Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee20/10/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Cefin Campbell MS||Dirprwyo ar ran Delyth Jewell|
|Substitute for Delyth Jewell|
|Huw Irranca-Davies MS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS|
|Joyce Watson MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Christine Wheeler||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Gian Marco Currado||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|John Howells||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Julie James MS||Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Minister for Climate Change|
|Lee Waters MS||Y Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Deputy Minister for Climate Change|
|Steve Vincent||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
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.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:01.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 10:01.
Croeso bawb i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith, Senedd Cymru. Rydym ni wedi derbyn un ymddiheuriad gan Delyth Jewell, ac rydym ni'n croesawu Cefin Campbell, sydd yma yn dirprwyo ar ei rhan hi. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, wrth gwrs. Mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg ar gael. Fydd dim angen ichi weithredu eich meicroffonau; mi fydd y swyddogion technegol yn eich dadmudo chi pan fyddwch chi'n cael eich galw i gyfrannu. A gaf i ofyn ar y cychwyn, felly, a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan o gwbl? Nac oes, iawn. Diolch yn fawr. A gaf i hefyd egluro y bydd Huw Irranca-Davies yn camu i'r adwy, fel Cadeirydd dros dro, â bod fy nghysylltiad i â'r cyfarfod yma, gan ei fod yn gyfarfod rhithiol, yn cael ei golli? Iawn.
I'd like to welcome everyone to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at the Senedd. We've received one apology from Delyth Jewell, and we welcome Cefin Campbell, who will be substituting on her behalf. This is a bilingual meeting and interpretation from Welsh to English is available. You won't need to touch or operate your mikes; the technical officers will unmute you when it's your turn to contribute. Could I ask Members, therefore, at the outset, whether they have any declarations of interest? No. Thank you very much. Could I also explain that Huw Irranca-Davies will step in as temporary Chair if I my connection is lost, because it's a virtual meeting?
Ymlaen â ni at yr ail eitem felly. Prif ffocws y cyfarfod heddiw, wrth gwrs, yw i barhau gydag ystyriaethau'r pwyllgor ar ein blaenoriaethau ni ar gyfer y chweched Senedd. Ac rydym ni'n croesawu, wrth gwrs, fel y rhan olaf o'r broses yna o dderbyn tystiolaeth, y Gweinidogion o Lywodraeth Cymru. Felly, croeso arbennig i Julie James, y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd, i Lee Waters, y Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd, a'u swyddogion nhw o Lywodraeth Cymru, sef John Howells, sy'n gyfarwyddwr newid hinsawdd, ynni a chynllunio; Gian Marco Currado, sy'n gyfarwyddwr yr amgylchedd a’r môr; Steve Vincent, cyfarwyddwr seilwaith economaidd; a Christine Wheeler, pennaeth datgarboneiddio ac ynni. Croeso i bob un ohonoch chi. Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau. Mae gennym ni rhyw ddwy awr o graffu y bore yma, felly mi gychwynnwn ni gyda Huw Irranca-Davies.
We'll move on, therefore, to the second item. The main focus of the meeting today is to continue to consider the committees's priorities for the sixth Senedd. And we welcome, of course, as the last part of that process of taking evidence, the Ministers from the Welsh Government. So, I welcome Julie James, the Minister for Climate Change; Lee Waters, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, and their officers from the Welsh Government: John Howells, director of climate change, energy and planning; Gian Marco Currado, director of environment and marine; Steve Vincent, director of economic infrastructure; and Christine Wheeler, head of decarbonisation and energy. Welcome to all of you. We'll go straight into questions. We have about two hours of scrutiny this morning, so we'll start with Huw Irranca-Davies.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning, Ministers, and your team. I'm going to go straight in, but I better had, as Llyr has mentioned there—. I'm chair of the active travel cross-party group and also a member of the public transport CPG as well. So, I'll put that on the record in advance.
I'm going to go straight in here with some update questions, first of all. Where are we now in terms of recovery, as we come through the pandemic, in terms of passenger numbers on rail and on buses? What's the extent of the recovery in passenger numbers? Do we have the data?
Who wants to—? Is it Lee, I think, is it?
Yes, okay. I'm just frantically searching my notes for the latest data. The numbers are still way below pre-pandemic levels. So, we understand from operators that bus patronage is between 66 per cent and 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels. In terms of rail, services are now back on 85 per cent of pre-COVID timetables. In terms of rail patronage, I wonder if Steve Vincent has the figures to hand.
Steve. We need to unmute. We need to unmute Steve Vincent, please.
It's all right. I can see them now from my notes. Passenger demand is, on average, 65 per cent of pre-COVID levels on Transport for Wales services. But it slightly differs in the nature of it, so leisure and weekend travel is different. So, that's at about 85 per cent of pre-COVID levels on some weekend services, and, in Rhyl, for example, hitting 126 per cent on some summer weekends. So, it's a mixed picture, but, overall, on bus and on rail, the numbers are significantly down on where they were before the pandemic, and that's reflected in the support we've given to the industry and, to be clear, we provided a lifeline to the industry. Clearly, we've brought rail back into public control, but the total support for rail over the whole pandemic has been something like £250 million of Welsh Government funding and the bus industry—a private industry—has had over £100 million of support. So, were it not for Welsh Government intervention, the bus industry would have collapsed. So, we have set aside significant resource to keep the services going.
Thank you, Minister, and the reason I wanted to start with that, to get an update on those figures, is because they are changing as we speak. And I think we recognise the support that's been put in—and bus operators tell us this as well, for all of us who've met with them, and rail operators as well—but we're not out of this pandemic, and, before I move on to the bigger picture of how we really get that modal change over the medium and long term, post pandemic, we're not even out of it. So, I guess two questions for you—one is: what's your anticipation over the autumn and the winter and into next year about passenger numbers recovering? And I guess you're going to tell me that some of that is dependent on what happens with the virus and so on and so forth. But, linked to that as well, is there a commitment in Welsh Government to sustain the levels of funding, which have been significant, to keep those bus operators and train operators going?
Well, the answer, Huw, is, 'We don't know', clearly. Evidence from around the world is that public transport demand is suppressed everywhere as a result of COVID. There's a nervousness about returning to crowded spaces. For those who don't have a choice—clearly, some people have to do so, and that's why we're continuing to ask people to wear masks and we've increased our enforcement levels to encourage that. But that is an ongoing journey we're having, really, with passengers, negotiating how that is done. So, we clearly don't know, but we anticipate that, for some time, we will have lower than pre-pandemic levels of use on all public transport. That is why public support is going to be required for a spell yet.
In terms of our appetite for continuing to do that, well, that is an ongoing negotiation we're having within the Welsh Government. Clearly, we've got a budget process we're going through now. We have—. We know that, next year and the year after, we're anticipating significantly reduced budgets from the UK Government. So, for this year, we are committed; for following years, we don't have a concrete picture. But, clearly, we will do what we can to keep as many services going, whilst doing out best to encourage people back on to public transport, but tempered, as always, by the public health advice and the community transmission of the disease. This is an incredibly tricky position we're in—it's unprecedented and we're feeling our way through it.
I absolutely see that. I absolutely see that, and you've been as frank as you possibly can be on that. But can I ask: based on the current discussions within Cabinet, both about public transport and recovery of public transport, but also where your assessment of the virus is currently and passenger behaviour—because I've certainly seen more passengers coming back on rail and on bus as well, out of necessity, but it is good to see confidence slowly coming back—are you likely to be changing any of your advice on travel on public transport within the foreseeable future? Now, we see the headlines about rising rates of COVID; we see the headlines about, once again, we're seeing rising hospital admissions. But, clearly, that's balanced in your mind against the need to actually encourage people to use public transport. Are we likely to see a change in advice?
Well, as you know, we review this on a three-weekly basis. The regular, reliable rhythm we've come to know the First Minister for continues, and next Friday will be the next three-week review, and we are reviewing it every three weeks. And that's the sincere position. Currently, Wales remains in alert level 0. Alert level 0 allows people to travel unrestricted on public transport. It encourages social distancing, but doesn't require it. It does require mask-wearing. It has requirements on the operators to encourage ventillation and so on. So, that remains the current position, but, as you say, community transmission is very high and, clearly, being in a confined space is not ideal. And so there is a tension between those two things. It's a tension we're managing and we are monitoring it on a weekly basis.
Okay, thank you. Look, let me lift your eyes beyond the horizon for the moment, difficult as it is to do. You yourself have been a long-term campaigner on modal shift in transport, a big supporter of active travel and a shift to public transport. In the longer term, medium to longer term, if we can get through this, where are we going to go with investment and shifting investment in terms of public transport and active travel? And look, let me just flag to you—you know this already, Minister—Sustrans's call for more of the Welsh transport budget to be allocated to active travel, at least matching where the Scottish Government is. Now, I know there are tricky things around how you say what portion is going where and so on. I get that. But also the Confederation of Passenger Transport highlight this, and the future generations commissioner says Wales has one of the lowest per capita spends on public transport. So, medium/long-term ambitions, Minister—what would you want to see, and what are the discussions happening within Cabinet?
Well, I think we have set these out clearly in the Wales transport strategy earlier in the year. We now have a target of 45 per cent of journeys by public transport or active travel by 2040. That is a significant shift from where we’ve been historically. Look, we’ve had 70 years or so of transport policy in the UK that has favoured car use over public transport use, and investment has followed that pattern, and passenger numbers over time have followed that pattern too. So, we’ve got a significant direction of travel to reverse, and we are committed to doing that as part of our net-zero plans. Let us be very clear: we will not meet net zero by 2050 unless we have modal shift, and unless we have decarbonisation of the transport fleet. So, we need both of those things. Simply switching to electric vehicles is not going to cut it. The UK Climate Change Committee were very clear about that.
You will see from our net-zero plan, when we publish it next week, that we’ll have things to say there about reducing the distances travelled and the number of journeys that we make as well. So, we’re absolutely committed in terms of our targets and our strategic direction for a change. That, obviously, has to be reflected operationally in what we do, in how we spend our money.
And again, I think—you know, we have set a roads review programme, and I was very pleased to hear Llyr Gruffydd on the steps of the Senedd yesterday saying that, when we make bold decisions, the committee will back us, and, when we do not, it will hold our feet to the fire. And we have made a bold decision, I think, on the road schemes. It's not been popular everywhere, and there have certainly been calls by some to make exceptions of some schemes, and I hope the committee are as robust as they said they were going to be yesterday in following through on that. So, we’ve done that, and the purpose of that is to reallocate funding towards public transport and to maintaining the existing roads that we have.
