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Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

22/03/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dai Lloyd AM
David Melding AM
Dawn Bowden AM
Jayne Bryant AM
Joyce Watson AM
Mike Hedges AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Simon Thomas AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Hannah Blythyn AM Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd
Minister for Environment
Lesley Griffiths AM Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Ynni, Cynllunio a Materion Gwledig
Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs
Neil Hemington Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Prys Davies Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Chloe Corbyn Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk
Martha Da Gama Howells Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

1. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da a chroeso. Good morning and welcome. Can I remind Members to set their mobile phones to silent and turn off any other electronic equipment that may interfere with broadcasting equipment? Any declarations of interest? No. We have had no apologies, so we are expecting both Gareth Bennett and Simon Thomas to join us this morning. I do know that David Melding has got to leave at 10.50 a.m., but apart from that we are at full strength.

2. Craffu ar waith Llywodraeth Cymru mewn perthynas â’r newid yn yr hinsawdd
2. Scrutiny of the Welsh Government on climate change

Can I welcome the Cabinet Secretary and the Minister and their officials? Can I ask you and your officials to give your names and job titles for the record?

I'm Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.

Neil Hemington, chief planner.

Prys Davies, responsible for decarbonisation and energy policy.

Thank you. Cabinet Secretary, are there any opening remarks you'd like to make before we go into questions?

Okay. I'll start first then. I'm going to talk about progress on emissions and future targets. Have you carried out any analysis of why the interventions to date have not succeeded in putting Wales on a trajectory to meet the 2020 target, or do you expect it to speed up towards 2020?

Well, obviously, the 40 per cent emission reduction target by 2020 was a previous policy that was set within the climate change strategy. So, over the last decade, our evidence base has improved and our understanding around Welsh emissions has increased. So, I think there are a number of factors that have limited our ability to be able to achieve this target, such as the role of the EU emissions trading system, the economic make-up and the sites that we have across Wales—I think it's different to some of the other administrations in the UK in terms of our emissions profile—and the weather variability, which I think has absolutely been proven this year. So, I think those are the three areas where we've certainly identified issues.

So, if I can say a little bit first about the role of the EU ETS. The emission figures for Wales invariably vary year on year. They're influenced significantly by a small number of the EU ETS installations. There were 65 of those installations in 2015. And as a small number of large installations are responsible for the large majority of the EU ETS emissions, you're going to have annual variations, which will then have a big impact on the 40 per cent target.

I think, certainly in discussions that I've had with officials, the EU ETS is for the whole of Europe, and I don't think it works as well as we anticipated for Wales, because it's looking at the whole of Europe. Within Wales, ETS emissions actually rose by 12 per cent between 2010 and 2016, and because these emissions account for greater than 50 per cent of our total emissions, it then impacts on our ability to deliver the 40 per cent target. So, of course, colleagues will be aware that we've now got our 3 per cent target within the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, and we have delivered on that year on year since 2010, and I think that is the important thing now that that target has changed.

In relation to economic make-up, we were absolutely at the forefront of the industrial revolution and you only have to look at our current large sites in relation to emissions—. Again, if emissions go up on one installation site, it can have a disproportionate effect on our wider emissions. So, if you look at the high share of the UK's electricity generation that we also have—we feed into the national grid, so we obviously have higher emissions because of that. The third thing I mentioned was the weather. Again, if you have a very cold winter, obviously, in relation to what I've said about emissions, that can also increase. We've now gone to a carbon budgeting framework because I think that will help us in the longer term. That was a very long answer, sorry, to give you, I thought.

09:35

Can you clarify the 3 per cent? Is it 3 per cent each year based on where we are now, or is it 3 per cent each year based on where it is at the beginning of each year? That will make a big difference after five or 10 years.

The 3 per cent target is cumulative year on year.

So, in 33 years' time, it should be none, or should be 1 per cent. Or in 33 years' time, will it be going down exponentially?

I think there's a question about whether that 3 per cent target, which was set in the original climate change strategy, will continue once we move into the carbon budgeting framework, because the carbon budgeting framework will set the budget and that will be our target, effectively.

Simon Thomas wants to come in, but I'd like to get to the bottom of this. If this lasts for five years, will it go down by 15 per cent, or will it go down by 3 per cent and then the next 3 per cent of 97 per cent, or 3 per cent of the next number? So, will we end up, after five years, with 85 per cent, or will we end up with a higher number?

The latter one.

Yes, I'm trying to understand myself these different targets. The 40 per cent, the 3 per cent and the other targets for carbon budgeting—are we talking about the same emissions in each of these targets, in baskets of emissions?

The same broad basket of emissions, be they carbon dioxide or methane or whatever—

Yes, I mean the same—. I don't mean the same type of emissions, I mean the same emissions, so—

Because some of these things are Welsh emissions, some of them are UK and proportionately to Wales, and some of them are our little bit of a different figure.

Yes, that's right, because we've obviously got international obligations as well. So, when we were looking at the carbon budgeting, we took advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change. We included some emissions, for instance air—

International aviation—

International aviation, which we could have probably not included, but we felt that it wouldn't be right to do that. So, no, they are different.

So, if we look at the original climate change strategy, the 40 per cent target covers all emissions in Wales. The 3 per cent year-on-year cumulative target relates to areas of broadly devolved competence—

—whereas the new framework that we are establishing: Ministers and the Cabinet have already made a decision that, under the carbon budgeting framework, all emissions in Wales, including international aviation and shipping, will be counted as part of the budget.

Right, okay. It's important not only to the baseline but also to know what you are referring to.

Yes, I think it's absolutely right. You can only scrutinise. We know where we're trying to get to and what we're trying to deal with. Anyway, moving on—Jayne.

Thank you, Chair. I think I'm going to mention another target now. What policies have you put in place to enable Wales to meet its target of 70 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2030?

So, again, colleagues will be aware that I made a statement around our energy targets at the end of last year. So, the 70 per cent target of consumption in Wales to be met by renewable resources by 2030 I thought was very ambitious, but very achievable. I think it was when we first looked at this target, at the end of 2015, there was approximately—I think it was about 32 per cent. So, I thought 70 per cent by 2030 very ambitious. By the end of 2016, we've actually now generated 43 per cent of our electricity from renewable energy. If you think—the aim is absolutely to decarbonise our energy system while reducing the costs and also bringing economic benefits to the people of Wales. So, we're now looking at how all our policies can support the targets—the three targets. You've just mentioned one of them.

So, we've started engaging with stakeholders. We did that right at the start when we wanted to come forward with our targets, but that work will be continuing. I'm convening a group to work with us on looking at what solutions we can bring forward to develop a grid that's going to be suitable to support future energy systems. So, on the group, we're going to have people like National Grid, like Ofgem, all the network operators, and other key stakeholders, to have a look at that. We're also exploring the potential for an energy atlas for Wales; I've been having discussions with Simon Thomas—it's a part of our budget deal around energy. I think that would be very helpful in making sure that we match the new generation of energy with the smarter local use of renewable energy.

Last month I launched a consultation on 'Planning Policy Wales' because I think it's really important that we bring in the hierarchy of energy into that. So, that will include requirements for planning authorities to set local renewable energy targets also. They'll be able to promote suitable sites through their LDPs going forward.

One of the other targets was about local ownership, and 100 per cent of local ownership by 2020. It's really important that we do that, so I've recently published a call for evidence on how we achieve that, because that's obviously a very short target—only two years away.

09:40

Thank you. You've already mentioned the EU ETS. Perhaps you can give us an update on discussions with the UK Government and other devolved nations about a replacement for the EU ETS.

I haven't personally had any discussions at a ministerial level, but I know officials have. You may have heard me and other Ministers talking about the deep dives that have been going on in relation to Brexit. So, agriculture was actually the first one, and I know it sounds—you know, 'deep dive'—but they're actually very beneficial. So, you bring all the four administrations together and have a couple of days of intensive looks at what policies are needed.

