Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

30/09/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Delyth Jewell AS
Huw Irranca-Davies AS
Janet Finch-Saunders AS
Jenny Rathbone AS
Joyce Watson AS
Llyr Gruffydd AS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anne Meikle Cyfarwyddwr, WWF Cymru
Director, WWF Cymru
Annie Smith Pennaeth Polisi Natur a Gwaith Achos, RSPB Cymru, yn cynrychioli Cyswllt Amgylchedd Cymru
Head of Nature Policy and Casework, RSPB Cymru, representing Wales Environment Link
Claire Shrewsbury Cyfarwyddwr Mewnwelediadau ac Arloesi, WRAP Cymru
Director of Insights and Innovation, WRAP Cymru
Clare Trotman Pennaeth Cadwraeth Dros Dro Cymru, Y Gymdeithas Cadwraeth Forol, yn cynrychioli Cyswllt Amgylchedd Cymru
Acting Head of Conservation Wales, Marine Conservation Society, representing Wales Environment Link
Dr Clive Walmsley Cynghorydd Arbenigol ar Newid Hinsawdd a Datgarboneiddio, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Specialist Adviser on Climate Change and Decarbonisation, Natural Resources Wales
Dr David Clubb Darpar Gadeirydd, Comisiwn Seilwaith Cenedlaethol Cymru
Chair Designate, National Infrastructure Commission for Wales
Haf Elgar Cyfarwyddwr, Cyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru
Director, Friends of the Earth Cymru
Jacob Ellis Cynghorydd Polisi, Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Policy Adviser, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Jeremy Parr Rheolwr Llifogydd a Risg Gweithredol, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management, Natural Resources Wales
Jerry Langford Rheolwr Materion Cyhoeddus, Coed Cadw
Public Affairs Manager, Woodland Trust
Katie-Jo Luxton Cyfarwyddwr, RSPB Cymru
Director, RSPB Cymru
Lord Deben Cadeirydd, Y Pwyllgor ar Newid Hinsawdd
Chair, Climate Change Committee
Professor Richard Cowell Ysgol Daearyddiaeth a Chynllunio, Prifysgol Caerdydd
School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
Ruth Jenkins Pennaeth Adnoddau Naturiol, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru
Head of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Wales
Sophie Howe Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrea Storer Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cynnwys

Contents

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon, a datgan buddiannau. 1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest
2. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 5 – newid hinsawdd 2. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 5 - climate change
3. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 6 – newid hinsawdd a llifogydd 3. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 6 - climate change and flooding
4. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 7 – yr amgylchedd a bioamrywiaeth: llywodraethiant a thargedau 4. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 7 - environment and biodiversity: governance and targets
5. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 8 – yr amgylchedd a bioamrywiaeth: adferiad gwyrdd 5. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 8 - environment and biodiversity: green recovery
6. Gwaith craffu ar Ddarpar Gadeirydd Comisiwn Seilwaith Cenedlaethol Cymru 6. Scrutiny of the Chair Designate of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW)
7. Papur(au) i'w nodi 7. Paper(s) to note
8. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) ac (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod heddiw 8. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting

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 09:15.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15. 

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

Bore da, a chroeso i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y pwyllgor y bore yma—y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith yma yn y Senedd. Rŷn ni'n parhau, wrth gwrs, heddiw â'r gwaith o edrych ar flaenoriaethau'r pwyllgor a'n gwaith ni ar gyfer y misoedd a'r cyfnod nesaf i ddod. Mi fydd y cyfarfod yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, wrth gwrs. Mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg i'r rhai sydd ei angen e. Fydd dim angen i unrhyw un ymrafael â'r meicroffonau; mi fydd hynny'n cael ei wneud ar eich rhan chi. Hefyd, mae'n rhaid i mi ofyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau buddiannau i'w datgan. Mae gen i un budd i'w datgan: mae fy mhartner i yn bartner busnes i Dr David Clubb, a fydd yn ymddangos gerbron y pwyllgor yma o dan eitem 6. Dyna fe. Yr unig beth arall i'w ddweud, a fy mod i'n colli cysylltiad â'r pwyllgor—.