On the specific point on active travel, I’m pleased to say that we are exceeding Scotland’s spend, currently. We are spending 10.5 per cent of our transport budget on active travel. But that is the first time we’ve done it. So, Scotland, I think, are a couple of years ahead of us, and we’ve got to sustain that for generations. When you look at countries that have significantly different modal shares than we do—and it shows it’s possible, where there’s a will there’s a way—it can be done, but it has to be done at scale and consistently, and I’d be happy to talk for some time about the detail of that. But that is our absolute commitment, to follow through on that, because, if we don’t, we will not hit net zero.
Thank you, Minister. Sorry, Llyr, I could see you—
I was just going to invite, maybe, Joyce. Did you want to come specifically on the transport strategy, given that it’s been mentioned there?
Thank you. Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Minister for your response, but there has been some confusion around the A40 Llanddewi Velfrey bypass. There’s been an awful lot of noise around the fact that that is not going forward, yet I drive through there twice a week, and I can see that that is not the case. So, what I really would like this morning is to end the confusion and have confirmation of what I’m seeing from you that that is very definitely going ahead, just so that we put other people’s minds at rest. And, of course, this road is vital, because the existing road goes through a very narrow village where it’s not safe to walk. I once met pedestrians there and almost got touched by a lorry myself, because the pavements are so low. So, if you could give that, that would be really useful today.
Happy to. Clearly, this road has been long in the gestation. When we announced the freeze in road building, we had to make a distinction between those that were going to be in scope and those that were going to be out of scope. And, in general terms, we said that those where contracts have been let, or, in the parlance I used at the time, had 'diggers in the ground'—we're popularising that idea—would be out of scope. And there was a further issue with the A40 in terms of the European funding, whether or not we would lose that funding if it wasn't spent on the scheme, and there was a significant amount of European funding at play. So, I announced, and I said consistently through the summer, that this scheme was not in scope. I was then challenged by the local Senedd Member and the local MP to say that there in fact were not diggers in the ground, which would imply the scheme should be in scope. Now, I think they were quite literal in their definition of 'diggers in the ground'; it was intended to be a shorthand for contracts having been let, which they had been. Now, given that they challenged whether or not the scheme should be within scope, and that presumably they thought it should be subject to scrutiny by the roads review, we took that seriously, as I think we ought to. And when we set the terms of reference, we said, where construction work is too advanced to cease, a road will be out of scope of the review. So, the question then is: is this scheme too advanced to cease?
The roads review, we've set it up under Dr Lynn Sloman. She had asked whether or not we wanted the review to look at the scheme and whether or not it passed muster. We've been thinking about this, and scrutinising it, and our conclusion is that, having spent about a quarter of the total scheme costs—the total scheme cost is something like £80 million for these two sections; we think about £20 million of that has been already spent or committed and is not recoverable, and, in addition, there's European funding of significant order, which would be lost to Wales if we pulled the scheme at this stage—we've decided that it is too advanced to cease, and the original position stands, that it is out of scope of the review and the road will be going ahead.
Thank you. I'm sure that will be well received. And it confirms what I'm seeing, at least twice a week when I pass by—that that scheme is still ongoing. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Joyce. Thank you, Deputy Minister. Back to Huw for a few more questions on transport.
Thank you, Chair. Minister, just to pick up—. I won't pick up on the active travel issues with the Llanddewi Velfrey one; I'm sure they're all incorporated within it, so the cross-party group will be back in touch on that, I'm sure. But can I turn back to where you were explicit in what you were saying, that the direction of travel with the Wales transport strategy, and other Government strategies on transport and infrastructure and planning and place, mean that there has to be not just a push at modal shift ambitions, which is there, but, actually, that funding will follow? And you made the challenge to the committee about holding your feet to the fire. I think that is something we absolutely have to do. So, can I ask you, then, on that basis—? Professor Mark Barry suggested that the modal shift and decarbonisation targets need a 30 to 40 per cent car-use reduction, regardless of electric vehicles. You've talked about this. You hear so much talk about electric vehicles being the magic bullet that solves the problem—it doesn't; it keeps more cars on the roads there. But also, he says doubling public transport, active travel levels, and road pricing, demand management. And, if I can go on to the bus sector, stressing the financial impact of congestion on operators, he suggests reallocating space, deprioritising the car, a dedicated green bus fund, stretching our zero-emission targets.
So, Minister, if we are willing as a committee to hold Ministers' feet to the fire on this, are you as a Deputy Minister and the Minister there willing to argue for this? Because this does sound like making the right choices easily available for people to do that modal shift, but also then saying the funding will be shifted as well.
Well, with respect, you're only quoting part of what I said. I said that you should absolutely hold our feet to the fire, but also support us when we're doing the right thing; those two things need to go in tandem. And that is a question for all Members of the Senedd, not just the members of the committee. It's all very well signing up to a climate change emergency declaration—and we've seen this in local authorities across the land. That's got to be held to when difficult decisions have to be made, and we've just heard the discussion now about pressure to exclude different road schemes from the review. The general view I've had on the roads review is, 'We accept the principle, but, by the way, there's a scheme in my area that needs to go ahead.'
And, look, I recognise how challenging this is. This is very difficult, and we have to bring the public with us, and not all of the public want to go with us on this journey. Because, for a long time, they've been used to behaving in a certain way, and to be fair, we have planned services and workplaces on the basis that people have easy access to a car. So, turning this around overnight is not possible, and we also know that the processes of Government, passing legislation and getting things in place are not quick either, and this is the tension we all face, because the science says we need to act urgently, but our ability both to manipulate the legislative and operational machinery and to bring people with us cannot be done quickly. That is the rub.
Now, to answer your specific points on Mark Barry's challenge, he is right that we need to go further than we have committed to go, that's what the science suggests. Now, we've suggested a 45 per cent target, but we said when we launched that that we'd anticipate that, as the science and the understanding change, that target may need to change. I think where I'm at is—I hate the analogy, but it's the one in my head—if Julie and I are sitting at the deck of the supertanker, we have to turn it, and turning it is difficult. Once we've turned it, then it needs to be full speed ahead in the other direction, if you like. So, I'm not in a position to dispute Mark Barry's figures, but I think his general point is right that we need to be more ambitious, we need to have bigger modal shift targets, but there's not much point setting those targets at this point given where we all are.
So, I think a big achievement is, first of all, having a modal shift target, we've never had that before, that goes against the whole grain of Welsh transport policy in our lifetimes. We'll have a target in the net-zero plan for reduction in mileage, it won't be as ambitious as Mark Barry wants us to be, but we think it's going to be hard enough to achieve the targets we've set, let alone achieving targets that are not possible to conceive how we would achieve them, and we have to be credible. So, the support I'd like from the committee and from the Senedd is, 'We've signed up to this, right, let's look at the detail, how does it work in transport?' Transport accounts for 17 per cent of our emissions. Traditionally, and it's certainly the case in the UK Government—in England, they're not doing any of this—the UK Treasury view has been it's too difficult to do in transport, it's too economically costly, therefore, we'll let them carry on as they were, and that's essentially been the story of carbon reduction in transport over the last 30 years. That is no longer defensible, and we need to dramatically change it. We are, I think, making a good start, but is it enough? No.
Thank you, Minister. Chair, are we out of time on this area? If we are—
I'll allow one more question, if you want to pursue anything else.
Okay. I think some of the things we can follow up in writing, but could I ask, on the low-carbon delivery plan, on a different area here than roads and so on, how that plan will support decarbonisation of sea and airports as well as freight? There are many areas I haven't covered we'll follow up on, but that specifically.
Well, of course, we have a net-zero plan, not a low-carbon plan, and all our policies have to work in that direction. Clearly, in terms of freight and on sea, we have a commitment as part of the Wales transport strategy to have mini plans for different sectors, and we're working with the freight sector on how we decarbonise in freight, and we've had some discussions with them already about the role hydrogen might play in that. I know Julie James has attended, last week, a conference with Associated British Ports on how we decarbonise ports. So, these are trickier sectors to decarbonise, but there's no question that we have to do it, and we're working through the detail of that with the sectors, and we'll be publishing more in the future on that.
Okay, thank you very much, Minister. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, both. Okay, we'll move on, then, to another subject area. I think we're moving on to planning now, so I'll invite Janet Finch-Saunders to kick this section off.
Hi, good morning, everybody. Right, evidence from the Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru makes clear that total expenditure on planning services has fallen by 50 per cent in Wales since 2008-09. This is having an impact, especially, on specialist areas of planning. Poor management, overworked staff and a shortage of technical expertise has contributed to low morale in Carmarthenshire County Council's planning department according to an internal review, and I know my own local authority—they are struggling with their planning department and services so much, Minister, that they're sending a lot of planning application work out now to companies based in England. It doesn't really cut it for me. What steps does the Welsh Government plan to take to help improve the expertise of those officers holding these specialist roles, and what steps have you taken to review the proposal from RTPI Cymru to ring-fence planning fee income or explore full cost recovery as a means of improving the situation? I am aware that, with council budgets, they have to prioritise social care and education, but I know our planning departments now are really struggling across Wales.
Thank you, Janet. Minister.
Yes, thank you, Janet. Quite clearly, local authorities are still very much in the early stages of attempting to recover from 10 years of austerity. Planning services were those typically characterised as back-office services of no particular importance, and what we're seeing now is the real evidence that such back-office services don't really exist and that these are all public services with very serious consequences if you run down the expertise. So, we've been trying to bolster the local planning authorities' ability to both recruit planners and to retain them.
One of the reasons that, in the last Senedd, we introduced the corporate joint committee concept was in order to be able to regionalise some of the services where it's really hard to recruit and people are basically fishing in the same pool, driving prices up, and so on. So, we've been collaborating with the local authorities to make sure that they share expertise across different local authorities. So, for example, actually, Carmarthenshire has developed a niche expertise in materials planning and minerals planning, and they've been using that across most of the authorities in Wales to assist. We've also assisted with particular expertise in one-off type planning applications, where you wouldn't expect a local authority to develop in-house expertise. In particular, for example, we've been bolstering expertise in things like compulsory purchase, which is a very niche part of planning. So, we'll be looking to work with local authorities around the costs of delivering development management services in Wales.
