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Wales legislates for net-zero carbon by 2050

Words: Roger Milne
Net zero carbon / iStock-455437679

Ministers have laid regulations in the Senedd that formally commit Wales to legally binding targets designed to deliver net-zero carbon emissions within 30 years.

The Welsh Government has also accepted the revised advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that this goal is credible, feasible and – crucially – affordable.

Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths made it clear the administration would push to achieve zero-carbon sooner than 2050.

Latest analysis from the committee reveals that the most significant potential to accelerate emissions reductions in Wales is based on evidence suggesting greater abatement is possible in the industry and power sectors. This reflects the presence of a small number of high-emitting point sources in Wales, such as the Port Talbot steelworks.

However, the committee has also highlighted that the path to net-zero will be partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes.

“This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, shop, heat our homes, and switching to lower-carbon diets. In all cases, large reductions in the amount of energy and natural resources we use is necessary to achieve the targets,” said the government.

The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.

“By 2040, all new heavy goods vehicles should be low-carbon. The South Wales industrial cluster (as well as other industrial sites in Wales) must either switch away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives and/or install carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale from the mid-2030s.”

Significant land use change will be involved, argued the committee. “A transformation is needed in Wales’s land while supporting Welsh farmers.”

By 2030, this should involve planting a cumulative 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, increasing to a total of 180,000 hectares by 2050.

Another 56,000 hectares of agricultural land should shift to bioenergy production (including short rotation forestry) by 2050.

The committee’s report stressed that peatlands must be restored widely and managed sustainably. Low-carbon farming practices must be adopted widely while raising farm productivity.

Ministers have promised to set out how the government intends to deliver the country’s new net-zero ambition in its next All Wales Plan. This will be published in advance of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which is being held in Glasgow later this year.

The Path to Net Zero and Progress on Reducing Emissions in Wales can be read on the Committee on Climate Change website.

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