Good morning, and welcome, everyone, to this meeting of this committee—it's the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, of course, here at the Senedd. We're continuing today with our work of looking at the priorities of the committee and our work over the coming months and years. The meeting will be bilingual, of course. There is an interpretation facility available from Welsh to English for those who require it. You don't need to touch your microphones at all; that will be controlled centrally on your behalf. Of course, I do have to ask whether Members have any declarations of interest to make. I have one declaration to make: my partner is a business partner of Dr David Clubb, who will be appearing before this committee under item 6. That's it. The only other thing to say is that, if I were to lose my connection with the committee—.

Sorry, Joyce, you wanted to come in.

Iawn, ocê. Diolch yn fawr. Ddim ond i esbonio, fel arfer, wrth gwrs, a fy mod i'n colli cysylltiad â'r cyfarfod yma, mae'r pwyllgor yn flaenorol wedi cytuno y bydd Delyth Jewell yn camu i'r adwy tan y gallaf i ailgysylltu â'r cyfarfod.

Okay, thank you very much. Just to explain, if I were to lose my connection with this committee meeting then committee has already decided that Delyth Jewell will step into the breach until I can reconnect with the meeting.

2. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 5 – newid hinsawdd
2. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 5 - climate change

Ymlaen â ni, felly, at y sesiwn gyntaf yn ein trafodaethau ni y bore yma. Rŷn ni'n canolbwyntio yn benodol am yr awr nesaf ar newid yn yr hinsawdd, ac mae'n bleser gen i groesawu ein tystion ni y bore yma: y Gwir Anrhydeddus Arglwydd Deben, cadeirydd y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd—croeso cynnes i chi atom ni unwaith eto; felly, hefyd, wrth gwrs, Sophie Howe, Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru; a Jacob Ellis, sy'n gynghorydd polisi gyda'r comisiynydd. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi.

Mae gyda ni lu o gwestiynau i chi, felly bydd yn rhaid i ni fod yn ofalus o safbwynt ein defnydd o amser y bore yma, ond gwnaf i gychwyn, os caf i, jest drwy ofyn am sgêl a chyflymdra gweithredu gan Lywodraeth Cymru mewn ymateb i'r argyfwng rŷn ni'n ei wynebu, wrth gwrs, ac i'r angen  i leihau allyriadau. Beth yw'ch barn chi ynglŷn â pha mor sydyn a pha mor uchelgeisiol y mae ymatebion Llywodraeth Cymru? Efallai y gallwch chi sôn ychydig ynglŷn ag i ba raddau y maen nhw'n cyflawni'r uchelgais sydd wedi cael ei osod allan yn y low-carbon delivery plan cyntaf? Ydy'r comisiynydd, efallai, eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?

We'll move on, then, to the first session in our discussions this morning. We're focusing specifically for the next hour on climate change, and it's a great pleasure for me to welcome witnesses this morning: the Rt Hon Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee—a very warm welcome to you to us once again—and also Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and Jacob Ellis, who is a policy adviser for the commissioner. Welcome to the three of you.

We have a whole host of questions to ask this morning, so we'll have to be careful in terms of our use of time. I'll start, if I may, just by asking about the scale and pace of the Welsh Government's actions in responding to the crisis that we're facing and the need to reduce emissions. What is your view of the pace and the ambition of the Welsh Government's responses? Perhaps you can talk a little bit about the extent to which they are fulfilling or achieving the ambition that has been set out in the first low-carbon delivery plan. Commissioner, do you want to start?

Yes, thank you, Chair, diolch. I'm happy to start. Lord Deben will elaborate on this, I'm sure, but whilst there has been some progress—a reduction of about 31 per cent in terms of carbon emissions since the 1990 baseline—the reality is that, to achieve the 63 per cent target by 2030, we're going to need to achieve in the next eight years the same as we've achieved in the last 32. So, that's the kind of scale of the challenge that we are facing. The UK CCC say that we're not on track to meet the 80 per cent target, which was the initial target, let alone the revised 100 per cent target. So, there are some significant challenges there.