There's a siren call about ring-fencing the planning fees, but you have to be careful what you wish for, because the planning authorities are both regulatory as well as enabling, and so what you don't want is for them to be encouraging large fees on greenfield sites in their area because that's the only way they can keep their planning department going, if they get the fee in. So, there are some unintended consequences of entirely funding a planning service off the fees that it brings in. It's not a commercial service, it's a regulatory service, and it shouldn't be treated as a commercial service. We have increased the fees in planning. The Senedd passed the regulations to increase the planning fees very recently in order to get the income up a little bit. Full cost recovery we think would put off the kinds of planning applications that we're looking to encourage across Wales, particularly for social housing and infrastructure. So, it's a very careful balance around the fee structure, what encourages development, what encourages the right kind of development, where it should be, and so on.
A very large part of this is putting the planning system in place. So, we're very much in favour of a plan-led system in Wales. You'll know that we got 'Future Wales', the national plan, in place just at the beginning of this calendar year, towards the end of the last Senedd term. We're very pleased to have done that. We also got the CJCs in place, and they are now in charge of putting strategic planning, regional planning, in place. Once the regional plans are in place, we will then have a complete plan-led system in Wales, which will allow us to properly plan out where the infrastructure goes. And, on that basis, we can then look to see where the expertise is needed. So, we've deliberately done the regionalisation agenda in order to preserve scarce resource and to allow a career structure for planners in Wales that is more than the local authority could offer, because typically what happens is the local authorities train the planners, and indeed the planning lawyers, for about five years, and then they are poached by the big house builders for three times the salary. So, it's a real problem. So, if we can't get a career structure in place that keeps them in the public services, we've got a real problem. Hence the regionalisation agenda.
There we are. Thank you, Minister.
Thank you, Janet. Jenny.
Thank you very much. I just want to look at the effectiveness of the pre-application process in order to increase community buy-in of any particular development. Statutory bodies find it difficult to engage meaningfully with communities, so it's not surprising really that the private sector struggles on this, too. But I think that one of the pieces of evidence we had in one of our earlier scrutiny sessions from James Davies of Planning Aid Wales said, realistically, the timescale of 28 days prior to submission of the planning application is hardly likely to be a meaningful influencer for any given application, because the die is already cast by then. So, how do you think we could make the pre-application process more meaningful to communities and make them a lot more enthusiastic about all the really difficult things we need to do?
Thanks for that, Jenny. It's a real problem. We did start to look at the effectiveness of the pre-application consultation process before the pandemic. We've done quite a lot of work with the Royal Society of Architects in Wales and the RTPI; I spoke at their conference and had a number of workshops with them. We also spoke with the Design Commission for Wales and a number of other stakeholders. We held a number of forums right across Wales just before the pandemic hit, and the main conclusion is exactly as you say: the conclusion was the consultation comes rather too late in the design process and the cost of changing a design at that point outweighs the public concern, so it sets up a conflict in the system which was not intended by the process.
So, we actually funded Planning Aid Wales. The piece of research you just quoted to me is the one that we funded for them; they undertook it for us. 'The Value of Engagement in Planning in Wales', the title of it is, and that—indeed, exactly as you said—looked at engagement across all the planning stages and indeed, absolutely it concluded that further work was needed on the pre-application process to consider how we could get a better engagement in that and how we could get it further back in the process to be meaningful. We're actually currently considering how to take the recommendations forward and indeed, if the committee wants to assist us with that and take evidence and so on, I'd be really grateful for that, because this business about how to get people to engage in an application pre the big application is a really important one, and indeed, actually, there's a big issue with the renewal of the LDPs right across Wales, which I'm sure the committee is familiar with, where it's often very difficult indeed to get communities to engage at LDP planning stage. When people get engaged is when individual planning applications come up, and by then, it's too late, because the LDP has already zoned the area, so if the committee wants to do any extra work on that, we'd be very grateful. But we are currently considering the recommendations from the report that you've quoted from James, Jenny.
Okay, thank you. And meanwhile, applications that are turned down that definitely don't meet the well-being of future generations requirements are still being overturned as on appeal. So, do you envisage that the new arrangements you've put in place will put a stop to that, because I know my local councillors are fizzing still?
We've done two things there. You'll be aware that we've split the planning inspectorate, so we've now got a specific planning inspectorate for Wales; obviously, that's in its infancy, and we're working with them to make sure that they're fully across the policy agenda in Wales. Very specifically, though, Cardiff is one of the councils that I've been involved in the engagement with. Very specifically, we have offered planning inspectors to work with councillors and local planning authorities' planning officials to understand what the evidence base to successfully withstand an appeal actually is. So, typically, it's not on the point of principle that you've just set out; it's actually just that the evidence that they bring forward is generally inadequate, and not able to sustain a position.
So, that's twofold: first of all, the evidence going to the committee in the first place on which they based the original decision is inadequate, and then secondly, the case that they then prepare to withstand the appeal is inadequate. So, we've been working very closely with councils right across Wales, Cardiff and Swansea being two of the main ones because of the HMO issue, which you'll know is an issue in my own constituency, to make sure that councils are well placed to understand what the evidential requirements are and what the quasi-judicial basis of the planning committee's decision needs to be in the first place. And we all know how difficult it is to consider what the law actually says, as opposed to what you feel about the application, and how important it is to have that expressed correctly so that you can withstand that appeal.
Okay. That's a very important point, but we'll take that up another day. I just want to—. I mean, you obviously have already said that engaging the community with the LDP is really difficult, but then, even more difficult is how we get any sort of public engagement in light of the comments earlier by Lee Waters on the challenges ahead, around the strategic development plans. And, obviously, we've legislated to establish corporate joint committees to exercise some regional functions, including preparing these strategic development plans. So, could you just lay out the timescales for this, given the importance of getting the right planning structure so that we've got a sustainable Wales?
Yes, certainly, Jenny. So, the SDPs will be delivered through the corporate joint committees. One has been established for each of the four regions across Wales. The Senedd passed the regulations to do that just in front of the election, in the fifth Senedd. The south-east CJC is slightly further ahead than the other three. So, the regulations that we passed enabled them to take their powers from February 2022. The other CJCs don't take theirs until June/July 2022. Then, each CJC has to submit a delivery agreement to the Welsh Government Ministers to formally commence the plan preparation process. So, we are expecting the delivery agreement for south-east Wales to be submitted in late 2022, with the other regions submitting potentially from spring 2023 onwards. So, assuming a five-year plan preparation period, including all the public scrutiny and the public examination—remember, this all has to be examined in public—the first SDP will be available in 2028. That's the earliest they can do it.
So, we've issued two advisory notes to them to assist the transition, we've laid the regulations, and they now have the ability to exercise the strategic planning function. There are no planning barriers limiting early and rapid progress towards SDP adoption, so it's absolutely now down to local authorities and national parks to proceed as fast as possible. I made it clear when I was the local government Minister—and I know Rebecca has subsequently made it clear in this Senedd—that there is nothing stopping them coming together as shadow authorities already and setting up the entire structure so that they're ready to go on the day that their powers vest. And I know that the south-east region, certainly, is well advanced in its prep for doing that, but that's the broad timescale. The strategic development plans must hold oral inquiries in public, so there will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the public in that area.
Okay, but how strongly does this timescale fetter our ability to make the decisions we need to make in order to have a more sustainable Wales?
So, it doesn't—. The lack of the strategic regional plan simply puts more onus onto the local development plans to negotiate specific 106 agreements for each part of the infrastructure. The whole point of the strategic plan is to map out where the infrastructure is so that developers come forward knowing which infrastructure they're likely to have to contribute to, and being prepared in putting their affordability criteria together for each development to understand what the contribution is likely to be, and to strengthen the arm of their local authority in negotiating the 106 and section 298 of the Highways Act 1980 agreements. I think it's 298—I stand to be corrected by Steve—but the highways Act agreement, anyway. It's been a while since I knew the section numbers; I apologise.
So, they have to be negotiated locally at the moment, Jenny, and the whole point of doing it regionally is to strengthen our arm in order to be able to have a better case against each of the developers as we negotiate it. But in fairness to the developers, it's also to put them in a position where they understand in advance of starting a development what the likely call on their development is by way of contribution to infrastructure. So, it works both ways. It doesn't prevent it happening; it just makes it much easier to happen and in a much more planned way.
Okay, thank you. That's really clear.
Thank you, Jenny. Before I call Janet back in, I just wanted to say, we've spent the first half of this line of questioning around planning, discussing the lack of resource within local authority planning areas and the pressure that they're under and losing staff, et cetera, and now we've spent the latter part discussing the need for all of those local authorities to allocate resource towards creating the strategic development plans. Clearly, there are implications there in terms of their ability to do the day job plus fulfil their requirements for a strategic development plan. Is there additional resource being made available for that? How do you envisage that being delivered?
Yes. So, this is the regionalisation agenda, Llyr, and it's a very good point that you make. So, the idea is to encourage the local authorities to pool their resource and come together regionally. So, some development control, you know, normal development control—'This advert isn't right, that extension can't go ahead', that kind of stuff—is obviously best done at the very local level. But any kind of strategic plan, urban plan, really is better done at a regional level. So, what this is doing is encouraging them to pool that staff. There are 10 authorities in the south-east CJC, so we would expect them to develop a part of the expertise needed for each authority and then pool that across the region, so that each authority doesn't have to develop an expertise in particular travel planning or hospital infrastructure planning or whatever it is that they have to do. That's the whole point, to pool the scarce resource, and also, as I say—and it's a very important point—to give a better career structure for the planners themselves so that they are not tempted away into the private sector as soon as they're around five years qualified, which is what's currently happening.
But you don't envisage a need to provide additional resource—
There will be additional resource to the CJCs, but that's part of the current budget round, so the amount of that resource will change. In the set-up phase, when I was the local government Minister, we provided some original resource to do that, but it will be a matter for Rebecca for how much the resource is, going forward.
Sure. Okay. Thank you for that. Janet.
Thank you, chairman. Despite a statement from the Counsel General on 21 September, the timeline for implementing an infrastructure consenting Bill remains pending. Can you confirm to this committee today the timeline for bringing forward primary legislation to replace the interim arrangements? And when such a Bill does come forward, will you commit to requiring developers to engage with local communities and provide greater opportunity for the public to participate during this examination process? Diolch.