I have to say that DEFRA, I think, are way ahead of the game on these deep dives, because we've had that collaboration for many years and we've worked together on fisheries councils and agriculture councils. We've struggled to get engagement with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, I think it's fair to say. Officials had a lot of difficulty in engaging about a possible new scheme—but you have had a deep dive now, haven't you, on this, in February.

So, there isn't really much of a policy coming forward. What they are looking at is that we could still be part of the EU ETS—that even if you're out of Europe, you can still be part of that scheme. I know there is a country that's in the European Economic Area that's a member of—or that uses the scheme. So, I think there is the possibility that we may not have a new policy. However, we haven't had those meaningful discussions, apart from the one deep dive. Were you at the deep dive?

We've been engaging with BEIS. As the Cabinet Secretary has mentioned, it's taken a slightly longer timescale to get them focused on issues around energy and climate change. But there was agreement that maybe the key issue that, collectively, the UK Government and the devolved administrations needed to look at was the issue around successor arrangements for the EU ETS, if we need successor arrangements, because some of this depends on the ultimate deal that we get.

So, there are a range of options that we need to look at, ranging from staying within the current EU ETS to setting up, maybe, a UK ETS, or agglomerating at a sub-national level—so, Wales having its own scheme. There are different ways that you can construct it. The first deep dive looked at one particular issue, but we need to have more meetings looking at the other options with the UK Government and other devolved administrations.

It is, but I think there's also a bit of a frustration for me. There's also the potential that there could be continued participation in the scheme as part of a trade deal, which then would be completely taken out of our hands. So, I think there are quite a lot of frustrations around this.

Have you had any discussions with the UK Committee on Climate Change on the potential impacts of leaving the EU ETS on the emissions targets and carbon budgets for Wales?

Yes. I've met with them a couple of times. Again, officials meet more regularly, and I know not long after the referendum, the UK CCC did publish their assessment of the implications of Brexit for UK climate policy. They recognised that carbon trading has the potential to be a least-cost approach without creating competitiveness challenges for our industries. So, there is a big piece of work that they did. Are they continuing to look at it?

What they've done, as the Cabinet Secretary has outlined, is an assessment not just of EU ETS but all the legislation, and almost coming to the conclusion that if we have to deliver on our carbon budgets, be it at Wales or UK level, then it is clear that we currently depend on a lot of EU policies or directives to drive that—probably over 50 per cent, going forward. So, leaving the EU, we'll need to think about not only maintaining a lot of those directives or policies, but, arguably, strengthening them. The EU ETS is one mechanism within that. I think they are waiting—. UK committee on climate change will wait to see what the policy direction is on Brexit more generally before they can then give more detailed advice about what future schemes or proposals might look like.

09:45

And I think when the position is a bit clearer, I would ask them to look specifically at the impact on Wales in relation to that.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Os ŷm ni'n edrych ar—os medrwch chi ei alw'n y sector amaeth, coedwigaeth a defnydd tir at ei gilydd, mae'r rhan yna o dirwedd ac amgylchedd Cymru'n cael ei disgrifio fel sinc carbon yn gyffredinol, oherwydd corsydd mawn a choedwigoedd a phethau felly. Ond mae’r sector amaeth yn benodol yn sicr yn gyfrifol am allyriadau. Rŷm ni’n mynd nôl at y pwynt yr oeddem ni’n ei drafod gynnau fach: y tu fewn i’r rhan sy’n ddatganoledig, mae’r sector amaeth yn gyfrifol am tua 20 y cant o’n hallyriadau carbon ni.

Nawr, mae’r newidiadau sy’n dod yn sgil Brexit, efallai, yn mynd i yrru prosesau newid yn y sector yma. Nid ydym cweit yn siŵr sut eto, ond fe wnes i godi gyda chi ddoe yr ehangu o ran magu ieir sy’n digwydd yng Nghymru—mae yna allyriadau eithaf difrifol yng nghyd-destun hynny. Ac, wrth gwrs, os oes yna ffermio dwys yn digwydd yn gyffredinol yng Nghymru mewn ymateb i Brexit, yn hytrach na ffermio mwy agored sy’n seiliedig ar borfa fel sydd gennym ni nawr, fe fydd yna allyriadau difrifol iawn yn cael eu gyrru yn y sector yma. Felly, beth yw eich asesiad gorau chi, ar hyn o bryd, o lle rydym ni’n mynd yn y sector amaeth yn benodol, ar ôl cyfnod o ostyngiad? Mae yna ychydig o godiad wedi digwydd yn ddiweddar. A pa fath o bethau y byddwch chi’n gosod yn eu lle i drio gwneud yn siŵr bod y sector yma’n gostwng allyriadau, a bod rhan o’r sector, efallai, yn cyfrannu tuag at y sinc carbon sydd gennym ni yng Nghymru?

Thank you, Chair. If we look at—if we can call it the agriculture, land use and forestry sector taken altogether, that part of the Welsh environment and landscape is described as a carbon sink, generally speaking, because of peat bogs and woodlands, and so forth. But, the agriculture sector, individually, is certainly responsible for emissions. So, to return to the point that we were discussing earlier, within the devolved part, the agricultural sector is responsible for about 20 per cent of our carbon emissions.

Now, the changes coming as a result of Brexit may drive a process change in the sector. We're not quite sure how yet, but I did raise with you yesterday the expansion of poultry farming that's happening in Wales—there are quite serious emissions in this context. If there is intensive farming in general in Wales, rather than the more open farming that we have now, which is based on pasture, then that would lead to greater emissions in this sector. So, what is your best assessment of how we move forward in the agriculture sector now, after a period of reduction? There has been a slight increase recently. And, what type of things would you put in place to try to ensure that this sector reduces its emissions, and that part of the sector contributes to the carbon sink that we have in Wales?

I think, until we know what the deal looks like, it's kind of impossible to know what the impacts will be, but I think you're absolutely right; we have to continue with our current plan to reduce emissions in the agriculture, land use, land management and forestry sector. So, agriculture is completely bathed in EU everything, isn't it, and we've got so many challenges coming in, but obviously, this is one of them.

We're working with the agricultural industry climate change forum, again on UK CCC advice, working through a lot of their advice. We've had quite a lot of academic papers, which I know officials have been looking at to see what can be brought forward from that. We need to look at production efficiency, we need to look at peatland restoration, and forestry, obviously, is hugely important. I'll ask Hannah to come in. I know that Hannah has recently been in Scotland. You may remember that I said I was going to go up to Scotland, well, Hannah went up to Scotland to have a look at what they're doing there, because they're doing some fantastic stuff. I remember David Melding questioning me on forestry in Scotland. So, that's another area, and, obviously, renewable energy. And it is pleasing to see a lot of our farmers and land managers wanting to diversify.

You'll be aware that yesterday I brought forward a written statement on the future of agricultural policy and land use management, and I've got the Brexit ministerial round-table, so I'm now going to step up the working with stakeholders and we're going to have some new sub-groups. I'm going to have a sub-group specifically to look at this area, which I want to report to me by summer. I made it very clear yesterday that our new policy is going to look at the delivery of public goods—so, your air quality, your water quality, all the things they're doing now that perhaps people—. You know, if you talk to the public about what farmers do, it would be food production, which is, of course, very important, but alongside that, it's about the public goods and increasing those. So, I think there's lots more we can do to promote the additional public goods.

You have, as you say, talked about those public goods, but in the statement yesterday, and so far, we don't know how you might use, particularly, the fiscal tools that would be in any support. So, a lot of what's been achieved over the last 15 years under the CAP regime has been almost in the face of what the CAP regime has been historically built on. So, it's been a bit of an arm-wrestle to try to squeeze some of this stuff out of a system that wasn't really designed to achieve these aims. We now have the opportunity to design systems from scratch that can achieve these aims, and the food production bit of it is about market intervention and making sure that, when a market fails to deliver good-quality food at an affordable price, then Government needs to make sure that continues. But when you have the outcomes bit of it around carbon reduction and general air quality, for example, they are things we can really do now. Have you got any initial thoughts about how you might want to structure such a system to assist that process?