In terms of the last reporting period, between 2016 and 2018, there has been a 20 per cent reduction in emissions, but the vast majority of that is due to the closing of Aberthaw, and so I think that that's something we've got to consider in terms of those devolved areas where the Senedd and the Welsh Government have powers, and what has actually been achieved there. So, just looking at the low-carbon action plan, obviously I'm not going to go through every point, but, in terms of transport, I think we've seen some really significant and promising signs over the last couple of years in this area, but the Government really have a lot of catching up to do. So, emissions are actually 3 per cent higher in transport than the 1990 baseline, and obviously that's an area that's been within full control pretty much in Wales.

Agriculture—there's been very little change. Still some challenges in terms of buildings. And then, if we look again in some more detail in the low-carbon plan, there are still some significant gaps in terms of skills, which was referenced in the low-carbon plan as needing to get our regional skills partnerships engaged in identifying where skills gaps are to deliver the low-carbon economy. So, we can see, for example, there's the potential for about 4,260 jobs in housing retrofit, which are needed in terms of jobs and are needed in order to deliver decarbonisation of homes. But, at the moment, apprenticeship starts are only between about 20 and 40 a year. So, there's a significant mismatch there in terms of some of those aspirations beyond the climate change ministry, if you like, in terms of how they deliver.

Do you want me to carry on or shall I—

09:20

No, I think you've given us a flavour and, obviously, there's so much that we could discuss in that respect. Lord Deben, we talk about the decade of delivery—are we on track? Is it promising or not? 

To put it in the wider United Kingdom context, nobody's on track, frankly. Let's be frank about it. It's a very tough target that is set, and one has to be very complimentary both to the UK Government and to the Welsh Government to have accepted those targets and to have determined that they will reach it. I never think it's fair to start off without accepting the importance of that. The trouble is all Governments are much better at policy than delivery. This is the nature of the system, so let us recognise that if you've got a really tough piece of delivery, it's likely to be even more questioned.

What I think one has to say about the Welsh Government is that it is behind. There are some very good signs. I think the point that Sophie just put forward about transport and the movement in that direction is very important. We know already that Welsh Government has led the United Kingdom on its waste policy, and that is a contributor of some real importance.

I think there are three things that I would highlight. The first is I think it is very important for the Welsh Government to identify clearly and publicly the areas where the fact of the dual mandate of some things being in the hands of Westminster and some things being in the hands of Cardiff is an area that can easily hide things. It's easier to say, 'We haven't done that because we really don't have this power', both ways, and I would like to see the Welsh Government very clearly saying, 'These are the things that we can't do that we'd like to do, and these are the powers that we really need to be able to do them, and this is where our partnership is falling down'. It seems to me that that's a very important pressure on Central Government. I'd like that because it helps us, because, frankly, we use the devolved system in order to point to each other what others are doing better and, 'Why aren't you doing as well as that?' I'm constantly talking about the Welsh and waste, if I may put it like that, because you have done so much better. So, that's the first thing I'd like to see more of.

Secondly, I would like to see some real willingness to use the powers in a serious way. Last time we talked about this, I said that, on housing, which for me is a crucial piece, Welsh Government does have the power to say, 'Whether you like it or not, houses in Wales are going to reach something in the region of a passive house level, and we're not having the present rules—we are actually lifting that', because every week that goes by, there are new houses built in Wales that will have to be retrofitted. And this seems to me to be a crying shame. The fact that the United Kingdom Government has reneged on its 2017 agreement means that a million houses have been built of that kind.

I feel very strongly about this, because what it is is a mechanism whereby the house builders hand on to the purchaser the bill, instead of doing it themselves in the first place at a very much lower price, and one that does not need to increase the cost of the house itself, because it ought to be taken out of the cost of the land when they buy it, as the cost of land is entirely decided by the house builder, because what they do is to decide how much they can pay for the land in the competitive world they live in and still make the right profit that they want and all the rest of it. That is exactly what they do, and it therefore is absolutely clear that that change could be made and the Welsh Government could make it. I do think it's such a very dishonourable situation we are now in, the passing on of this bill, and so I would very much like that as an example, but other things as well—one or two real steps that show that the Welsh Government is prepared to take some tough answers.