Thanks, Janet. I'm not in a position to confirm timescales on Bills at committee. I commend the committee's doggedness in continuing to ask us constantly what the timetable for Bills is, but, as you know, that's a matter for the First Minister and the Counsel General. There is a process inside the Government by which we scrutinise which legislation is most ready to come forward, and what the committee timetables look like and how that works. So, the committee will obviously be very engaged in this, Janet. It will be a matter for us to go through in both part one and part two of the committee, what you would like to see in the Bill by way of engagement, and so on, and I'm sure we'll have very robust conversations on that point. But, yes, obviously, the whole point of the infrastructure consenting Bill is to streamline the consenting process and to make sure that there's the right level of engagement across Wales, and this will be the committee, as I understand it, anyway, that will have scrutiny of that Bill. So, I'm sure we'll have a lot of engagement on that point. But in terms of its actual timing, that is a Government process that's out of our hands. We put submissions into the process. It's for the Counsel General and the First Minister to make those decisions.
Okay, but presumably there is work under way within your department, preparing the ground and doing the preparatory work for that.
Yes, I think mine and Lee's portfolio has 40 per cent of the current proposed Government legislation, so I think it's fair to say there's a bit of work going on on it in the background, yes.
And I presume the same answer stands for the consolidation Bill—the planning consolidation Bill—as well.
Yes. Except to say that the planning consolidation Bill clearly has to come after the infrastructure Bill, because you can't consolidate law and then make new law afterwards, because clearly that would be a waste of everyone's time. So, we need to get the planning arrangements into the situation we'd like them to be and then consolidate them, for obvious reasons.
Yes, that makes perfect sense. Okay. Thank you, Minister. Right, we move on to Joyce Watson, then.
Thank you. What I would like to know is—. We have discussed a lot about the difference in planning, national infrastructures and all of those things, and we've also, of course, got an infrastructure commission. So, it's about understanding how that role has been refined and how it's also going to support wider Welsh Government infrastructure policy, and, of course, we did have a session—I don't know, not last week, the week before, maybe—where it was quite clear that the thinking was different.
Thank you, Joyce. Yes, it's 'infrastructure commission'—I think we lost the word 'commission'. The line cut out a little bit, but I'm sure the Deputy Minister got the gist.
Yes. I am very keen to sharpen the focus of the infrastructure commission to help us to meet the net-zero challenge, and I was pleased to see the report of the committee after the scrutiny hearing with Dr David Clubb—that you thought that he was a suitable appointment. I deliberately asked him to take on the challenge, and I deliberately did it in a way that was quick and didn't go through the normal recruitment processes, and I did that consciously, because we can't hang around on this. I think David Clubb is somebody with expertise in climate change generally, but renewables in particular. He is not somebody who is particularly known as being friendly towards the Government. You know, I deliberately asked for somebody who will be challenging and who will be awkward to take this agenda forward. It's really important that there is independence in this commission and there is rigorous challenge, and I think David Clubb will provide that and I was pleased that the committee agreed.
We are negotiating with the commission, and we're going to refresh its membership, about how best to do that. I don't think there's a need to formally change its remit. We'll be publishing its remit letter later in the year, which we'll be discussing with the commission. What we've said to them is that I would like them to come up with their initial priorities of where they want to focus their work plan, we'll come up with suggestions of where we think it'd be really helpful to us to have their input, and, between the two of us, we'll come to an agreed list of things that they can then go off and work on and come back to us on.
Thank you. Well, it became clear to us that his thinking was significantly different to that that we've seen before, so we look forward to the remit letter. Thank you.
You referred to the feedback of the report that you had from committee. I mean, we did flag the question around a direct appointment, given, of course, the significant role, we hope, that the infrastructure commission will play. You mentioned the need for momentum and moving swiftly, but there is a balance to be struck, isn't there? I suppose it's fair to say that the momentum wasn't really there previously, so could you just tell us a little bit more about why a public appointments process could not have delivered in the same way?
Well, I'll widen the answer, because we took a similar approach with NRW, where we directly appointed three board members there too, and we took those decisions consciously. Those were not orthodox decisions. We had a conversation with the civil service appointments commissioner about it, and these were not things we did lightly, because, as you say, there is a balance to be struck and the appointments process is there for good reason.
Our feeling was, given our remit to make a step change in pace and ambition around achieving net zero, we needed to take action quickly. Going through the normal recruitment procedure—and bearing in mind that we've already gone out fairly recently for a chair of the national infrastructure commission and we couldn't find somebody we thought was appointable—we didn't want to go through that exercise again. I'd far rather take the flack and get stuff done, rather than make sure that we get full marks from the appointments commissioner and sacrifice some pace and some ambition for that. So, it's not without its risks and it's not something we did lightly and don't intend making a habit of, but, in both those cases, I think we were justified in taking the approach that we took.
Okay. And I think it's that line about not making a habit of it, I suppose, is what we're looking for, really.
Can I just add to that, Llyr, as well? I mean, if the committee wanted to do a piece of work on how the public appointments process works and whether or not you're likely to get disrupters coming through that process, I think that would be very valuable, because, frankly, we went twice out to advert to try and get somebody and the process doesn't produce the sort of people—. So, David Clubb didn't apply because he didn't think he would get through the process, presumably. Similarly for NRW board members—there's something with the process that doesn't produce the kind of people we're looking for who are likely to push the agenda forward in the way that the committee and we would like. So, I think there is a piece of work that could usefully be done to see what could be done about those processes that might produce the kind of people we're talking about.
I think that is quite a thought-provoking point actually, in fairness. Huw.
Thank you, Chair. Just on that point, I mean, when we wanted to identify somebody who could be a useful agent provocateur in positions when I was a Minister, we did do an element of headhunting—I'm sure you do this as well—to actually approach people and say to them, 'You should consider putting your name forward. We want somebody who will challenge Government', and so on. Now, I'm assuming you do that, so that isn't an element that is missing from this, but people just aren't saying, 'We want to put our name forward'.
No, I think, Huw, it's not just that. We do do that, absolutely; we approach people and ask them to apply. But I think there's something with the application process and the way that that works that is frankly very off-putting to people. It tends towards producing a particular—. It's aimed at something.
Now, I know that my colleague Jane Hutt is looking very carefully at the public appointments process, with a view to increasing diversity and equality in that. But, I think that there's a broader point about it producing people that the system thinks are good. We don't always want somebody that the system thinks is good. We sometimes want somebody that the system would think was a thorn in the side, in order to produce that kind of disruption.
I would say as well, Chair, that that's not always what we want. We also, of course, need to keep the ship on the road and all of the rest of the clichés. But, you know, a small element of disruption in the process is also good. So, trying to get the balance is where we are at, isn't it?
Yes, absolutely. The last word on this to Joyce.
Thank you. Also, in my previous job, we did a lot of work around public appointments, and the fact that not too many females or people from minority ethnic communities come forward. You are right to say that it's sometimes the forms, the evaluation of people, the expectation that people fit into neat little boxes. So, I'm really pleased to hear that you would welcome a review.
I spent some years trying to persuade people to look at it differently, so you have definitely got my support to do that, and to widen it. If we are going to move forward in the new ways that we are all hoping, and have signed up to, then we have to change the criteria. It's pretty obvious to me. So, I thank you for that.
Diolch yn fawr, Joyce. Iawn, mi wnawn ni dorri nawr am 10 munud, dwi'n meddwl. Mi wnawn ni gymryd egwyl. Felly, mi wnaf i ohirio'r cyfarfod, ac mi wnawn ni ailymgynnull am 11 a.m. Diolch.
Thank you very much, Joyce. Okay, we'll take a short break for about 10 minutes. We will take a short break. So, I will suspend the meeting and we will reconvene at 11 a.m. Thank you very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:51 ac 11:02.
The meeting adjourned between 10:51 and 11:02.
Croeso nôl i sesiwn dystiolaeth gan y Gweinidogion gerbron y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith yn y Senedd. Mi wnawn ni barhau gydag ail ran ein sesiwn dystiolaeth ni, ac i gychwyn y sesiwn hon, mi af i at Joyce Watson i ofyn y cwestiynau cychwynnol.
Welcome back to the evidence session by the Ministers appearing before the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee in the Senedd. We'll continue with the second part of our evidence session, and to start the session I will turn to Joyce Watson to ask the first questions.
Thank you. I'm going to ask questions around biodiversity targets and whether the Minister will commit to targets and address stakeholder comments that domestic targets can be developed ahead of COP15 and shouldn’t be delayed until the conference’s conclusions.
Thanks, Joyce. So, I absolutely understand why people are anxious to have the targets set and want to do it right now, but I do think it’s very important indeed to make sure that the targets are both stretching and achievable. There’s no point in having targets that everybody thinks you just can’t reach, and likewise there’s no point in having targets that are easy to do and everybody just thinks, 'Well, what's the point?' So, we have to hit the sweet spot of stretching but achievable. It’s really important to do that, and we absolutely have to get the target right. So, we’re considering what exactly do we mean by nature recovery targets—so restoration, extinction rates reversal, genetic diversity. There’s a whole series of these things. So, we’re committed to the 30by30—so, 30 per cent by 2030.
We’ll absolutely want to work with yourselves as the committee, with Welsh communities across Wales, and with the Senedd overall to develop our approach for biodiversity targets. That’s hard to say—biodiversity targets. We’ll want to determine not just the targets, but what the strategy for achieving the target is, what the regulatory arrangements are. It’s all very well to say statutory target, but what exactly do we mean by that, and what legislative action therefore follows from that? And then have a road map to get from where we are now to where we want to be.
So, I understand the desire to do it now, but it is important to get all of these things in order and to make sure that we actually have all the resources and the strategic road map in place. And I'd be really happy to discuss with the committee, as we go along that path, how we get there and what the targets ought to actually look like. But I'm afraid I disagree with it's a simple thing to just do it now in advance of COP15. The whole point of negotiations is to work out across the world what we're doing and what these targets should look like. So, can I just emphasise as well that that doesn't mean because we haven't got the targets in place that we're not doing anything? You don't need targets in order to be able to do things, but it is appropriate, I think, to have both stretching, and nevertheless, achievable targets.
I thank you for that, and you've said, quite rightly, that you have to have a structure. But in order to know that you're achieving anything, of course, the principal thing is managing things and monitoring outcomes alongside that, and I asked a question on this, I think it was last week.
So, in terms of preparing your budgets around these targets, and the management and all the rest of it, how do you intend to make it clear within that that you're funding—[Interruption.] Sorry, if you can hear the background noise, I've got a window open. How are you going to let us understand, and those people who need funding, that they are actually being funded, because an awful lot of these organisations are non-governmental organisations, and over the years and decades, monitoring has been done by NGOs because they were the people who were on the ground? And we don't want to lose the good work that's been done, that has told us where we are, when we're moving forward.
