Welsh Assembly | Credit: Richard Szwejkowski
Committee on Climate Change said Wales should target 95 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 – but Welsh government says it would rather go net zero
The Welsh government today announced plans to back a net zero emissions target for 2050, in a bid to make history as the first UK government to go beyond carbon reduction advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The news came as the UK Houses of Parliament prepared to debate proposed new net zero legislation and sources suggested government plans to strengthen the UK’s carbon goals could come this week.
In May, the CCC said Wales should target a 95 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, against a 1990 baseline. It argued the country should be given a slightly less ambitious target than the fully net zero emission goal proposed for the UK as a whole, on the grounds the country’s large agricultural sector would make it difficult to fully decarbonise the Welsh economy.
But today the Welsh government said it will bring regulations to the Assembly next year to rewrite its current targets to align with a net zero goal.
Wales’ Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said Wales wanted to make a full contribution to ensuring the UK is net zero by mid-century. “Therefore, I am accepting the CCC’s recommendation for a 95% reduction in Wales,” she said. “But I want to go further and today I am declaring our ambition to bring forward a target for Wales to achieve net zero emissions no later than 2050.”
CCC chair Chris Stark said on Twitter the decision was “brilliant news”.
Brilliant news from the Welsh Government. Delighted to see @theCCCuk 2050 recommendation accepted. https://t.co/pFxXeM5TZw
— Chris Stark (@ChiefExecCCC) June 11, 2019
However, Griffiths called on the UK government – which is reportedly preparing to legislate for a UK-wide net zero target by 2050 later this week – to ensure the costs and benefits of a net zero target are spread evenly across the UK.
She argued Wales, Scotland, and Westminster needed to work more closely together to ensure ministers deliver a “collective approach” to policymaking. “Any UK target can only be achieved if all Governments in the UK work more closely on this issue,” she added. “That is why I have requested a meeting with my UK and Scottish counterparts to discuss how we will rise to the challenge of climate change together.”
The news came as BEIS Select Committee Chair Rachel Reeves prepared to table a Bill in front of Parliament which would commit the UK government to a net zero target, ramping up pressure on the government to take action.
Reeves has also published a draft statutory instrument which would allow the government to achieve the same outcome of setting the net-zero target in law but do so more speedily, disposing of the need to go through the lengthier parliamentary process needed for a Bill.
Downing Street is also thought to be preparing a statutory instrument to that effect, but has come under pressure from the Treasury over the potential cost of a net zero target, which campaigners fear could delay the formal adoption of the new goal.
“Unwarranted Treasury scepticism shouldn’t block action to achieve net zero,” Reeves warned. “In the final days of her premiership, Theresa May should take this opportunity to take the crucial next step to ending the UK’s contribution to global warming and set out that the whole of Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2050.”
In related news, Scotland has exceeded its climate emissions target for 2017, the Scottish government admitted today, with CO2 equivalent emissions clocking in at 46.4 megatonnes, against the 2017 target of 43.9 megatonnes.
In 2017 emissions across Scotland fell by 3.3 per cent compared to 2016, and are down 46.8 per cent since 1990.
However, Scotland’s progress against its legal climate targets is measured using emissions data adjusted to account for Scotland’s participation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
These calculations suggest emissions in Scotland actually went up 3.7 per cent in 2017, pushing the country over its emissions target for the year.
The Scottish government blamed excess allowances in the EU ETS for the results, which it said do not reflect actual emissions reductions in Scotland.
“Adjusted emissions count Scottish ETS allowances as contributing toward Scottish emissions irrespective of whether they are used by Scottish participants in the ETS to offset their emissions, or sold and used by emitters in other participating countries,” it pointed out in a statement. “The total number of allowances issued through the ETS system has increased steadily since 2014 as part of the EU‘s management of the ETS. As a result, Scotland’s share of ETS permits, based on historic emissions, has automatically increased. As a result there has developed a significant disconnect between the figure for ETS adjusted emissions and the actual quantity of Scottish source emissions.”
Emissions in Scotland fell in 2017 primarily due to a collapse in coal-fired power generation, with emissions across other sectors of the economy essentially flat.