And the third thing is that I do think that a clearer picture of the detail of what is to be done will make a huge difference. When I came to prepare for your kind invitation, the thing that struck me was that there isn't a sort of document in which you press a button and the Government says, 'These are the steps that we're taking over the next year and over the next two years.' I've been a businessman all my life, except when I was a Minister, and the thing about running a business is that you would have that, and you would have it as something the whole of the staff would have, because they then know where they were. For me, for example, as a small farmer myself, I do think the farming community particularly needs that, and it's going to be such a psychological problem for them, working with them—I think Wales has done better than most, but it's still true—working with them in a way that gives them some confidence, given that they are still waiting for DEFRA to produce anything that is of value on this front. I do think that's another really serious issue, that we still don't know what the replacement for the common agricultural policy payments is, and I've begun to believe that we don't know because they don't know. I'm beginning to believe that this is not anyone holding it back; I'm beginning to believe it is that they haven't made up their mind, and part of the reason they haven't made up their mind is that they don't quite know how to do it. So, those would be the things that I would be looking for.

09:25

Thank you so much. There's a lot there, actually. We could spend a whole hour on all of that. That's really valuable stuff. Thank you. Janet, over to you.

In your submission to committee, you made clear that whilst Welsh Government monitors the level and sources of emissions in Wales at a national level, there is not sufficient focus on all sectors and organisations to support these efforts. Given that over half of our emissions are from the power, business and industry sectors, what engagement proposals would you like to see implemented as part of the next low-carbon delivery plan? Either or, or both.

You put your finger on something that I think is going to be more and more important. I think Governments at all levels have got to learn a different way of governing, because the climate change problem is only going to be solved by partnership. Wales has made a big step in that direction. Your relationship between the national Government and local government is significantly better than in any other part of the United Kingdom. This is a real compliment, and I keep on using it. It is very important. That's why you've done so well on waste, actually, because you've got that relationship. We've got to deepen it, because we're not going to solve these problems if local government isn't absolutely at the centre of it. There is no other way of doing it. But it's also true that industry is in this very interesting position, first of all, of being ahead of Government in a number of areas, and we need to gather that together, in order to get other people who are not ahead of the Government to understand what is being done.

Secondly, they are under very much bigger pressure from the investors today compared with what they were even a year ago. Very noticeable how investors have started to understand, not just about climate change, but about the whole range of sustainability—that this is crucial for their investment decisions. So this is a very good moment for a new relationship to be built, and I think stepping out of the old ones and out of the historic divisions of political parties. The great thing about climate change is that, because of the commonality of view, because all parties seriously share the determination to win this battle, this is an opportunity for a new relationship. So, I think you've put your finger on absolutely something that could be led in Wales. The great strength of Wales is, being small, you know everybody—I know that, with my Welsh background; I know perfectly well that that's true. So, there is a real opportunity here, and I think you've highlighted it.

09:30

I'd agree with everything Lord Deben said there. I think there are, however, some challenges in terms of the devolved/non-devolved context, for example. So, opportunities, for example, around the south Wales industrial cluster. The Welsh I think have been perhaps on the periphery of that actually; the UK Government have funded some quite innovative work that is taking place there. I suppose then the flip of that—things like financing the housing retrofit challenge, which will need to be a real shared endeavour between the Welsh Government and the UK Government. And then we're seeing things like the shared prosperity fund, which is obviously going out through growth deals, and so on. Whereas, actually, if we were able to work together as team Wales, whether that was the Welsh Government, all of our local authorities, and the UK Government, to really scale up some significant investment to meet that £14 billion challenge around housing retrofit in the next few years, then we could really make a significant impact.