So, I completely agree with that, Joyce. This is just so frustrating for us, because this is tied up with the UK always giving us single-year budgets. So, we really, really hope that, in the comprehensive spending review, we will finally get a multi-year budget, because it's really very difficult for us to pass on multi-annual budgets to NGOs, which is what they need for nature recovery—let's just be clear, you can't do it in a single year—without us having the certainty of our own budget. So, what we end up having to do is try and work out a kind of base level to make sure that they have an understanding that there's some kind of funding there, but, of course, we have no concept at all of how much money we'll be getting, so it's really difficult to do. We've been in constant engagement with the UK Government about what on earth this rolling one-year programme is about, and the fact that nobody can plan anything, and we really need to be able to sort it out.
So, I really, really hope the comprehensive spending review, which we hope we're getting next week now, will provide that more sustainable funding model to help us tackle both the nature and climate emergencies. I'm not very happy at the moment with the UK Government because I was asked to meet the Minister, Greg Hands, for 15 minutes on Monday to be told that they were going to put the net-zero plan out. He assured me that we would have sight of it in advance so that we could make sure that we were happy and on board and working together properly across the nations. We actually got it at one minute past midnight, and they published it in the morning of that day. So, that's not my idea of an advanced copy; I don't know about you. And then the Treasury report on it, we got, well I got it at 20.45 last night. I think it was on the website from about 3.30, 4 o'clock. So, we're a bit despondent, it has to be said, about that being the idea of sharing it with us.
The plan itself says nice things about working well with the devolved governments and so on, but the proof is in the pudding, isn't it, in the eating, and not just in what you say. So, I'm a bit despondent about that.
Having said all of that, we're working with NRW to develop a multi-year nature networks programme. So, this is setting up a prioritised programme of actions in order to fund work to improve the condition, connectivity and resilience of protected sites networks across Wales, and we've put a budget bid into our central Treasury process, because we're in the middle of that, to fund the nature networks programme. So, I hope the committee is aware of the nature networks fund and the national peatlands restoration programmes that we're running. So, we want to put robust monitoring into those programmes, which complement our legal responsibilities, and then help us monitor the site.
I've got officials on the call who will be able to tell you in much more detail than I am, if the committee wants to hear it, how that's reported and what the site looks like, because I must say that that's a little bit beyond me, and people are much more familiar with it than I am. My colleague Lesley Griffiths, of course, will have the sustainable farming scheme, and all the monitoring that goes with that, in place as well. We've got biodiversity indicators in the national well-being indicators set—I'm sure the committee's familiar with that—so, those are the health ecosystems and the status of biological diversity indicators that we have. So, we'll be monitoring progress for those against the well-being goals.
And then, lastly, I just want to say that I'm currently working on trying to set up an exemplar programme, so that we can assist NGOs in areas where we have particular issues, and there'll be a number of those across Wales—so, blanket bogs, peatland restoration, the curlew, wild grass systems, the Gwent levels; there are lots of them, aren't there, across Wales—where we'll be helping NGOs who are already active in their area and community organisations to put themselves onto a much more sustainable governance model and to assist them in levering in other funding other than from the Welsh Government. Because obviously we aren't going to be able to fund it all, but to make sure that each of those groups of people—who are incredibly dedicated people, and we need to make sure we don't lose them—are put onto sustainable governance and funding models, with help from us, so that they can take that forward themselves. So, I'm really keen on doing that. I'd be very happy to report back to the committee once we've got a better understanding of quite how that's going to work.
Thank you. And with your indulgence, I've got one more question—
Can I just—? Sorry, Joyce, before we come to that, just with reference to the Minister's comments about the UK strategy, are you saying, therefore, that the Welsh Government had no input whatsoever into the creation of that strategy from the UK Government, or, at least, was there any reference to ensuring that UK strategies and Welsh strategies complemented each other or that the money was being spent in a way where we're all pulling in the same direction?
We had a lot of involvement up until June and July of last year. We worked very well together; the officials worked very well together at official level, and there were a number of meetings—I went to a few of them with my old hat on, alongside Lesley, who had responsibility. And then, it slipped—for a variety of reasons, which are entirely understandable, to do with COVID events and various things. But, since the slippage, we haven't had any further involvement, so we're quite cross about it, I think it's fair to say. And I made my feelings about how cross I am extremely plain to the Minister when I was given 15 minutes of his time on Monday morning.
Well, I think maybe we as a committee would have a similar view, and I'm sure we'll be making similar comments to the UK Government as well. Back to you, Joyce.
Thank you. There's one area, of course, when we're talking about biodiversity and nature conservation, and that's the peatlands, and I know that you invested money in a national peatland action plan, which is great, and I welcome it, and I'm sure the committee members will too. But, in my view, there's another piece that we could do, and that is to prevent people from using peat in their gardening. There is a big movement—I think it's led by Monty Don—to stop the import of peat-based products into the UK, because I don't think people realise very often that, when they're buying plants for their gardening, and people are doing this on an increased scale now, a lot of those bedding plants are in peat-based compost, so people are unwittingly adding in to it. So, I suppose my question is—and you might not be the right Minister—what are we going to do to, first of all, to try and inform people about the damage that they are unwittingly part of, and, more importantly, how we could wrap something like this up in legislation, going forward, so that, in Wales, we make it clear that we don't want to be part of peatland destruction, especially under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, whether it be in this country or any other country?
Thanks, Joyce. So, the responsibility overall is with Lesley, but obviously we've got very much an interest in it. It's very much part of the net-zero Wales strategy, so, when the strategy comes out next week, you'll be able to see that that's very much part of it. I'm afraid it's also—. Well, we're discussing it with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; it was part of an inter-ministerial group I was at with Lesley with George Eustice very recently. They are planning, we understand, to ban peat-based compost, but I wish they'd go a bit faster. Whether we can do it alone in Wales is, I'm afraid, tied up with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, and the challenge we currently have as to whether or not we can do plastics is part of the same kind of conversation. So, I'm sure the committee's aware that we could ban the use of plastics in Wales, but not the sale of them, which obviously is a nonsense. So, you'd have to put signs up in shops saying 'You can buy this plastic, but you can't use it.' How utterly ludicrous. So, we're in an ongoing conversation—I don't know if I'm going to be asked about that later on in the committee, but we're in an ongoing conversation with them about it, and I have made it very plain that, unless UK sorts itself out on the basis of banning the right things and coming along with all of us at the same time, that we will say on a global stage in COP how very unhappy we are about them behaving in this way. So, I hope we'll have some movement on that.
Okay. Thank you, Joyce. I'll bring Janet in here, and then we'll be coming to Cefin Campbell.
Thank you, Chairman. In parking when biodiversity targets will be implemented, stakeholders have raised concerns about the need for appropriate resourcing for habitat management and monitoring. Indeed, CCRA3 made it clear that there is a compelling need for enhanced monitoring and surveillance. So, what steps, Minister, are you taking to increase data monitoring on things like soil health and resilience and its impact on habitats? And does Welsh Government have access to the necessary expertise and equipment? Has the need for monitoring been considered in current budgetary preparations for the implementation of your biodiversity targets?
Thanks, Janet. I've sort of answered this question in responding to Joyce, really. We've put the budget bids in for the nature networks programme, building on the nature networks fund and the national peatlands restoration programme, and obviously a key element of that is to ensure the robust monitoring, which is integrated into the programme. But, as I said, Chair, if you want some detail about exactly how it's monitored and what you monitor I'll hand you over to one of my officials, because that's certainly not my area of expertise. I think it's probably Gian Marco who is the appropriate official, if you want to hear more of the detail on it.
Gian Marco, do you want to just briefly give us a quick list?
Thank you, Chair. As the Minister said, we have certainly put in bids as part of the budget process to build on the current monitoring programme. NRW have some legal responsibilities already to monitor the status of protected areas, and they report on that regularly. In fact, they issued a report a few months ago on the status of the protected areas. And we use that data, as well as the data that they collect as part of 'The State of Natural Resources Report', as input into our policy development on things like, for instance, the peatlands programme. So, we are—. In effect, we have a body of monitoring that goes on at the moment. What we're hoping to do, pending the budget decisions, is to build on that.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ymlaen â ni at Cefin, te.
Okay. Thank you very much. And we'll move on now to Cefin.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Mae Joyce Watson wedi gofyn y cwestiwn roeddwn i wedi bwriadu ei ofyn mewn gwirionedd, ond gwnaf ei ofyn mewn ffordd ychydig bach yn wahanol. Dwi'n derbyn yn llwyr yr ateb gawson ni gan y Gweinidog bod angen i'r targedau statudol o gwmpas bioamrywiaeth fod yn rhai digon heriol, ac, eto, sylweddoli hefyd ein bod ni mewn cyflwr o argyfwng natur. Felly, ydy'r Gweinidog yn gallu rhoi rhyw awgrym inni o pryd gawn ni'r targedau yma—[Anghlywadwy.]—oedd hi'n cyfeirio ato? Ac ydy hi mewn trafodaethau gyda'r Gweinidog amaeth i sicrhau bod targedau o gwmpas bioamrywiaeth yn cael eu cynnwys efallai yn y Bil amaeth fydd yn dod gerbron y Senedd mewn cwpwl o fisoedd?
Thank you very much, Chair. Joyce Watson has asked the question that I'd intended to ask, in truth, but I will ask it in a slightly different way. I accept entirely the answer we had from the Minister that we need the statutory targets around biodiversity to be challenging ones, and, again, realise that we're in a period of a nature emergency. So, can the Minister give us an indication of when we will have those targets, the ones she is referring to? And is she in discussions with the agriculture Minister to ensure that targets around biodiversity are included in the agriculture Bill that will come before the Senedd within a couple of months?
Thank you, Cefin. So, it's obviously part of the COP15 negotiations; we're expecting them to conclude next year. In the meantime, we're working alongside the COP15 negotiations to scope the targets—I think I said in response to Joyce as well—to make sure that the international targets are suitable for Wales and will help us face the specific Welsh issues that we have, the particular problems we have in Wales, but also reflect international commitments that are made at COP26 and COP15. So, we want to make sure that they link together, that they're pushing us, but that they are Wales appropriate. So, I've already confirmed in Plenary that we'll be supporting the 30x30 target. And we're also considering, I think I said—I hope I did say, Chair, but I'll repeat it—the appropriateness of other nature recovery targets, so around what do we mean by restoration, what do we mean by reversing extinction rates, what do we mean by genetic diversity and biodiversity? So, these are all terms we use—'We are losing biodiversity'—but what exactly do we mean? What does halting the loss look like? What does recovery look like? What does restoration look like? So, those are all things that we're working on alongside the COP15 negotiations.
