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Written Statement - Climate Change Delivery

Carl Sargeant Minister for Natural Resources

In my last Statement I highlighted the priorities of our refreshed approach to climate change.  I now want to set out how we are working to strengthen our delivery and ensure there is a clear pathway for decarbonisation in Wales.

As I outlined in October, I believe it is vital that there is clear governance to support engagement and involvement. I was pleased to join the Commissioner for Sustainable Futures earlier this week at the launch of the Wales We Want report as part of our work on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill.  One of most striking findings of that report is how clearly climate change has been identified by communities in Wales as a priority issue that shapes the context for our future.  

In response to this engagement and the discussions on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill, I have strengthened the place of climate change in the overarching Well-being Goals, which complements the provisions relating to the Future Trends Report and in the role of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.  Subject to the Assembly’s approval, this will not only give us a strong governance framework, but crucially it will recognise that climate change is not a stand alone policy area but an issue that frames all of our delivery.  This is one of the reasons why I believe that the Bill is a game-changer for Wales.  

I will also be bringing forward the Environment Bill to put in place a modern statutory process  to manage our natural resources in a joined up and more sustainable way.  We are currently working to finalise the Environment Bill and the Well-being of Future Generations Bill is progressing through the Assembly.  I therefore intend to say more on this shortly, but the Environment Bill will complement the climate change provisions in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill and go further by establishing a clear statutory basis for decision making, which fully recognises the central importance of climate change. It will also work with the framework within the Well-being of Future Generations Bill for setting indicators and milestones against the goals, to ensure that there is a clear pathway for climate change action that will guide investment and future delivery.  

With a challenge as serious as climate change and an opportunity as great as green growth I believe there is a fundamental need for transparency.  People in Wales should not only have the right to know how their government and its departments are delivering, but also how their local areas and their wider public services are delivering.

As a government we therefore intend to move to carbon budgets which are clear on the contribution needed from different sectors and where accountability lies.  In doing so, our aim is to set out a clear pathway within the context of our existing UK and EU obligations for at least an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.  A clear pathway for decarbonisation will not only provide transparency but also certainty and clarity for investment.  I will develop these budgets on expert advice, in particular from the UK Committee on Climate Change, to ensure that we reduce emissions in a way that not only delivers on our obligations but maximises the economic and social benefits to Wales of doing so.

The UK Climate Change Committee have estimated the benefit for the UK economy of taking early action on climate change as between £100 and £200 billion by 2030.  I have been struck by the extent businesses are already seeing the economic opportunities of green growth.    

I now want to see similar leadership in the public sector.  Acting now will deliver savings at a time of pressure on public sector finances and help create jobs by supporting green growth and reduce our exposure to climate risks.   This is why we have already prioritised invest to save activity in this area and why we are backing this commitment with the creation of the Green Growth Fund.  I also want us to continue to show leadership on our own estate.  We are therefore working to deliver further emissions reductions to add to the 27% we have already achieved and I will be funding Natural Resources Wales to calculate their net carbon impact and develop a plan to become net carbon positive in the future.  

For the public sector climate change will continue to present a risk to the very services we provide and it is vital that we ensure that our services our resilient. That is why we are committed to building climate resilience into the heart of decision making in key areas such as the assessment of investment proposals in line with Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan priorities.  As a key part of this work we will ensure that our investment in areas such as social housing, will take account of the risks posed by climate change to give people long term security in their homes.

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable households in Wales and we have already been working with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to understand these impacts.  This is part of our emphasis on building resilient communities in the Tackling Poverty Action Plan.  Our aim is to ensure that we are acting to insulate vulnerable people from climate change impacts, taking forward new initiatives and building in the success of schemes such as arbed.

Our Annual Report shows that collectively we all need to do more in every sector to deliver against our targets.  We will continue to take the opportunity as a Government to focus on the areas where we can have most influence, but crucially we are also dependent on the UK Government and EU for those areas that are beyond our control.    

In the run up to the negotiations later this year we are fully committed to working in partnership with the UK, European and international partners towards a new global agreement.  Wales already has a history of leadership at the international level.  We were the World’s First Fair Trade Nation and one of the first nations in the World to have duty on sustainable development at the heart of our constitution.  We are now bringing forward legislation that is already being recognised as internationally ground breaking and are taking action that recognises our international impact and our global responsibility on climate change.  Through the Wales for Africa programme I am delighted that we have now planted two million trees in Uganda in partnership with the Size of Wales project which has also safeguarded two million hectares of tropical forest.

In the run up to those Paris negotiations, we have a very real opportunity to demonstrate leadership built on our action at home and abroad.  In committing in September to the Climate Group’s international Compact of States and Regions on climate change reporting, Wales is showing further international leadership along with 15 other Governments – this amounts to 142 million people committing to action and transparent reporting on climate change.  

This shows how it is within our gift to help to drive global action and I call on all sectors in Wales to join us.

I will be pleased to update the Assembly on progress made through an Oral Statement.