09:50

It's very early days. Unfortunately, we don't know what funding we're going to have, so it's really difficult—

It's really difficult to come forward with policies when you've got a black hole after 2022, but at least we've got till 2022 now; it has increased a few years since the initial information we were getting. So, it's very early days, but we are looking—again, talking to the farming unions, talking to the sector. They're experts, I would say, some of our stakeholders that are on our group. So, they tell me what's been good about Glastir, what's been good about the other agri-environment programmes and what we shouldn't throw away and what we should hang on to. That work will obviously have to intensify over the next year, but it's probably a bit early to be able to say.

Where are we with research, universities and places like Gelli Aur? Where's the input—some of the blue-sky thinking for beyond 2022 and the next 10 to 15 years of programmes that might be established?

I've asked the Public Policy Institute for Wales to have a look at this for me, and you're right; there are the colleges that you've named, and some of the universities—I've visited Aberystwyth University, for instance, to see how they could help us, and Bangor University, obviously, have got a farm, and I've visited that to discuss research. So, it is about bringing all these experts together to make sure that we get the right policy and the right policy for Wales. You're right; this is a massive opportunity for us now. We have to look for opportunities, don't we? I think this is an area where CAP hasn't—it's very rigid, isn't it, and we haven't had that flexibility that we have now. So, it's an opportunity.

Sorry, I was just going to bring Hannah in. Do you want to talk about forestry or—?

I am coming in on forestry, but I also want to just, first of all, ask a little bit more about farming. There are some, of course, excellent practices in farming, where they clearly take care of the countryside in the way that we would hope. There are some practices where that isn't happening, and the dairy industry particularly are very guilty, in some cases, in my part of the world and Simon's part of the world, of heavy pollution. My question to you is: because it's slurry, and we all know that that produces emissions and we have intensive dairy farming going on, how are we going to persuade—and if we can't persuade, ensure that farmers don't carry on with the malpractice that is clearly going on at the moment, so that we don't end up being taken to court because our rivers are in such poor condition? We can't separate out the two things, because the two things are about emissions.

I think it's been very disappointing to see the number of agricultural pollution events that we have seen. I had a conversation with Simon Thomas in the Chamber yesterday, during oral questions, around nitrate vulnerable zones, for instance. We had the consultation, we had a significant number of responses in, and some of the responses had some very good suggestions. So, I thought it was worth taking the time to have a look. We had about—I think it was 236, if I remember rightly. There were parts of the—. Some of the respondents wanted me to have a complete regulatory approach to this, a whole-territory approach, et cetera. Others didn't want me to. I hope—well, I tried to find a way down the middle, but the voluntary approach clearly hasn't worked on its own, so let's have a voluntary approach with some regulation. Was it Simon that mentioned the blue flag scheme from Pembrokeshire? You may have seen the presentation, Joyce, I don't know, but I watched the presentation and I thought it was really good. So, I've asked them to work with me, so we've set up a group. I think the group's met three times now. I've met them once, at the NFU conference last month in Birmingham. Initially, they said, 'We'll come with some answers in six months', but six months is too long, so I've asked for some recommendations by the end of this month, so next week. I would very much like to take that approach of working in partnership with the sector. 

09:55

Well, I wanted to give it a chance, because, obviously, we're still in the EU, and I have to fulfil those obligations. I don't want to be taken to court at all. So, it is a tricky one, but I'm hoping that, when the recommendations come forward next week, we will be able to make some significant progress. But, again, I mentioned in the Chamber yesterday that we've had six days of heavy snow this month, and the first lot at the beginning of the month, I think I had about three people contact me with photographs of heavy snow with slurry just spread on top. That's not acceptable. So, again, working with the farming unions, I'm hoping to get the message out that just because we've taken this approach doesn't mean I don't expect to see some significant improvement, because we cannot carry on having the pollution events that we've had. But it is a small minority, you're absolutely right. The majority of people are not culprits.

If the carrot doesn't work, maybe we need to apply more of the stick and take away the payments.

Maybe I'll have to go back and have another look. I don't want to. I really think that, if we can get that partnership approach, it would be beneficial.

Could I just say one thing? We don't want you to be taken to court either.

I think I'm going to move on to forestry and woodland, and I'm interested that you went to Scotland, and I'm particularly interested in whether you were looking at pine or broadleaf, because there is a huge difference in terms of what they might deliver for us. So, maybe, if not now, you could send us a paper on that, because clearly we cannot overstate the importance of forestry and woodland for carbon sequestration. I want to know—we have a target of 100,000 hectares of new woodland by 2013, so, I suppose my first question is: are we likely to meet that, and, if we are, what sort of trees are we talking about?

Okay. First of all, can I place on record again my appreciation for the work of this committee with the 'Branching out' report? It's a really comprehensive report, and the debate on it did demonstrate this consensus that not only do we need to plant more trees but an acknowledgement that we have work to do in order to get to our very ambitious aspiration of 100,000 hectares of new woodland by 2030.

If I can try to take your questions in a kind of reverse order, you mentioned about the mix of woodland, which is a really, really important point to make. In terms of looking at our long-term objectives, we're looking at the few opportunities that may come with Brexit in terms of land management and what that might enable us to do in terms of woodland creation. For us, in Wales, we would be wanting to look at a mix of woodland, to get that balance of conifer for timber creation and the economic value, but also the conservation, biodiversity and the carbon sequestration value as well. So, that is part of the work that's ongoing in terms of looking at what we do post CAP.

The trip to Scotland—it was last month. I met with Fergus Ewing MSP who's the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity. We visited a number of sites, including a new woodland creation scheme at Westloch, and the Sheep and Trees scheme at Wakefield Farm. Given that it was a very cold time of year to go to Scotland in February, the farmer at Wakefield Farm put us all to shame as he was there in shirt sleeves and we were all in about 23 different layers. But the Sheep and Trees scheme is one initiative and it was interesting to hear about what they're doing there, and obviously it can inform some of our ongoing discussions in terms of what we could do going forward.

That basically encourages, in a nutshell, farmers to diversify. The eligibility is to keep farming for the significant part of the farm whilst planting between 10 and 50 hectares of productive conifer. There are various objectives that the farmers need to reach, and part of that also includes things that—. Part of the benefits could be for the farmer—. In the one we went to see, they pointed out where they'd have enhanced forest tracks. So, they would need this for the timber production, but it would also benefit the farmer in the other aspects of his business, because he would have better access to his farm as well. 

We're very conscious that we want to take steps in the short term too. So, I think, in the report and in the debate we acknowledged that there are perhaps some barriers, whether they be regulatory or practical. So, what we're doing at the moment is looking at the woodland opportunities map to identify more clearly where woodland creation should be focused. So, is there potential to identify presumption in favour of woodland creation in some areas? We're also looking at the application of regulation, because I think we need to create a regulatory regime that is more positive towards tree planting. That can either be done through administrative means, or with NRW playing a more active role, or by an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999, whilst looking at the expectations of the forestry standard—again, looking at how we'd identify places with a presumption in favour of woodland creation. I'm hoping that will form part of—. I think on the 'Branching out' report we said we would refresh the 'Woodlands for Wales' forestry strategy, and I'm hoping to have that finalised by June.    

10:00

That's great. I was pleased to hear that planning is a consideration now on air quality, because I'm of the view, and the Woodland Trust—and I am a member of the Woodland Trust—have stated that if you want good air quality in your home, and if you have a garden, planting a tree of appropriate size does actually ensure that you have clean air, or cleaner air, surrounding you. So, that leads me to the next question, which is: when we're giving planning permission to build large estates, can we not put in some requirement that, having felled goodness knows how many trees and hedges, we actually insist that some go back into the scheme? Because it's fairly obvious, isn't it, that, if we take away those things that are providing some clean air and decarbonisation of that air, we ought to replace it, as a minimum. I know that there will be many, many of us who have walked around new estates, and you'll be lucky if you can see a blade of grass, never mind a tree.  