And then we'll want to see that we're putting the targets in that international context, so that we're not setting them both either far too high or far too low, and that we can achieve them and that they're appropriate for Wales. In doing so, we will be consulting with all of the NGOs and community groups and voluntary groups across Wales that work so hard on the various protected landscapes and have a lot of the information. And, as Gian Marco just said, the expertise that we use for this, obviously, sits inside NRW, with the various subject experts that NRW have, and plus we consult a range of universities and scientific advisers who give their time to us, frankly, because they want to help, in the way that we used the tag teams during COVID.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Weinidog. Diolch, Cefin. Mae yna drafodaeth fyw iawn hefyd o gwmpas llywodraethant amgylcheddol, onid oes e? Pan ŷm ni'n sôn am dargedau, yn aml iawn, rŷn ni'n mynd yn syth ymlaen i drafod llywodraethant a dwi'n meddwl mai i'r cyfeiriad yna nawr mae Joyce Watson am fynd â ni.
Okay. Thank you very much, Minister. Thank you, Cefin. There's a very live discussion about environmental governance, isn't there? When we talk about targets, very often, we go straight on to talk about governance, and I think that's the direction in which Joyce Watson wants to take us.
Right. Yes, it's about, obviously, the environmental governance Bill, and there is a consensus emerging from stakeholders that a draft Bill would provide sufficient opportunity for scrutiny. So, we know that there's going to be further public consultation that you've agreed. There's a clear disagreement that that further consultation is delaying what could be done. So, I suppose it's about understanding those two opposing views and why you're going out to further consultation rather than going ahead, as the stakeholders think you ought to.
Yes, thanks, Joyce. This is always, really, a difficult one, isn't it? So, we have taken a very collaborative approach to developing the policy on environmental principles and governance, and we think the White Paper is the next step in that process. You're absolutely right; the stakeholder task group report provided a framework for that future approach. But we want to seek views on the detail via the White Paper. I just can't emphasise enough that we already have a good set of legislative arrangements in Wales, with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and so on, that don't exist in other legislatures in the UK. So, we need to make sure that what we do in environmental protection complements and enhances the legislation we already have. So, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach for us, England and Scotland. However, we are working closely with counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, looking at what is happening there, and also, obviously, we've got the interim assessor and her secretariat who are regularly meeting with counterparts in other nations.
The committee, I'm sure, saw the reports this morning that the Government looks set to reject all of the House of Lords amendments on the English environmental protection Bill, so it'll be really interesting to see how that pans out. So, we're very interested in looking at the work going on elsewhere. There's some evidence that the shadow board there hasn't had the level of work they'd like, although, obviously, that can be explained by it being shadow. So, there's quite a lot of work going on here and we want to get it right.
The other thing is that I will say that we are exploring, because the committee, I'm sure, knows what the pressure on the legislative programme is, just from its own workload, never mind what's going on across the Government—. So, we are exploring how we would get the legislation for setting the environmental targets we've just been talking about into legislation—how we would do that. And it might be that this environmental governance Bill could be made an environmental governance and protection Bill from the outset, and, in that way, this might be the vehicle to both put the standards in place and put in the governance around the standards. So, we're just exploring that, because the committee, I'm sure, will be aware that the chances of getting more legislation into the programme diminish by the day, in terms of the timescale. So, we are exploring the possibility of doing it together, so that we get the statutory targets enshrined at the same time. I emphasise, however, Chair, the word 'explore', so I don't want you to run away with the idea that we've decided that, and it might be very useful if the committee has a view, actually, on that as well.
Well, that is interesting and, of course, you've let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, now, because you've picked up and answered your own expectations, from the wording that you've just said. So, your exploration—we'll call it that for now—is there a time frame on when that might be in terms of that decision coming forward, especially, as you say, because of the legislative challenges and the time frames are tight?
It's all about the piece of work that we're doing in the background, Joyce, about how we use the resources of the legal services and legislative counsel for the Government and then, I'm sure the committee is aware, a big piece of work goes on between the Government business departments and the Commission secretariat to work out when each Bill would arrive at the committee and what the workload looks like, because the last thing you want is for four of our Bills to arrive on your doorstep simultaneously, obviously. So, there's quite a big piece of choreography going on behind the scenes. We'd all like to get all of these things done as soon as possible, but we've also got to be able to manage it. So, my colleague Lee Waters said on the steps of the Senedd the other day, when we were listening to the young people who brought the ice heart there—Llyr, you were there as well and I think a number of other members of the committee were there, Janet and Huw I certainly saw; for all I know, you were all there, as there was quite a crowd. But, he was saying that this is the dichotomy, isn't it? We all want to do this right now, we all want to go as fast as possible, but we've also got to get the gubbins to work, you know. We've got to get the workload sorted out, we've got to give the committee the chance to scrutinise, we've got to give our people the chance to draft. So, it is always about this balance between action now and getting it right.
So, Joyce, we'll be working alongside you to work out what that looks like. If it's not possible to combine setting statutory standards with environmental governance in that Bill, then what are the opportunities to do that, bearing in mind that we all agree that we want the standards to be enshrined in law and we therefore have to have a law? So, there's quite a lot of work to go around that, and I'll be absolutely open with the committee that that's something we're wrestling with in terms of the resource available to us all, the time and how we get the legislative ability to do that. So, I very much welcome the committee's view on that, both in terms of the practicalities and in terms of using that as a vehicle to do both.
Thank you. I was going to ask you whether you're learning from others, but you've already answered that.
Ocê. Diolch, Joyce, diolch yn fawr. Ymlaen â ni, felly, at Jenny Rathbone.
Okay. Thank you, Joyce. We'll move on, therefore, to Jenny Rathbone.
Thank you very much. On the small subject of climate change, I'll try to be really focused. You're publishing the second low-carbon delivery plan on Thursday next week. What assurances can you give us that it will be a detailed plan, rather than high level, so, costed and with clear sector-related targets?
Yes. Thank you, Jenny. As I say, it's not a low-carbon delivery plan—just to be clear with the committee—it's a net-zero plan; I think it does make quite a big difference. We'll be publishing the net-zero plan next week. The First Minister and I will be introducing it. We'll have statutory targets and carbon budgets that are economy wide; there are no statutory targets for emissions sectors. We've got a vision and an ambition statement for each of the sectors and the ambition statements contain metrics and milestones relating to each policy delivery area. And then, collectively, the ambition statements add up to deliver the second carbon budget. So, it includes an economy-wide pathway for the second carbon budget and shows each sector's contribution.
So, what I'd like to offer, Chair, if I may, is a pre-publication brief in advance, if you'd find that helpful. It's quite a chunky document and we all know—. I will pay tribute to Christine Wheeler, my official, and the teams across the Government that she 'choreographed', I think is the right word, because it's been an extraordinary feat to get this together in the time that we had to do it, given that our elections were in May and so on. So, they have really worked very hard to do this. But I'd be really happy to offer the committee a pre-publication briefing, to give you the chance to ask questions and, obviously, to come back to committee once the plan is out for a more in-depth scrutiny.
I think that would be greatly appreciated, Minister, yes. We'll ask the clerking team and your officials to try and liaise on that. Thank you. Jenny.
Okay. Specifically, a lot of witnesses who we heard from earlier were very keen to ensure that public spending is seen through the lens of the carbon impact of any—because, otherwise, we'll always be going just for the cheapest. So, will we be obliging public bodies to assess the carbon impact of any proposals from organisations to do x or y?
So, I really want to be able to just say 'yes' to this, but, unfortunately, it's much more complicated than that, because the process of assessing relative contributions of different kinds of budget to decarbonisation can be really complicated, can't it? So, we're going to develop a suite of methods to assess the contributions and, frankly, the skills base development in order to apply them consistently across. I'm sure you've taken evidence already, but if you haven't, I'm sure you will, from Rebecca Evans. Her budget improvement plan sets out carbon as one of its guiding principles, so we'll be looking, as part of our 2022-23 budget preparations, to consider the incremental impact of Welsh Government spend on carbon across the piece, and trying to put a carbon impact assessment into each decision, as such. But, unfortunately, it's quite a complicated thing to do. So, if you think of just the roads review, for example, and how complex that's been, it's a very complicated thing to say what the exact carbon impact of any particular economic intervention is, for example. So, we're working on it. Certainly, it's our intention to do that. I'd love to just say 'yes' to you, but unfortunately the devil's in the detail, and again, Chair, Christine, I'm sure, can give you far more chapter and verse about exactly the complexities of that and what we're looking at, should you want her to do so.
Okay, so that—
Sorry, Jenny. Does Christine want to add anything now? Yes.
Just briefly, it might be worth the Chair and the committee noting that the public sector reporting guide that was published in the summer by the Welsh Government has asked that all public sector bodies report their baseline emissions for the first time at the end of this month, and that's to give a kind of practice run before we're putting it into a more routine system from next year, so aligning it with the financial year. I think that's a really, really important first step as we think about public sector decisions, but also emissions, because unless you know where your baseline is, you don't necessarily understand the impact your decisions will have on that baseline. So, I think that's an important part of the puzzle that the committee might wish to note.
I think there are more details from Treasury colleagues that will be required as part of the draft budget publication on 20 December that will tackle this question in more detail, but we can go into that a little bit more if you want to now. It is quite complicated, but it's up to you.
Not now, I think, but it's certainly something we are interested in. Jenny, you wanted to come back.
Just lastly, though, on this point, the WWF report that was launched last week highlighted our international obligations, and if we're choosing to eat imported meat, or indeed industrially produced meat, we need to know what are the carbon emissions involved in the foodstuff of that. So, is this the sort of thing that the Government can assist on? Obviously, you're not going to be the only player in this field, but in terms of what Lee was saying, we've got to take the public with us, they need to know accurately about the choices they need to make.
So, on that one, we'll be working with the UK Government specifically on a number of measures that are consumer focused, like labelling. Labelling is a really big one. So, if you think about recycling, you need a PhD in recycling to understand what the triangle with a three or five or seven or whatever it is—'This product can be recycled in Outer Mongolia and nowhere else,' or whatever it is. So, we're very keen that the recycling labelling is changed to 'This product can be recycled in the UK', 'This product cannot be recycled in the UK', so people can make those choices alongside extended producer responsibilities and so on.