And I think all of those things are really important, in terms of business, because what business want to see are long-term investment plans, so that they can start scaling up their operations, the skills sector can start getting the skills pipeline geared up, and so on. And at the moment, we're just not in that position of giving those sorts of commitments in terms of those long-term investments. And I don't think that that is—. I'm not trying to lay blame here, but it does signify to me this real need to recognise that there is no one part of the public sector, or Government, or levels of Government, in Wales and the UK, that would be able to solve this alone, and there will have to be a much greater coming together around that.

Good morning. I want to look at, and have your views on, the extent to which Welsh Government is assessing the carbon impact of its spending, and also investments. And you touched on this, Lord Deben, when you said that investments are rightly focused in this area.

Well, I'm always worried about sounding critical at every level, because the thing is, the mixture of urgency and centrality that climate change really has is that it's very difficult to say, 'Well, they're getting it right', if you see what I mean, because there's always something beyond that. So, I don't want to sound like that, because I do think that the Welsh Government, and the Ministers I've certainly dealt with, are very well aware of this. I think the bit that doesn't work, and is most important, is the depth of this. In other words, it seems to me that there really are no decisions that should not be seen through the lens of climate change. And we're going to solve this problem—and we are, I'm optimistic about it—we're going to solve this problem, but only if we think about it at every level.

So, I come back to boring examples. The fact is that if everybody only boiled the kettle with the amount of water they wanted for their cup of coffee every time, that would remove the need for a significant amount of generation. Somehow or other, we have to get people to realise that each little decision—cleaning your teeth, not under running water—each little decision adds up to the kinds of changes that we need. Now, the two examples that I've used do nobody any harm. You just have to think about it. I think the same is true about Government decisions. It really is a matter for every small decision to be thought of in this way. And that means, and I started with the example of the individual, because, actually, what you have to do, in order not to let the tap run, is to organise yourself. You have to say, every time you approach the basin—you have to say—'I am not going to do this'. It's a matter of discipline. Now, it's quite hard for that.

I'm very conscious of not always obeying my own rules, and then slapping my own wrist, so to speak. But I'm also very conscious that in an institution, in a business, like the business I run, and from whose offices I'm speaking now, it is a constant reminder; it is constantly thinking 'Should I have done that in that way?' or 'Would it have been better?', 'Could I have walked there, could I have got people—.' When I'm thinking of people coming back into the office, we've taken a very, I think, progressive view, which is that there are two days when everybody's in, and, on any other day, people make their own decisions, and we encourage people to work from home, if that's convenient for them. We think it's good for the family, we think the productivity improves, and, also, above all, they're not using public transport or private transport to get into the office. All those things are little decisions, but you have to do it in that way.

I think the Welsh Government could do a great deal more on what I call 'the small is beautiful point' and they shouldn't be ashamed of it. Sometimes, when you use these small examples, you get the kind of John Humphrys reaction, which is to giggle, and say, 'That's a pretty small thing to say, given the huge problem that we've got'. But huge problems are made up of a whole lot of little problems, and the little problems is where I think the Welsh Government can really make a difference. 

09:35

Saint David's mantra was 'Gwnewch y pethau bychain', wasn't it? 'Do the small things'. So, it should be in our DNA somewhere, but maybe we need to dig a bit deeper to find it. Sophie, you've been consistent in terms of Government budgets, haven't you, particularly, and the need for them to relate more closely, or be more obviously linked to the outcomes that we want to see. And, I'm afraid, I'll have to ask you to be brief, because we do need to start galloping through our questions. 

I think that, on the face of it, and that's the important bit—on the face of it—there's a positive story to tell. So, my analysis of the budget, last year, insofar as we can see, things like direct spending on the climate and nature emergencies, we think there's been about a 25 per cent increase. So, that is obviously good news. The problem is, it's very difficult to assess then when you get into things like—. So, we're looking at achieving decarbonisation, renewable energies, sustainable travel, biodiversity and nature restoration direct spending. There's then another category, which is things likely to be targeting decarbonisation. So, regeneration work, the wider work, Natural Resources Wales, the circular economy budget and so on, and, then, there are others, which could well have elements of decarbonisation in them, but we just don't know. So, things like housing grants, business innovation funds, local government capital funding and those sorts of things. So, it's actually quite difficult to know.

