‘Decade of action’ needed to achieve a net zero Wales, says Drakeford

A “decade of action” is needed to tackle the climate change crisis, the First Minister of Wales has said, ahead of launching a plan on how the country will reach net zero by 2050.

By then, the Welsh Government wants the amount of greenhouse gases Wales adds to the atmosphere to no longer be more than it takes out.

At the heart of the strategy is a push to help people live more environmentally friendly lives by driving less, cutting their energy use and buying local food.

It comes as ministers prepare to meet with world leaders in Glasgow for the United Nations Cop26 climate talks.

 Net Zero Wales launches encouraging people to live environmentally friendly lives
People are being encouraged to live more environmentally friendly lives (Welsh Government handout/PA)

First Minister Mark Drakeford and climate change minister Julie James are announcing the creation of more than 120 policies covering every area of life, from peatland restoration to renewable energy.

Proposals include building 20,000 new low carbon homes, increasing community tree planting through creating 30 new woodlands, legally abolishing single use plastics and helping develop green skills in businesses.

They also plan to invest in travel options that encourage people to use public transport more and support walking and cycling.

Councils, health boards and other public bodies will be expected to publish plans by 2023 on how they are going to reach net zero by 2030.

And there are also plans to force businesses to recycle more.

Wales is already one of the top three countries in the world on the global leaderboards for recycling, and in 2017 it was announced it had hit its target four years early, recycling 64% of all its waste.

Much of the new scheme focuses on the period between 2021 and 2025, when a 37% reduction in greenhouse gases is needed to meet the devolved government’s second carbon budget.

The estimated cost to implement the measures over the next five years is £4.2 billion.

Mr Drakeford said: “The advice from the Climate Change Committee is clear, this must be a decade of action for Wales.

“We need to make more progress in the next 10 years than we have in the last 30 years, this will be difficult but we will do it by working together.”

He added: “In this plan, we also call on the UK Government to take the action which is needed to unlock a green future in Wales.

“While the UK cannot reach its targets without Welsh action, we cannot reach our ambition without the UK Government playing its fair part.”

The plan will be formally launched by the First Minister at an event at the Solar Heat Energy Demonstrator in Margam, Port Talbot, on Thursday.

Running to more than 90,000 words, the plan is an example of the Welsh Government’s commitment to tackling the climate emergency, Ms James said.

“But it is merely a snapshot in time,” she added.

“Our policies need to be delivered, our proposals need to grow and need to be shaped in conversation with the people of Wales,” she said.

“From creating places for nature to giving the poorest people in Wales warmer, more energy efficient homes, as well as the things we want to take forward in this Government term and in this carbon budget, like a reformed sustainable farming scheme and creating a national forest.

“We recognise we haven’t got all of the answers – we want to work with and learn from people across Wales to find innovative solutions to the challenges we face.”