The same goes for deforestation and other biodiversity and carbon impacts across the planet. Even if you want to avoid palm oil that's deforesting areas of the world, you have to spend quite a lot of time in your supermarket reading the back of your product, trying to figure out whether the palm oil is or isn't from an acceptable source, or whatever. So, we think that a lot of the labelling could be a lot more specific, and specifically it should tell you where those products come from in the world. So, just 'palm oil' is no good to you at all; you need to know where it's sourced from, and so on.
Christine is far better at explaining this than I am, but there are statutory targets for net-zero carbon for what we're doing here, and then there's another piece of work about what our global footprint looks like, which we're also very keen on doing. But, as I say, Christine is far better than I, Chair, at explaining the juxtaposition of those two things.
Christine, are you able to give us any timescales on when the global footprint of, say, food in the shops might be available to people?
I don't have—. Unless Christine can tell me differently, we don't currently have any timescales from the UK Government. I'm hoping it's one of the things that will be discussed at COP, actually.
I think a couple of things are worth adding, perhaps. One is the difference between territorial and consumption emissions. I'm sure the committee's already aware of the report card that we get, and the way our legislation is set up and the way the international system is set up is around the greenhouse gas inventory, which allocates emissions to the country from which they originated. It's the only way we have at the moment of allocating emissions to countries. But, of course, it doesn't take into account the emissions that were generated in the production of most of our clothes, which I suspect weren't made in Wales. They were probably made overseas and then transported here. All the fruit in our fruit bowls: if you have a banana, again it was probably not grown in Wales. So, there are a number of things that we consume in Wales that aren't produced here, and they would count as our consumption emissions. So, they don't feature on our report card, they're not part of our legislative targets, which the Senedd set in March; they would count against the country in which they are produced. However, that does not mean that the Welsh Government doesn't take those emissions very seriously. They are counted as consumption emissions.
There's a report that will be produced next year on what we believe our consumption emission footprint to be. It's devilishly difficult to work out exactly what that number is, for all the reasons I'm sure you can understand. But I think we're hoping at COP to build, I guess, on the engagement that the public have with this area, so they can understand better the likely emissions impact of strawberries grown out of season in Spain versus strawberries grown in a Welsh garden, and the relative carbon impact of different food choices and different living choices. And that, again, will be explained further with more engagement over the year to come, starting with the COP Cymru Wales Climate Week at the back end of November. I think the committee makes very good points, but we're hopefully picking those up in the work that we have planned.
Thank you very much. I just wondered if you were planning to revise the Welsh Government's climate adaptation plan along with the net-zero plan you're publishing next week.
Christine, do you want to go into that as well? Because the suite of documents that goes with this is quite complicated as well, Jenny. Chris, do you want to—?
Yes, Minister. The climate adaptation plan was published in 2019 and called, 'Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales'. It set out a plan for the next five years. So, taking us from November/December 2019 right up to 2024. The committee will be aware that, in the summer, the Climate Change Committee, who are our statutory adviser, published around 2,000 pages of technical advice relating to the latest climate change risk assessment, known as CCRA3. I haven't yet read all 2,000 pages—we have quite a lot on our plate—and I imagine the committee hasn't either, but my team is working through that. We'll come with advice to the Minister, we hope later this year, to see what we want to do about our plan in light of that advice, and I'm sure the Minister will come back to the committee or issue a statement once we have that decision made internally. Minister, anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you very much, Chris. So, Jenny, there is a suite of other documents that go with this as well. You'll see the UK publication today around heat, energy, buildings and so on. So, there is a suite of documents. If you have the technical briefing for the committee, we can take you through the interaction of the various documents.
Okay. That'll be really helpful. Specifically on heat and decarbonising buildings, I just want to know what our strategy is for developing the skills needed to do all the work that needs doing. So, for example, the Construction Industry Training Board argues that we're going to need to create 12,000 new green jobs every year until 2028 in order to develop the accurate skills that we need to be successful in this. So, I just wonder what your plans are to really ramp up the apprenticeship programme, the conversion of existing skills into the new skills we need.
We run—as I'm sure the committee's aware—the optimised retrofit programme. The whole point of that is to figure out what tech, what adaptations and what skills are necessary to adapt each house in Wales, each type of house in Wales, for the climate future. So, we've heard a lot of talk as a result of the UK net-zero plan about heat pumps, for example. Well, it will not be possible to put heat pumps into the Victorian terraced houses of most Valleys towns; there's nowhere to put them. So, we have to find different solutions for different types of housing, so we're running the optimised retrofit programme to work out what each type of house needs to have done to it, and what the skills necessary to retrofit those are, and we're doing that in conjunction with the economy and education departments across the Government to work with our further education colleges to switch the apprenticeship programmes so that we're not producing lots of gas boiler engineers who can replace your inefficient gas boiler with a more efficient one, that we're producing engineers that can put heat pumps in where appropriate but who can also install the solar panels, water systems, battery systems, underfloor heating, insulation and so on that are required to get your house from energy performance certificate whatever it is now to EPC A.
We also have to have a plan for what we'll do with the houses that can't get to EPC A; there will definitely be houses in Wales that will not make that top height. We have to take into account the carbon impact of a decision to knock those down, for example, because the embodied carbon in those houses is quite extreme. They will have been made with materials that are not easy to recycle and so on, so there's quite a big calculation to do there. Chris Jofeh's report to the fifth Senedd on this is very instructive, in terms of the kinds of decisions we have to make. The optimised retrofit programme comes immediately out of that report and the advisory group that went with it. We now have around 18 months' worth of data; we're working apace to make sure that we can take that into account. We add that data to the data coming out of the innovative housing programme so that we've got good evidence on what works in terms of energy efficiency. So, for example, the timber houses that were built as part of the innovative housing programme that were built with all Welsh timber as an exemplar to show that that could be done, they don't have air source heat pumps in them; they have all natural ventilation, good insulation. So, different types of tech fit different kinds of buildings.
The other thing to say is that there aren't enough heat source pumps in the world at the moment to do the kind of programme that's just been announced, so it's very important for us to get ahead of that. We are doing some supply chain analysis coming out of the innovative housing programme and the optimised retrofit programme to understand what materials are required, where they currently come from in the world and whether we can onshore them to Wales; what we need to do that, what licences are necessary, what raw materials, what intellectual property, all the kinds of work that you need to do to do that. Again, we're drawing heavily on the experience of the contractors who built the innovative housing programmes and are currently doing the retrofit for us.
So, Lee and I often attend the construction forum and have a robust discussion with our SME construction colleagues about the pipeline of work and what needs to be done in terms of skills and supply chain, Jenny, in order to address exactly that problem. So, here in Wales, we absolutely do understand that each house needs a different solution depending on its type, and so on. So, there is not one neat one-size-fits-all solution.
Okay. And lastly on this—
No, no, sorry, Jenny, we're running out of time now. I'll allow Joyce to come in very briefly, because Huw and Kevin wanted to come in on this broad area as well. So, Joyce, very briefly.
We've talked about heating up houses but everything tells us—and we had evidence last week or the week before to tell us—we also need to think about cooling houses down, because of the increased temperatures that we're all finding. So, it's just a quick question: while you're looking at keeping the warmth in, are you at the same time looking at the ability to cool them down? Particularly for older people and people with respiratory problems who will suffer.
Absolutely. The optimised retrofit programme encompasses both cooling in summer and heating in winter, for sure.
Thank you for that clarity, and it is important that we don't forget that. Just one question: we've had quite a bit of evidence in our previous sessions, and I'm just wondering how you respond to calls for a statutory marine spatial plan, to address some of the concerns around the cumulative impacts of marine energy developments.
Yes, so, we've been working on a marine plan for some considerable time, Llyr. There's quite a lot of work to do here to make sure that we get this right, and this is, as you absolutely know, about the balance between making sure that we have good conservation order seas around Wales, and we're very keen to make sure that our marine protected areas, and our new marine conservation zones, come forward and make that chain for habitats around Wales, and at the same time that we site in the right place the right kind of energy exploitation arrangements. So, we're very keen on making sure that maritime energy developments are active in Wales, and that they fit all the right ecological footprints.
There's quite a lot of work going on. I recently met the Crown Estate people to discuss with them some of the issues. We've got quite a lot of work going on to make sure that we've got the planning arrangements in place, to make sure that we get the environmental impact assessments correct, and so on, for floating wind. But also, for us, this isn't just about how much renewable energy we can generate. It's about making sure that, where there are cutting-edge technologies like tidal stream or tidal lagoons or tidal flow, we get the industry for Wales. There's a bit of a race, isn't there, between us and Canada for who can first get use of their tidal range, and make sure that we secure the global industry for Wales. We want not just to have some tidal stream, tidal flow, tidal lagoons around Wales, but actually have the manufacturing here as well to make sure that we get the most out of it, otherwise we'll have to increase our carbon footprint by importing the machinery from elsewhere.
So, there's quite a big balance going on from that. We're doing quite a bit of work with our ports and our shipping as well, so we'll be coming forward with that plan. I'm sure Gian Marco will tell me when—but soon.
Soon—okay, fine. Go on, then, Gian Marco, if you could—
All I was going to say, as the Minister said, is we've got the Welsh national marine plan, which is the strategic, overarching framework within which we are operating now. What you've then got is you've still got the requirement underneath that for the normal consenting procedures, so any project or any development within that still has to follow the habitats regulatory assessment, and all of those things. What we're doing at the moment with stakeholders is, I guess, developing the next layer down of the information that's needed for the Welsh national marine plan to act as that strategic framework, so, things like locational guidance, things like ecosystem assessments, all of those things that will allow us basically to, I guess, signpost activity towards the most appropriate areas, very broadly.
Okay, that's fine. Thank you.
Not dissimilar at all, Llyr, to the on-land one, Future Wales. So, this is the equivalent for the seas, obviously.
Okay, thank you. Huw, you wanted to come in very briefly on this.
Yes, very briefly, and it is to do with stakeholder engagement, Chair. When we speak to stakeholders, they will say to us to varying degrees they're not entirely comfortable that the national stakeholder groups that you have, but also the regional and local ones, have to balance these issues of sustainable exploitation against fisheries, against pipeline, against conservation, and so on, and haven't quite got it right yet. I'm just wondering, are you minded, Minister, to have a look at the way these groups operate to make sure that it isn't all top-down, that there is genuine tough, frank and honest agreement and consensus on the way forward in our marine environment? Are you willing to have a look at that to see if they're working well?