'Yes, we can', is the short answer. I'll put it to Neil. 

Yes, if I carry on on that point, if you look at the new version of 'Planning Policy Wales', it's very much focused on place making, rather than just thinking about the individual estates. So, it's how that estate and the buildings on that estate work together. So, that's a real opportunity to start to look holistically at these issues. But also, it's important, I think, to look at the green infrastructure that exists there and whether we can maintain that, because we know that we want to maintain that connectivity and improve it.

There is the concept as well of net environmental gain. So, if you're developing something, can you actually have an environmental gain as part of that? We've also got proposals around sustainable drainage systems as well. So, looking more holistically, rather than just looking at, 'How many houses can I get out of the site?', 'How does it relate to the wider surroundings and how does it make those connections?'

I think the point you make about climate change and trees and tree cover is very valid, and is something we need to look at more. So, hopefully, place making will be an opportunity to start to bring that all together.   

Well, I hope we're going to do it soon, because trees also, apart from cleaning up the air, are great storage tanks. We've seen, quite rightly, in Cardiff, where NRW wanted to remove trees—I can't, still, get my head round this—to alleviate flooding, quite rightly, we've seen some protests, and I support that. So, I hope that we are going to advise those who are advising us as well about the importance of keeping trees. But I don't think I got the answer, or I didn't hear it, about us meeting the target of 100,000 hectares by 2030. 

10:05

We remain committed to that target. In the paper we sent you, we start off with what we can do now, in terms of we're looking at, I think, 2,000 a year. But we anticipate that that is not going to be a linear target. So, hopefully, it will then increase over the coming years as well. 

The building we've got here is not exactly surrounded by trees, is it? But we've had some great successes—the lower Swansea valley, the Afan valley—we've had huge woodlands being replanted. Are there any plans to do more of that? This is not necessarily forestry, it's woodland. It's not necessarily massively commercial forestry, but it's woodland, which does, from my experience, make a big difference to dealing with water run-off. 

Absolutely. Look at things that are happening in Llanelli with the RainScape project in terms of how that tackles surface flooding issues and drainage issues, but also creates a really lovely green space on people's doorstep as well. In terms of replanting, one thing the committee might be interested in is that the Welsh Government has agreed with NRW that they can carry out compensatory planting from the income from windfarm developments. So, as managers of the woodland estate, they will get about £3.7 million in additional funding this year to tackle P. ramorum, and part of that is going to be replanting as well. But I think you're absolutely right to look at how we can create those—. Our ambition for Wales is to get that mixture. What I saw in Scotland is they were being very successful, but it's predominantly about conifer, it's not about broadleaf and the biodiversity and conservation aspect of it. So, I think, in Wales, we're keen to get that balance, that mosaic of woodland. 

Would it be possible, either annually or every five years, to give an update on how many trees have been planted and which types?

Just before we leave the woodlands, you mentioned our report, 'Branching out'. I remember we had very strong evidence from Confor that we were way off beam on our aims, and I think one of the figures that came out was that we should have planted something like 35,000 hectares of new trees or new woodland in order to get to the 100,000 target, and we've done about a tenth of that. So, it's not just that we didn't reach the target, we were way, way beyond. We didn't even have the acorns there, let alone the oak trees. So, what are you additionally doing? You responded to that report. What action is being taken, specifically now, to really free up—? Because some of the barriers identified in that report were something around planning, though that was a difficult one to perceive, but it was there; a lack of, if you like, strategic thought processes going on about where you'd done—. You know, some of the examples you've given are excellent examples—RainScape, Urban Trees, excellent examples—but we're talking about big forests here. We're talking about major planting here, and it just doesn't seem to be happening in Wales. 

No. Obviously, pre-Hannah, I came and gave evidence to committee then, and, when we were talking about the target, I remember thinking in my head that it was 3,500 trees we should have planted—

Yes, it was a tenth. We should have planted 30,000 and we planted 3,500. So, there's no way we're going to meet 100,000 in the time scale. So, I think that was when I said I would refresh the woodland strategy—I remember David Melding and I talking about this—because, clearly, we were not going to meet it if we just carried on doing the same things. So, one of the things Hannah mentioned in her answer to Joyce was about the extra funding that NRW are going to be able to get from windfarm development. We met the new chief executive last week, of NRW, and she sees it as a priority, which I think is very important.

I've been having discussions with our farmers and our land managers, because I think they accept they have a role to play as well. I do appreciate that some farmers don't want to put a field of trees in, because they feel that, once they're there, they've lost that land. So, I think it's about working with them also to make sure that we can get some more planted. 

I think you're right about planning, but it's not just—. You know, we've got to look at this on a large scale, and I think refreshing the strategy is a really helpful way. I've been having discussions—I don't know if Hannah has as well—with Alun Davies around the Valleys landscape park. I think there's a big opportunity there also. So, again, it's about looking at any opportunity that we can have to increase it.

10:10

I remember talking about the Valleys woodland landscape park 10 years ago and Leighton Andrews, when he was the Deputy Minister for Regeneration, was talking about this. So, we still haven't seen that.

Can I just ask a specific question on planning? Because concerns were raised this week that the protection of historic woodlands has been weakened. Now, historic woodlands are only, I think, a fraction of our overall tree cover, but they're obviously important. They play a role in carbon sequestration, but also a very important biodiversity role. What would your response as a Government be to the claim that protection of historic woodlands has been weakened in Wales? Because, obviously, we want to keep what we've got as well as add to it.

So, 'Planning Policy Wales' has been changed to reflect the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. So, the language is different, but the emotion behind it in terms of protecting woodland is the same. So, the words have changed, but we are still seeking to protect ancient woodlands. Obviously, it's a consultation at the moment. If people have concerns, we'll look again at the words.

Okay. I'll move on to a non-contentious issue, which is the M4. [Laughter.] Again, a very similar sector, transport in Wales, very similar to a question I asked earlier about a fifth of our devolved emissions coming from the transport sector. Would you be one of those who advocate that the proposed new route for the M4 is a carbon reduction route?

Well, certainly, the evidence has suggested that emissions will be reduced if we have the road, the new M4. Obviously, there's a public inquiry going on at the moment. The inspectors are looking at the environmental statement, for instance. All the evidence will be given back to Ken Skates at the end of it and we'll have a look at it. I think what's more important from my portfolio's point of view is what's on those roads. So, I want to see more electric vehicles, more hydrogen cars—for me, that's the important thing.

If we use the argument that the M4 is a carbon reduction route, then we'll have new M4s all over Wales, won't we? Because then we'd reduce our carbon targets. I don't think that's a coherent carbon reduction argument.

In your assessment of the proposed new M4, I assume—because it was Ken Skates who told this committee that this is the basis of it—the assumption around carbon reduction is around congestion, a reduction in congestion, and a particular addressing of a problem in that area. How does that link wider, though, to the wider traffic problems that we have in Wales—you know, in an urban city like Cardiff, which is completely not what a twenty-first century city should look like in terms of addressing traffic reduction—and what you'd like to achieve in the transport sector as a whole? You just briefly touched on a couple of the things that might be technologically coming down the line, but it's also about reducing the need for local journeys in particular, and alternative methods of transport.

Yes, absolutely, and, obviously, active travel has a huge part to play. I wasn't in the Chamber for the debate yesterday, but, you know, active travel is very important, particularly in reducing those journeys that can be done on foot and by cycling rather than in cars. I suppose, long-term, we're looking at a metro in south Wales. We're looking at a north-east Wales metro. I think Swansea are now looking at a metro. So, that's why I say that, from my point of view, if we want to—. I want to decarbonise the transport system as well as much as I can, so, we'll be looking at those technologies, too.

