted and the way we count them in Wales. The Welsh Government promoted this call for evidence and hosted a joint stakeholder event with the UKCCC in January.

In April 2017, the UKCCC provided me with advice on accounting emissions in Wales and I would like to thank stakeholders for their input. I evaluated their advice along with wider evidence and have discussed it with my Cabinet colleagues.  As a result, I can confirm in Wales we are looking to agree with all of the Advisory Body’s recommendations which are:

To count all emissions in Wales, including those from largest emitters, currently operating under the EU Emission Trading Scheme. We do not intend to use any complicated methods or cap like other areas of the country.  We believe including total emissions is the most transparent and simplest way of counting emissions.  We recognise we do not have all of the levers for all of our emissions but as part of our Delivery Plan, which will set our transition to a low carbon economy, we will be calling on others, such as the UK Government, to take action where relevant.

To include emissions from international aviation and shipping. Although aviation and shipping is not devolved to Wales, we recognise we have a global responsibility for including all emissions in our accounting framework.  Therefore, we agree with the recommendation to include bunker fuel sales and also agree appropriate action should be taken at the global or EU level rather than Wales alone, which could result in unintended consequences.  

To allow for a limited amount of international offsetting. Whilst our focus will be on driving forward action in Wales, we recognise if we are including all emissions within our framework, including those areas in which we have limited powers over, we may need a certain amount of flexibility through the use of offsetting to help manage those unforeseen circumstances. We, therefore, agree with the recommendation by the UKCCC to follow the approach which is used in both the UK and Scotland in allowing a degree of offsetting. Offsetting is not a substitute for reducing emissions, however, will be considered as a last resort.

In Wales, we have a global responsibility through the Well-being of Future Generations Act. If we are going to utilise offsetting as a last resort, we would want to ensure we invest in credible and reputable schemes in developing countries, which cannot only reduce emissions but support wider benefits. This is why we agree with the UKCCC recommendation and would only be looking to initially utilise offsets as part of the Compliance Market Mechanism. Going forward, other schemes, such as the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, could well be utilised. The funding not only helps to reduce emissions but provides trees to communities, which helps to provide food, stabilizes the soil to reduce runoff and landslides.  

Collectively, these decisions represent an important milestone in establishing a framework for a decarbonised Wales. They establish the scope within which we can now set the interim targets and carbon budgets. To support this process, I have commissioned the UKCCC to provide me with advice on setting targets and budgets and where they see opportunities for Wales to decarbonise. They will be looking to publish a Call for Evidence from the 6 July until 11 September 2017 and we will be holding 2 joint stakeholder events in North and South Wales. I would ask stakeholders to input in to the Call, to ensure we get Welsh specific advice.

I also recognise we need to start taking action now.  I recently held my first Decarbonisation Ministerial Task and Finish Group and one of the areas we have agreed to take action on collectively is around Decarbonisation of the Public Sector.  Although the Public Sector only accounts for a small amount of Wales’ emissions, currently only around 1%, leadership is needed at both the national and local level to achieve the depth of decarbonisation required. The Public Sector is uniquely placed to not only ensure their buildings are efficient, but also influence emissions far more widely through the delivery of their services, procurement of goods and services and influencing action through our local communities.

Our overall ambition is for the Public Sector to be carbon neutral by 2030. However within this ambition there are choices to be made.  We will be launching a Call for Evidence which will explore those choices, in terms of the definition of the Public Sector; scope of emissions to be counted; the definition of carbon neutral and how the ambition will be monitored and reported against. I would urge stakeholders to respond to this important call.

https://www.theccc.org.uk/consultations/