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Wales must make the transition to a low carbon economy (and make it now)

18 February 2013
Cynnal Cymru Chief Executive David Fitzpatrick with Lord Deben and Peter Davies

The Climate Change Commission for Wales' Second Annual Report, launched today (18 Feb 2013) outlines the work of the Commission over the last year and sets priorities for action in 2013/14 and concludes that Wales must make the transition to a low carbon economy (and make it now).

There is increasing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise, which potentially could see global warming of between 4oC and 6oC within the next century. This type of temperature increase would present significant disruption to life in Wales and the natural resources we rely on.

Commission member, Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre said “There is a widespread view that a four degree future is incompatible with an organised global community, which is likely to go beyond adaptation and will be devastating to the majority of ecosystems.”  

This prediction comes at a time when climate change has slipped down the political agenda here in Wales and in the rest of the UK, with the global financial crisis dominating the attention of political and business leaders, along with the public. The Climate Change Commission for Wales has focused significant attention over the last year on accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy, which would deliver both on climate change targets and help create jobs and economic growth.

Even in these toughest of economic times, the low carbon environmental goods and services sector continues to grow. The economic transition in Wales must involve all sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism amongst others to produce goods and deliver services in a sustainable way.

Peter Davies, Chair of the Climate Change Commission for Wales said “The Climate Change Commission members agree unanimously a choice between the economy and the environment is not the way forward.  We are clear that the solution to both the financial and environmental problems is a transition to a low carbon economy. The economic transition needs to be rapid and Wales needs to be ready for the competitive and collaborative nature of these changes.”

The Climate Change Commission for Wales welcomes the recent findings from the UK Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC) Progress Report to Welsh Government, which concludes that, although progress in reducing emissions has been particularly good in the residential and waste sectors, significant challenges remain. Today’s launch event was attended by Lord Deben, the Chair of UKCCC.

Lord Deben said “Wales has set itself challenging targets in fighting Climate Change. There is much that others in the UK will be able to learn from their experience. The Climate Change Committee has just reviewed progress and I wanted to come and see for myself the dimensions of these tough demands that are being so enthusiastically delivered.”

The Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths A.M back in March 2012 noted that it was critical for the Commission to identify and remove obstacles in delivering the climate change agenda in Wales. In direct response, the Commission has identified priority areas* and made a number of recommendations.

One of these priority areas is the need to build resilience in managing the impact of climate change to Wales. The Commission has engaged a number of organisations over the last year, one of which included the Met Office. Their Head of Climate Science, Dr Vicky Pope highlighted some of the future climate extremes of drought and flooding that Wales should be prepared for, both of which were evident in the Welsh climate during 2012.

Peter Davies said “Everybody needs to play a part in adapting Wales to climate change. The Government needs to continue investing in flood defences whilst the public for example need to make lifestyle changes, and organisations need to develop their own management plans based around vulnerabilities.”

Reducing emissions for the built environment is another key challenge facing Wales. It’s a sector that contributes 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Wales and to achieve 2050 targets, 62,500 properties per year must be refurbished to high energy fabric performance standards.  The Wales Low Zero Carbon Hub has produced a position paper along with this Climate Change Commission for Wales report which calls for clarity on the Green Deal in Wales, development of retrofit at scale, and low energy demand buildings.

Peter Davies said “When it comes to the built environment, the Welsh Government needs to raise awareness of energy use amongst the public, and help change behaviours, as its people who use energy and not buildings.”

Transport in Wales continues to be a major emitter of emissions despite some progress being made on de-carbonising the sector. Next generation broadband will help reduce travel demand and there is significant potential for developing new social enterprise business models, including car clubs. Rural communities continue to face significant challenges with transport poverty being a real issue.   

Peter Davies said “There are some excellent examples of sustainable transport practice in Wales but there needs to be more ambitious and wide ranging improvements to travel systems that would put Wales on par with other European nations. Again the need for changing public behaviours is vital to reducing emissions from this sector, along with the business community engaging staff.” 

Pathfinder Programme

A Welsh Government funded programme to support communities to take action on climate change.

Community Energy Wales

Bringing together communities acting on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Support For Sustainable Living

A scheme designed to bring about long-term changes in behaviour and lifestyle to help reduce Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and help organisations and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.