Absolutely, Huw. So, just to be absolutely clear, we don't want marine renewables at any cost. We want marine renewables in that ecologically friendly way that balances the health of our seas against their ability to produce renewable energy, which we must have if we're to decarbonise the planet. So, this is absolutely about the balance, and it's about making sure that we get the best out of them as well. So, all the work that was done on the Swansea tidal lagoon earlier on, for example—there was a lot of work done on moving the seed point for various fisheries around the edges of the lagoon, which are perfectly placed to be breeding grounds for mackerel and various other native species of fish, for example. So, it's about developing it in such a way that they actually enhance the environment as well as not destroy it. Yes, of course I'm very happy to do that. I've actually recently met myself with the Marine Conservation Society about a number of these things, and I think my colleague Lee Waters has done so as well. So, we're very cognisant of the need to balance the fisheries elements of it with the need to produce renewable energy and the need to have good conservation status for our seas and our biodiversity around Wales. And indeed, one of the other projects we'll be looking at shortly is what we can do about blue carbon and developing sea grass and salt marsh habitats as well.
That's brilliant. Thank you.
Thank you, Huw. Thank you, Minister. Cefin.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Mae syniad go dda gyda fi o le mae llygredd aer ar ei waethaf yng Nghymru ac rwy'n gwybod bod yna dargedau gyda ni ond, mewn gwirionedd, mae eisiau dod â'r cyfan yma at ei gilydd mewn rhyw fath o ddeddfwriaeth. Felly, a fyddwn i'n gallu gofyn i'r Gweinidog pryd rŷm ni'n debygol o weld deddfwriaeth o gwmpas aer glân?
Thank you very much, Chair. I have a good idea of where air pollution is at its worst in Wales and I know that we do have targets but, in truth, we need to bring this together in some kind of legislation. So, could I ask the Minister when are we likely to see legislation in respect of clean air?
I'll begin to answer that, perhaps. The answer on the legislative timetable has been covered by Julie James. This is something the First Minister and the Counsel General are looking at in the whole. We have an ambitious legislative agenda and, as Julie said, across the whole of the Senedd term we have 60 per cent of the legislation in our portfolio between the two of us. So, there is a pragmatic judgment to be made on how we manage that and how the resources can be brought together to deliver significant pieces of change and work. So, we can't give an announcement today of when exactly in the timetable the Bill can be brought forward. What I've said to the cross-party group very clearly is that, first of all, there are things that can be done that don't require legislation. We've touched upon active travel already, we've touched upon modal shift already. There's a range of things that we are working on—tree planting another one—that will help address the issue of air quality. So, I don't think we should get means and ends confused here. What are we trying to achieve and what's the best way to achieve it? Well, there's a lot that can be done without legislation and that can be straight away, and we're working on that and we'll keep strengthening it with the input of the cross-party group and Members.
And secondly, there's the legislation. The World Health Organization has only just published its standards, and we need to make sure that those inform the Bill. That requires a lot of work in terms of consultation. That can't be flippantly done and we've started some of the work on that, which was willfully misrepresented by some over the summer about some of the questions we were asking in our surveys, and so on. That's all part of the preparatory work that needs to be done. What I'm really keen to do is, if we aren't able to introduce legislation in the next year, which seems highly unlikely, let's take that space and time to work together in making sure that the legislation that does come forward is as ambitious as it can be, and let us all seek consensus on what should be in that legislation, because what I'm very conscious of is that we all talk about air quality legislation without actually saying what we want the legislation to do.
So, for example, we had a debate in the Senedd recently where one Member said they favour a clean air Act to build more roads. Now, that's not my definition of what a clean air Act should introduce. So, there's a danger—. You know, I hear some parties agree to the principle, but it may be that we don't agree on what the building blocks should be. So, let us in absolute spirit of cross-party support—because, as we know, no party has the ability to get legislation through without the support of others—let's work on a cross-party basis to identify now what we think should be in this legislation, and then build a consensus, working with civil society, to put that in place so that we, as a Government, can then get behind it and put it into practice.
Diolch yn fawr. You mentioned forestry there, so I am going to use that as a peg to hang the next question on. We're aware of the deep dive and the work that you've mentioned that's ongoing, really, but stakeholders have expressed concerns that the national forest might be too focused on commercial forestry. And there are questions also being asked about why it's underpinned by the UK forestry standard rather than the UK woodland assurance scheme, which is a higher envvironmental standard. How do you respond to some of those concerns that we've heard as a committee?
Perhaps I can start and I'm sure Julie will want to add, because this is something we're both very interested in. First of all, I think it's a false dichotomy to make a distinction overly, really, between trees for biodiversity and trees for commercial planting—we need to do both of them—and it's possible to do both within the same plantation; it depends how you design it. And that's one of the things coming out of the deep dive that we want to get better at. What we do not want to see is monocultures of trees that are biodiversity deserts. We need to see trees that sequester carbon but also promote biodiversity and provide a crop for us to use, as Julie has just been mentioning, to create timber framed Welsh houses and a whole supply chain, and we are working on our Welsh timber industrial strategy to look at the green skills and green jobs element of this, which is a real opportunity. So, I don't accept the premise of the question that it's either/or; it has to be both. Now, there's a debate to be had about the exact design of that, and that is something we're keen to work with scientists and experts on getting right. So, for example, Woodknowledge Wales has produced some research suggesting that a 50:50 split between deciduous and conifer plantations would be the most optimal in terms of producing trees for productive use. Coed Cymru, for example, tend to take a 70:30 split between deciduous and conifer. So, there's a discussion to be had on the detail of how we do it, and we're keen to do it, but it's not an either/or.
And then just to add to that, Llyr, obviously we talk about trees as if they're one thing, but if you're going to crop Sitka spruce or larch, you've got one growing timetable. If you're going to crop oak, or ash or beech, then you've got another one. All of those trees are croppable. All of them are capable of being turned into the raw materials for our beautiful Welsh timber houses that I'm determined to have. But what you have to have is a planting scheme and a cropping scheme that allows the forest to maintain its biodiversity and its amenity—nature amenity—its walkability for people and so on, with a cropping plan that allows you to take the trees for sustainable growth and sequester the carbon in the houses for a very considerably longer period of time. So, we need to work on a scheme that does that across Wales and slowly—and the word is 'slowly'—changes what we have now as planting schemes into that. You can't just disrupt a commercial forestry practice tomorrow and put hundreds of people out of work because we're suddenly changing the scheme, but, over time, we will change the way that we plant those schemes so that we're producing different kinds of wood.
The other thing to say is we're taking scientific advice. We're not experts on this, although both Lee and I, I think, could be accused of being fully toggle deployed nerds on the subject. We'll take advice on this. But you know as well as I do about the devastating impact of some of the diseases that we've seen in some of the woodlands. Well, obviously, that goes far quicker through a plantation that's only got a single species in it than it does with a biodiverse thing, and so we've got to learn the lessons of that. We would not have had the dieback that we had if we weren't planting monospecies—sometimes even monoplant, because they're cloned—forests of the same species. So, these are things that we've got to work alongside NRW on, to change slowly the practices that we have, change the planting policies, in conjunction, I think, with the communities that surround them. I get lots of correspondence about people very distressed about clear cropped hillsides and all the rest of it, and then we've got the habitat bit. You'll all be familiar as a committee, I'm sure, with the red squirrel issues, whether you can have a red squirrel habitat forest that can be cropped at all. There are lots of things that we need to look at.
And then the last piece I want to say is a piece that Lee has also been working on, which is getting our farmers on board. So, making sure that farmers use the land that's suitable for the right kind of tree on their land, for biodiversity, for shade for their animals, but also for a diversification source of income for them and a stream of trees for our sustainable building industry. So, these are not things that are in conflict with one another. We just need to work together to make sure we get the best out of all of them.
There we are. Thank you, both, for that response. We have literally two minutes left. I know you touched briefly on plastics earlier, Minister, but I think Janet is keen to come in on that, so I'll allow one more question, if that's okay.
Thank you very much, Chair. I'll go quickly. The Welsh Government's consultation on reducing single-use plastics closed on 22 October 2020. However, the page is without an update or outcome. So, when will an update be provided? Are you able to confirm if any future ban will include wet wipes, given that that they are reportedly behind 93 per cent of blockages in our sewers? And, finally, given the kerbside deposit-return scheme pilot that took place in Conwy, north Wales, between June and July and which saw a 97 per cent participation rate during this four-week trial, what lessons of success are you taking into discussions with the UK Government over the proposed single UK-wide deposit-return scheme for drinks containers?
Thank you, Janet. That's three questions in one. That's very clever of you.
So, very quickly, then, Chair, on the deposit-return, we're absolutely co-operating with the UK Government. We have a very porous border; it would be really stupid not to allow people who've bought their drink in Wales to deposit it in England and vice versa, so quite clearly a UK-wide scheme works well for us there. So, we'd very much like to stay in lockstep. However, if the UK Government stopped talking about a deposit-return scheme or looked like they're not going to do it, we will absolutely consider doing one in Wales only, but it would clearly be better if we can just do it in a seamless way across the border.
In terms of the single-use plastics, we've run up against the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, so Janet can actually do me a favour and write to her party colleagues in Westminster to say, 'Stop messing us about', quite frankly. As you know, we've got an ongoing legal challenge on the issue. We say that they can't curtail the Senedd's legislative competence to prevent us from enacting a provision banning or restricting the sale in Wales. Otherwise, we'll have the ridiculous situation where we can ban the use but not the sale, which is clearly nonsensical. And so, we want to carry on with our consultation and ban all the plastics that we consulted on and, indeed, that would only be the first tranche, in my view—there are several more to go—but we need the UK to come on board with it as soon as possible. And, as I've just said, and I'll say it again publicly now, Chair, if they won't, we will continue our legal challenge and I will be saying very loudly from a global platform in COP that they need to sort themselves out and get this done as soon as possible.
I agree with the Minister on that, chairman.
There we are, excellent. Good. So, on that positive note, then, albeit not a positive point that was made, can I thank both Ministers for their attendance this morning, along with their officials? We've covered a lot of ground. It's been a really valuable session and it'll certainly help inform our deliberations around our priorities in terms of our work over the coming months and next few years.
Diolch i chi am fod gyda ni.
Thank you for joining us.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Mi wnawn ni nawr symud i sesiwn breifat fel pwyllgor. Felly, dwi'n cynnig, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix), fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cynnal gweddill y cyfarfod yma yn breifat. Ydy Aelodau yn fodlon ar hynny? Does neb yn gwrthwynebu, felly mi symudwn ni i sesiwn breifat gyda diolch ichi i gyd.
We'll now move into a private session as a committee. So, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content? There is no opposition, so we'll move into private session and I thank you all.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:02.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:02.