Could I just ask a question? One of the great difficulties is—and I include myself in this—I would like to come here every day by public transport, but it's incredibly difficult. It's a sort of personal masochism if I actually engage in that. It'll take me twice as long. It will involve me getting wet on several occasions. If we're trying to reduce carbon emissions, I know it's not your portfolio, but surely you could talk to the transport Secretary about making it easier for those of us who want to come in by public transport to actually do so.

No, you're absolutely right. When I'm in Cardiff, I walk to work, because I live very close by—and, you know, just the well-being benefits of that. Whereas, when I drive to my constituency office, which should take probably about eight minutes and takes about half an hour, you just feel—. To me, being able to walk to work or cycle to work, there are the well-being aspects of it as well. Public transport is clearly another issue. I know there's a lot going on in relation to looking at bus services right across Wales. Obviously, we've got more powers coming. Certainly, my discussions with Ken are—he feels there's a lot more he can do when we do get those powers.

10:15

Just on that, the active travel Act has been in force for, I think, five years or so now. We don't have any figures that show that active travel has actually increased in Wales. We are no different than the rest of the UK; we're not any better or any worse. But the fact is that the number of journeys by car has gone from—this is very much top of the head—the mid-30s per cent in the 1960s to way over 60 per cent now. The decline in journeys by bicycle is huge, from about a third of local travel by bike down to 2 per cent or something. It's been precipitous. You've just mentioned the well-being effect. If I go down the hill into my office in Aberystwyth on a bike, that's very good; it's getting back home that is the difficulty for me. [Laughter.] But there is no discernible improvement in that. I'm sure you and I could point to projects and plans that have been put in place as a result of the active travel Act and have been better for that local environment, but, across Wales as a whole, it is not making a contribution to carbon reduction. So, is there a way of intensifying, now, action on active travel in conjunction with your colleagues?

I think there is. I think we need to do quite a bit of work with local authorities as well. Certainly, in my own local authority, I've just had a complaint from a constituent—

As you know, some of the maps were found to be way wanting in many ways.

Yes. The cycle path just ended, it didn't go anywhere. So, I think there is a big piece of work, which obviously Ken would lead on, but I'm very happy to continue those discussions with him. But it's very disappointing that, as you say, the Act's been in place for about five years—. It's one of those—. It's a bit like the future generations Act, people give it huge plaudits, but you need the evidence to show that it's working to be able to accept those plaudits, really. So, I think there's a big piece of work to be done around active travel, but also around those low-carbon technologies that are out there. For instance, electric vehicles: I was incredibly frustrated around the lack of infrastructure we have in relation to charging points. I'll just give you an example. We found some money—I think it was actually Ken who found the money in the end—to put some charging points in Welsh Government estate buildings, because I thought if we could lead the way and then we could perhaps run out a pilot to local authorities. So, you manage to get the money, you get them in the building, and then you find out that you need about 27 different leads for 27 different cars, which I think is incredibly frustrating. It's a bit like phones, isn't it? They've all got different charging cables. So, I think we need to work with the companies that are coming through with this technology to simplify things so that when you do try and do something—. But, of course, that now passes and it's hydrogen cars, now, that are coming through. The technology is so fast changing. Trying to keep pace and make sure you've got the infrastructure in place is really difficult.

Just a final thing on that, accepting that as a Government you have a regulatory role. We are in this Betamax/VHS kind of thing at the moment with electric cars, I think, but there will be a standard technology, there's no doubt, that will emerge from this. But will you be able to actually integrate this into your carbon budgeting? So, will your carbon budgeting be able to reflect not only decarbonising transport itself, so electric cars, for example, but also this active travel element? So, you're actually building into the budgeting that you're doing an imperative that is cross Government then, so if there's a better—. We all talk about joined-up Government but it's just that this is not to be seen yet, I have to say.

I think we are joining up better than we were, and certainly on carbon budgeting. Obviously, we're in the first carbon budget period now. While we're going through the process of setting the next three carbon budgets, we've met with all the Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers to be able to do that. So, I think that is—. We are seeing much more of a join up. I've also got the decarbonisation ministerial task and finish group, because I thought it was really important that we all sat around the table and discussed this, not just leaving it for me, for instance. I think it's part of everybody's portfolio and I think that has really focused the mind. We had a fantastic presentation from a climate analyst from climatic analysts—am I right?

10:20

Analytics, yes.

Climate Analytics, who—. You could see the look on every Cabinet Secretary's and Minister's face—it was really stark, his analysis of all our portfolios and all our policies and what we needed to do to decarbonise several aspects—housing, transport, energy. So, I think—. The answer is 'yes', we are looking at that as we are setting our carbon budgets. But, as I say, technology is so fast that it is difficult to keep pace with it.

Just to answer your particular question, we're currently working on the regulations for the first budgets and then by next March we'll need to table our first plan, which will be a cross-Government plan, which will set out both the steps we're taking to reduce emissions as well as the steps that we're taking to support that transition to a low-carbon economy. So, the activities around more active travel et cetera will probably fit into the latter category. They don't directly reduce emissions unless people stop driving cars as well, or particular types of transport. So, we'd want the plan to set out the two types or the range of activities that we're undertaking.

Yes, I just want to press you on a leadership role across Government departments as, obviously, the lead Minister for emissions and their reduction. We've just heard that transport is key. I think it's probably—. I don't know if agriculture or transport are the largest areas that are devolved, that we have control over. Now, if you look at transport, the levels of emissions are more or less unchanged from 1990 in Wales. Now, in Scotland, they've been reduced significantly. Our standstill is despite the fact that the design of cars has become much more efficient and also their fuel consumption, which indicates that the real problem has been the large increase in demand, which has offset those efficiency gains. Now, the expert reference group has pushed you to say what sort of assessment have you made of the M4 given that we've got one Cabinet Secretary saying, 'Well, it's going to reduce congestion and therefore will reduce emission levels', but the evidence on what happens when we improve infrastructure is that demand increases substantially. So, what have you done to look at this to make an assessment? And, also, what assessment have you made of the embedded costs of the M4 in terms of carbon consumption?

So, the proposed M4 relief road has been factored into our carbon budgeting process. I'm looking at Prys. That was in the first one. And then the second one.

Yes. What the budgeting process will do is make assumptions going forward about what is being built or developed. Now, there are still decisions and an inquiry process under way around the M4. The emissions from the construction process, if there's a decision to proceed with the M4—. That will help us to think about the construction, the emissions arising from maybe concrete manufacturing or cement or what have you. We can start to ask colleagues on the transport side to model that.

Well, crikey, we're half way through the public inquiry and your reference group is saying, 'What are the embedded costs?' You're responsible for, I presume, giving advice to your fellow Cabinet Members on key public policy developments and we're now told that we don't have a carbon assessment of this major project, which has been in the system for 10, 20 years or whatever. Where on earth are we?

There is a carbon assessment of the project. That is being considered by the inquiry process. That is the responsibility of transport colleagues as they develop large infrastructure projects—to undertake those assessments. 

So, why hasn't this been given to the expert reference group?

Sorry, could you repeat that?

Why has the assessment not been given to your expert reference group?

To your expert reference group—.

You're now saying that you've made a carbon assessment—

10:25

All documents that are part of the inquiry are public documents. So, they are all in a library there. They are being considered by the inspectors at the moment, who will take into account all of the evidence from all of the sides and then produce a report for the relevant Cabinet Secretary. What I should say as well is, in terms of new infrastructure, quite often you will find, traditionally, the additional carbon or transport requirements that would come with it have come on the back of the development that has taken place around the infrastructure. That's where we really need to focus. It's about making sure that if we do put a new piece of infrastructure in, we don't see a lot of housing developments, distribution parks and things like that on greenfield sites adjacent to motorway junctions. That will generate an awful lot of transport.

