The Welsh Government announced yesterday (Tuesday 9 February) that it 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 November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow.
It 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.
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.
This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how they travel, shop, heat their homes, as well as switching to lower carbon diets and in all cases, large reductions in the amount of energy and natural resources people use is necessary to achieve the targets.
The report also draws attention to the interdependency of UK and Welsh actions and targets and the 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.
Changes include plans on achieving cleaner air, putting an end to harmful agricultural pollution, a decisive shift away from fossil fuel extraction and moving towards green energy.
They will also work towards a net zero public sector in Wales by 2030, as well as going beyond recycling and making Wales a zero waste nation.
Last year, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford announced the creation of a National Forest for Wales, in which 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 would 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 that the world is on track to warm by more than 3°C, which 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.
Commenting, the Welsh Government’s 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 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, ensuring 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 a healthier, cleaner and greener Wales for our future generations.”