Some of the things that we're trying to do through the planning side is look very clearly at what we are calling a transport hierarchy. So, in terms of new development, first of all we look at options for active travel; then, options for public transport; and then, only finally, private motor-based transport. So, we are trying to move in that direction, quite clearly. Obviously, that depends, critically, on local delivery at the local level—local authorities actually doing this as part of their development planning process, and making sure there aren't sites allocated on greenfield sites near motorway junctions. So, there are things we can do on the planning side there.

We are also looking very much at the charging infrastructure for vehicles as well. We have introduced some standards in planning policy for charging on non-domestic planning applications. So, if you have a supermarket, we will be seeking charging points there. If you have a car park related to something else, we'll be seeking charging points. There are a number of things we can do on that side as well. 

Can I say—I do apologise. It is our expert reference group. But I am surprised that, if a full carbon assessment of this project has been made, we have not seen it. This is extraordinary. 

A full carbon assessment is now with the public inquiry.

That's my understanding.

I think the important thing is, when you're carbon budgeting—. You're always going to have these large infrastructures. It's about making sure that you do other things to ensure that the emissions—. You have got to live within your budget limits. It's like money, isn't it? You have got to make sure that you do that, so I think it's really important that we look at build and we look at design to make sure that it doesn't affect those long-term emissions. 

My other question, then, was: you know the transport Secretary recently made a statement that he's going to review congestion issues, and one of the areas that he's looking at is whether HGVs would be permitted to use bus lanes. What discussions did you have with him about this consultation?

I didn't have a discussion on a one-to-one basis with him.

Do you think it would help cycling if HGVs use bus lanes?

Two very quick questions answered there. Over to you, Dawn.

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to ask some questions around housing and building. I think you've probably touched on a bit of what I was going to ask you in terms of your carbon budgeting and so on. But, we've obviously had an inquiry over the last few months now on low-carbon housing, and what we've heard in that inquiry is that the need to eradicate fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency in Wales is going to mean a significant increase in investment from the Welsh Government. So, my first question really is whether the Government has considered the level of investment that's going to be required really to deliver that energy efficiency by 2050. 

'Yes' is the short answer. You heard me mention in an earlier answer that we'd had this presentation from Climate Analytics. We plan, through our Warm Homes programme, to address energy efficiency in 25,000 houses in this Government term. If I had the money, which I don't have, I would probably be able to do 10 times that number, and we still may not reach our target.

Is that new build or retro—

No, that's retrofit.

It's retrofit. Whilst we can now look at new build in, obviously, future policy, it is the retrofit because we have so many. Again, across the UK, we have the highest number of houses that require that.

When I was in a previous portfolio, with Carl Sargeant, we decided to put some funding into a housing conditions evidence survey, and from that survey's results, we—myself and Rebecca Evans—are now looking at the number of houses that are in fuel poverty. We're now re-assessing the number that are actually in fuel poverty.

10:30

And that's really helpful—to know that. So, in terms of new build, then, you are going to be setting a standard specifically for new build. I'll come back to retrofit in a minute, but you are specifically setting the standards now for new build, going forward.

We're looking at that. So, again, you're probably aware that we're going out to consultation on Part L review. We're a little bit behind because I've done 'Planning Policy Wales' as well, but that will look at zero carbon.

So, the process is starting now, in terms of looking at—

The first stage of the review of Part L of the building regulations is to undertake a scoping study to actually understand what are the opportunities out there, what sorts of technologies are available to drive performance of new buildings, and looking at that in a cost optimal way as well. So, we want to achieve it at the lowest cost. We made changes back in 2014. At that time we had quite high aspirations in the consultation for new house building, but the market was in such a place we had to rein that back a little bit.

We are looking again at pushing those into the zero-carbon direction. I think we're fairly close, as it is at the moment. It probably means looking at things like increasing renewable energy on buildings, but it's also, potentially, leading to other changes in building regulations as well. Because, as you improve the performance of a building, because we've taken a fabric-first approach, you can start to see issues in terms of ventilation, and you can start to see issues around things like overheating in the summer. So, if you've got a lightweight flat that faces south, with a lot of glazing, it can get rather warm and uncomfortable in the summer. So, there are a number of different elements of this that we need to look at, and the first stage of that is a scoping study, to understand exactly what we're looking at.

Because we did hear, in evidence, that some of the housing developers would be resistant to this, but I'm always a bit sceptical about this. Everybody is always resistant to any change that they think—. Because, presumably, there are going to be similar targets being set in England.

What some of the developers were saying was that they won't build in Wales, they'll all go to England, but they're going to be faced with something similar there as well, I guess.

Just going back to the retrofit—you've dealt with new build. Given the difficulties we've got with retrofit in Wales and the age of buildings, particularly the solid stone buildings and so on, is aiming for zero carbon a realistic objective?

Well, I mentioned that we're retrofitting 25,000 houses this term, and the previous assessment we had of the number of houses that are in fuel poverty is 291,000. We've got the survey, which will give us a re-assessment. So, with the budget constraints that we have, there is no way I'm going to be able to do that. So, I suppose, in relation to retrofit, I think what this presentation that I referred to showed us is that we're not going to be able to do it in the timescale that we would want to.

Just to come back as well on your particular question, I think there are questions in terms of retrofit about what you can do to the fabric of the building, but also this is where it starts to interrelate with other policy developments. For instance, the electrification of heat, potentially. So, a lot of emissions in buildings come through heat. If we potentially decarbonise gas, or increase the decarbonised gas supplies, and/or—in conjunction with that—electrify heating, that is also an additional way you can reduce emissions of the building. There's a lot of technological work under way now—a lot of trial and piloting work being undertaken in Wales in this area. So, there's a range of activities. It's not just the fabric.

I appreciate it's not just about cladding. I do understand that. We had some presentations on various ways of changing heating systems and so on. And actually, some of our fabulous, stone buildings, you wouldn't want to stick cladding on the front of those in any event, would you?

My final question really is just about monitoring. Given the reported performance gap of energy efficiency measures, how can we ensure that our performance is verified and monitored and assured, really? 

10:35

Responsibility for ensuring that our houses are built or improved to required standards obviously rests with the people who are commissioning and then undertaking that work. We've got building control bodies. They implement the building regulations. This is why I thought it was very important to have this review of Part L, because I think there are problems between what's designed and specified and what's eventually built. So, I think we did need to have a look at that. There have been some significant problems in the construction industry and the committee may be aware of Mark Farmer's report, 'Modernise or die'. That was for the UK Construction Leadership Council. So, we've got an innovative housing programme, which was launched early last year, and that looked at the recommendations from the Farmer report. So, that supports schemes where we test new models of affordable homes. We have improved delivery pathways and we've also got better procurement techniques to speed up supply and increase quality. We are now going to be carefully monitoring and evaluating those schemes. Having been housing Minister, I think that's a really good thing to see. 

Just to pick up, if I may, on the point that you've now made yourself, which is between fuel efficiency and fuel poverty, and one in four households in Wales really are in a fuel-poor situation. We had 1,800 excess deaths in winter due to the cold in the last winter, and this winter, potentially, it might be even worse than that. And just looking at the scale of the problem, you have a programme for 25,000 homes, but as you no doubt will recognise, it actually will take you 48 years even to get to where we are, to clear the fuel poverty homes. The evidence we've taken on low-carbon housing has just underlined to this committee that we are living in the houses of 2050 now. So, no matter what new build we have, about 80 per cent of what's going to be available in 30 years' time is already built, already constructed, and we're going to be doing a lot of retrofitting or decarbonising heat or whatever it might be to achieve that. 

Some would argue that without any specific anti-poverty Ministers any more in Welsh Government, fuel poverty in particular has slipped off the agenda. There is a way of getting a win-win here, because you're tackling energy efficiency and decarbonisation, and you're helping the most fuel poor. So, not only with your own Welsh Government tools, which are limited in terms of actual resources, but are you able to use Welsh Government influence to access wider tools at a UK level to try and do more with the energy companies around this, to talk to Ofgem to see whether we can release or change some of the ways that they force the energy companies to invest in some of this, and, particularly, are there now available some alternative sources of finance?

We've looked at finance transaction capital, for example, on the Finance Committee, which is where the Government has a certain amount of money so that you can link this, particularly in homes where there are alternative mortgage providers, or in social housing where there is a rent. Where there is an income stream of some sort, you could link capital investment into energy efficiency. Are we looking here not just at what you can do as a direct intervention, but at a bit more imagination from the Government in terms of tackling fuel poverty?

I think we have to look at new ways and look at innovation. For instance, on Monday, I met with Claire Perry, who is the Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and I had this discussion with her around retrofitting in particular, because the scheme—I've forgotten the name of the scheme in England—. But she was saying that it's targeting the wrong people. I think the first thing is to make sure that we are targeting the right people. As you say, out of 25,000 houses, when we know we've got 291,000 houses in fuel poverty, it's very important that we tackle the right ones. So, I think the survey that I mentioned to Dawn will be really important in helping us re-assess that.

I had discussions with the UK Government Minister around energy companies. I've had those conversations. I know Prys met with Ofgem last week. 

I was going to say, I think you were with him as well. So, you're absolutely right, we need to look at new ways, because there is no way, on the current budget, that we're going to be able to tackle those houses in a way that we would want to. I did find a little bit more money this year, but again, it's a drop in the ocean. But I do want to reassure you and other colleagues that, just because there isn't a Minister for tackling poverty, it doesn't mean that we're not looking at poverty right across Government. So, when I was the tackling poverty Minister, one of the things I brought in was that, in every decision we take as Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries, tackling poverty has to be looked at, just as children's issues or equality are—we have to look at poverty. So, just to reassure you that, even though there isn't a Minister with that in their title, we all take responsibility for it.

10:40

Just to add to what the Cabinet Secretary said, we'll be shortly setting up an advisory group, an external reference group, to help us look specifically at the existing build sector and how to decarbonise those buildings in that sector and, as part of that work, taking a broader view, so not simply looking at it as a construction retrofit issue, but, as you said, the work that we might need to do with mortgage lenders and others in different financing options. They will be involved in the group. I think we'll also need to think carefully about what we require others to do on our behalf. We do not have powers to regulate around energy efficiency. We do have powers around council tax setting, which might be one area we might want to explore, but we don't have powers around regulating energy efficiency—the UK Government has those levers. We know that one of the key areas we need to address is the private rented sector, particularly. I think the UK Government are tentatively thinking about increasing standards of regulation in that area, but we will need them, unless we have those powers ourselves, to do some of these activities on our behalf. So, I think there's probably a mixture of financing, regulation, different types of regulatory levers, as well as supporting through investment ourselves.

You also mentioned about the future houses—that we don't want to be building houses now that we need to retrofit 20 or 30 years down the line, and this presentation we have from Climate Analytics really stresses that point. So, I think, the reason for the innovative housing group was to make sure that we're not building houses that will need retrofitting. But I'm not sure we're there yet. 

If I can just say, I welcome that there might be a wider look at how this joins up. I think we've got stuck in a rut with fuel poverty. Welsh Government intervenes, does 6,000-odd houses a year—great for those people living in there, but we need to start thinking about how we use your influence and the money to trigger other developments. So, your direct intervention is going to be limited by the capital, really, you can release, and that's never going to be enough. But it's the wider agenda of trying to work with others and putting pressure on others to do this. So, yes, the mortgage people—get them in. Ofgem need to wake up—and we had a conversation with them last week about some of these issues as well—to that wider agenda. It's making sure that the energy companies pay attention to what's going on in Wales, so that they know that Wales could be a test bed for some kind of innovation in this area, to look at types of homes that are very difficult, as Dawn pointed out, to retrofit. But if we crack it and if we do it in a schematic way, and if we involve the private owners in mixed developments as well, you do get more bang for your buck, but it takes more work—it takes an investment of time and energy.

So, I think there are things that Welsh Government can do and I would suggest that you've got slightly stuck in a—'We're doing x amount of houses a year, and that's out contribution.' I think a more innovative approach and really putting Wales out there as a place where we can test some of these ideas, which would then dovetail into the wider longer term agenda about zero-carbon or energy producing homes, which, obviously, this committee is interested in. But we mustn't leave our current housing stock behind and, more importantly, leave some people in very, very poor and very unhealthy situations.

I've got two specific questions on this. The first one is: we've had the Welsh housing quality standard for some time now—is there an opportunity to upgrade that and to bring in energy efficiency as part of the Welsh housing quality standard? I know Simon has raised this on a number of occasions, but is it possible to look at the land transaction tax to make people pay more in land transaction tax for energy-inefficient houses and less for energy-efficient houses? You can use the taxation system. Neither of those fall under your remit, I acknowledge, but can you discuss those with your Cabinet colleagues?

On the first point around the Welsh housing quality standard, the current standard is scheduled to be met, I think, in 2020. We are now working very closely with housing colleagues. We have set up a joint team to think about the type of programmes that we need going forward to 2030, and not just thinking about social housing or retrofitting the fuel poor in their own homes, but that we can take a cross-Government view around the type of programmes that we need to decarbonise existing housing stock, irrespective of whether it's social housing, private housing or rented accommodation, and that we have a cross-Government view on this. So, I think, going forward, one of the questions that we want this external reference group to help us come to a view on is what the programme for retrofit looks like towards 2030, with social housing as part of that, and energy efficiency built into that issue.

10:45

But you could set—I say 'you', the Welsh Government, could set rules for social housing, and they could ensure that they're carried out, because the amount of grants et cetera they give to organisations they could control. And we can control houses that are being sold through the land transaction tax. There are powers that exist. They don't fall within the Cabinet Secretary's portfolio, but they are matters, across Government, that can be done.

I will have that conversation with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Wel, dim ond i orffen, rydym ni wedi sôn cryn dipyn am hyn, achos mae hwn yn agenda eang iawn, wrth gwrs, ac mae yna sawl her sylweddol rydym ni wedi clywed amdanyn nhw mewn gwahanol feysydd, ac yn aros am weithredu yn y gwahanol feysydd yna—tai, amaethyddiaeth, coedwigoedd, yr M4, ac yn y blaen. Felly, mae yna sawl her sylfaenol iawn, ond un o'r heriau mwyaf sylfaenol ydy newid ein hymddygiad ni i gyd, hynny yw pobl gyffredin, y cyhoedd. Mae hynny'n rhan o'r her hefyd: ddim jest disgwyl i bobl fod yn gweithredu ar ran y cyhoedd. Ond mae yna her sylweddol i'r cyhoedd hefyd, eu bod nhw'n rhan o'r cynllun mawr yma, achos mae gyda ni Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015, wrth gwrs, ac wrth gwrs mae rhaglen datgarboneiddio Llywodraeth Cymru yn hanfodol bwysig. Felly, sut ydych chi'n ymgysylltu efo'r cyhoedd i geisio'u darbwyllo nhw i fod yn rhan o'r tîm sy'n mynd i ddatgarboneiddio Cymru?

Thank you, Chair. Well, just to finish, we've been talking quite a lot about this, because it's a wide agenda, of course, and there are substantial challenges in many areas, and we are waiting to take action in those areas—such as housing, agriculture, forestry, the M4, and so on. So, there are many fundamental challenges, but the biggest fundamental challenge is our behaviour change, that is the public. That is part of the challenge also: we can't just expect people to take action on behalf of the public. But there's a huge challenge for the public as well to be part of this plan, because we have the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, of course, and the Welsh Government's decarbonisation programme is essential. So, how do you engage with the public in trying to convince them to be part of the team that is going to decarbonise Wales?

I think individuals obviously have a very important role in reducing emissions. If you think about it, all the decisions we take—how we get to work, how we heat our homes—it's all about whether emissions are reduced or not. So, I think we have to work with the public in a different way. I am just about to commission some research into the wider approaches we can take to help people make those choices, because I don't think a lot of people do think about that. So, we have to work with them to make them realise that the decisions they're making today will impact on future generations. I know there was recently a video competition launched for young people. I think it was between eight and 11. I'll ask Hannah to come in on this, because we used our eco-schools network to do that. So, that was working with young people, because I think we do have to work with young people too.

The wider public, I think we've done a couple of schemes with the Big Lottery Fund. We've worked with them on the Create Your Space programme, which, again, I think, working with some small communities, will help this process. The Create Your Space programme: there's been about 50 community-led programmes that have had funding, so I think, again, as that pans out, we'll be able to transform communities in certain areas. There have been, also, some community-based programmes from the practitioner-led Renew Wales group. So, those are two ways that we can continue to work with the public. But as I say, I do think working with children is really important, so I'll ask Hannah to come in about the competition.

Yes, the comments are actually quite timely, because the competition is due to close this week. It's a video competition for children aged eight to 11. We put it through our eco-schools network and they are asked to create a video talking about what they think Wales will look like, or what they want it to look like, in 2050. Part of it is this idea of raising awareness of decarbonisation and what that means and why it's important, and to involve young people in looking for solutions. Because the likelihood is that, in 2050, unfortunately, many of us might not be around then, but these children hopefully will be, and I think it's really important that they are taking the lead on that and are involved with that. I look forward to seeing whatever suggestions they have in the videos. I'm sure there will be lots of innovative and imaginative ideas.

The eco-schools network—. Since I've come into post—I think it's such a valuable tool in terms of the fact that I don't think we can underestimate the effectiveness of pester power by children and young people and their ability to shame adults into acting. I've seen that through a lot of the eco-schools and what they've done in terms of their recycling and their environmental objectives in that way. If the committee will just indulge me slightly, there's something else with the eco-schools that I hope the committee will be interested in, which is that we recently agreed support for the Young Dragons project, and that's going to involve 35 eco-schools that will be monitoring levels of pollution and air quality in their areas. The idea is that they then are involved with designing their own behavioural change campaign. So, that could involve cycling or scooting to school; walking buses, which I think people will be familiar with already; no-idling campaigns—but actually involving young people in driving that kind of behavioural change, and not just within their schools. Quite often, we find it starts off within the schools and then obviously spreads to the wider community as well.

10:50

Simon Thomas mentioned before the agricultural sector, and one thing I've been doing within the rural development programme—we've had the sustainable management grant, so that's been specifically about reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the sector. I know that's a very specific part of the public, but I think it's a very important part.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynny. I fod yn deg, efo'r cyhoedd, mae yna gryn frwdfrydedd allan yn fanna i newid, ond wrth gwrs mae yna sawl her pan ydych chi'n cychwyn o sylfaen sydd yn isel iawn. Mae yna her sylweddol i unigolion jest i feddwl am sut i fynd ati, ac yn enwedig fel cymunedau bach, efallai—rhai gwledig. Pa fath o gefnogaeth ydych chi'n gallu ei darparu i gymunedau, efallai, i bontio i gymdeithas carbon isel? Rwy'n cymryd eich bod chi'n delio efo arbenigwyr yn y maes o hyd. Pa ran mae'r arbenigwyr yn y maes hefyd yn ei chael yn eich cynlluniau chi i ddatblygu mwy o gynlluniau datgarboneiddio fel rhan o bolisïau eich Llywodraeth chi?

Thank you very much for that. To be fair, with the public, there is a lot of enthusiasm to change, but of course there are many challenges when you come from a foundation that's very, very low. There is a substantial challenge for individuals just to think about how to go about it, and certainly in small rural communities. What kind of support can you provide to communities to transition into low-carbon communities? I take it that you're dealing with experts in the field. What role do those experts have in developing more decarbonisation projects as part of your Government's policy?

So, I suppose one way is through community energy projects. We've been working with some individual groups in relation to that. We've got a few schemes now that have come forward and I think it's about 17 now that have actually come to fruition. So, I think that's another way. People feel part of that, they've got ownership of it, and I think that spreads out in the community also. I know we're having a consultation—is it next month?

We are working towards a consultation over the summer on the broad trajectory towards 2030, so what the type of actions are that we need to take. I think this is one of the challenging questions: how best do we engage with people directly on the individual choices that they can make about how they live in their homes, make choices around holidays, transport et cetera? These are very personal issues, but tackling them is very difficult.

Can I ask, in relation broadly to the carbon targets and budgets, when your specific schemes are developed, what sort of peer review process does that go through?

Well, you know, we were just talking for instance of the M4 relief road. How is that given some sort of peer review?

Well, we are in the process of establishing the first budget, so we don't have a budget to work towards yet. We will have later in the year, but I think that once that budget is in place it'll be clear across Government the levels that we are working towards. Then, Ministers will have a collective choice around where they want effort to be best deployed in terms of meeting those targets, so whether they want to focus more on one particular emissions sector than others—that will be an issue we need to consider. In parallel with that, we will need, within Government, to identify those projects or issues that are being thought of or that may potentially cause issues with us meeting the target, and we start factoring those in—some of which will be within our control, some of which won't.

How can we be reassured that the sort of mishap or whatever you want to call it in terms of the woodlands target is not repeated? We have public policy for 5,000 hectares a year; in five years, we've only just had 3,500, so that's cumulatively, not just one year. The Minister has just said that the target was probably ill-conceived—and that could well be the case—so, how will you peer review what emerges in this carbon budget process so we don't get similar sorts of wide expectations, or whatever?

10:55

I'm expecting the carbon budgets to be scrutinised by the Assembly in a way that you scrutinise us on finance, which I think—

No, that's not peer review, but I'm just saying I think—

This is a highly technical area that requires great rigour.

So, a peer review: I would imagine we would look for advice from the UKCCC because they've been advising us how we set it. So, they would peer review, for want of a better word. I'm not sure we would call it 'peer review', but I would ask them to have a look at it.

Yes, the UKCCC undertakes a similar function in relation to the UK Government. So, the UK Government recently published their fifth carbon budget proposals, and within two or three months the UKCCC reported on the content, whether it was achievable and whether it was in sufficient detail or not, and we'd expect them to undertake a similar function here.

If there are no more questions, can I thank the Cabinet Secretary, the Minister and your officials for coming along? You know that you will get a copy of the transcript. You'll be able to—what normally happens to me—fill in the words that they miss because I turn away when I'm talking. [Laughter.]

3. Papur(au) i’w nodi
3. Paper(s) to note

We've got three papers to note. Are people happy to note community energy projects, fires at recycling sites, and the Scottish Parliament? Yes.

A gaf i jest ddweud, ar y llythyr gan Senedd yr Alban—jest i'w nodi fe nawr—ond fe hoffwn i drafod y ffaith eu bod nhw'n gwneud ymchwiliad mewn i egwyddorion amgylcheddol y gyfraith Ewropeaidd wrth inni drafod ein rhaglen waith ni yn nes ymlaen? Achos, roedd yna drafodaeth yn y Cynulliad ddoe am hyn, fel yr ydych chi'n ei wybod.

I just wanted to talk about the letter from the Scottish Parliament. I will just note it for now, but I want to discuss the fact that they're going to undertake an inquiry into the environmental principles in relation to EU law. I'd like us to look at that in terms of the forward look later on, because there was a discussion on that in the Assembly yesterday afternoon, as you know.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o’r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 5, 6 a 7.
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from items 5, 6 and 7 of this meeting.

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 5, 6 a 7 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 5, 6 and 7 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I now move a motion, under Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public from items 5, 6 and 7 of this meeting? Yes.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:57.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:57.

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