And, I think, the main thing that I would say is that there is definitely a sense, I think, of the pethau bychain happening here in Wales, and that should absolutely be commended. But we have no idea, really, what the pethau bychain are doing versus what some of the other big decisions are doing. So, we don't actually know what the carbon impact of our overall spend is, and I always think that, if I ever get a week to do some research, what I would look through is all Government press releases, which say, in answer to any query about anything, 'We've spent x-amount-a-million on doing this'. The question that needs to be asked is: in what context is that x-amount-a-million? And you might be spending x-amount-a-million here, but are you spending even more over there? And the WWF did a really interesting analysis of the UK Government, which really illustrates this point, where they looked at the climate mitigation policies, which equated to about £145 million in terms of direct spend, but then they looked at policies that increased emissions, like the fuel duty freeze, and they were spending £40 billion on that. So, just firing out, 'We've increased direct spending on the climate emergency by 25 per cent', doesn't really cut it, which is why we need a comprehensive and robust analysis of the carbon impact of our spend, starting, as Lord Deben said, at that kind of base level: 'We're going to decide to build a road or invest in public transport'—which one is going to have the lowest carbon impact and will help us to reach our target? At the moment, we don't have that.

09:40

Thank you. Thank you very much. Okay, I'm afraid I'm going to have to move on to Huw. Huw.

Thank you, Chair. And I'm going to make it easier for you a little bit here because I think most of the areas have been covered by Lord Deben and by Sophie as well, but could I just ask for some brief comments? You're talking about the partnership approach and delivering whatever will be in the second low-carbon budget and the massive ramping up—the ratcheting up, as has been described before—that we need to do. How do you do that in partnership with the public as well? Because some of the asks that we've got here are not just going to be me switching the shower off occasionally while I lather up and then switching it back on to take the lather off and so on. There are going to be some major impacts. I'm wondering, Lord Deben and Sophie, what you think about how we bring the public with us on this because it's going to be ramping up, not just for industrial sectors or for agriculture or for Government—it's going to be for us.

Of course, having said we've got to be short, you then asked the question with the longest answer, if one really gave it, but I'll do it very shortly. I think the first thing is that we have got to learn to speak the language of the people in this. I really do think that we very often mislead people because they don't know what we're talking about. I don't just mean that we constantly use initials like IPCC, which nobody knows what they are and it doesn't help. I banned the use of the words 'kilowatt hour' in the Climate Change Committee, because I don't know what it means—I can't feel it, I can't smell it, I can't touch it. But I do know what my bill is and sensible people talk about the effect on bills.

It seems to me that the first thing that we can do is to get our language right so that we start where the people we're talking to are. There's no point in talking about heat pumps when people don't know what they are, wouldn't know how to buy one, certainly couldn't find somebody who was certain to be able to install it properly and therefore in the end, turn off. So, we really do have to get the language right. And that's a good thing to say to the part of the United Kingdom that speaks the language best. 

So, then, the second thing that I think we've got to do is to really assess where it is going to hurt people, not just financially, but psychologically. And I think there's a real problem about not understanding that some things—. It isn't the money; it's being asked to do something that we just find inimical. Trying to get seriously sensible people to take the wheel of an electric car and drive it is very peculiar. I have an electric car—I love it. I wouldn't drive any other car; it is absolutely wonderful. I am fed-up with trying to explain to people how good it is, because they're not talking about money and they're not talking about—. They're talking about, 'I don't like it'. We've got to be better at understanding the psychology we've got to overcome.

And the third thing—the last thing is I just think we have got to do it in everything we do: coming back to the small points in everything we do. If we're talking about the business of letting the water run, let's just remind people all the time that one of the costs, if not the greatest cost of providing water for people is pumping it around the system. And therefore, they understand why it is that this is so important, because we've got to reduce the amount of energy we're using. I don't think we always do that. I don't think we always say, 'Why is this so important?' And those would be my three watchwords.

09:45

Thank you. Well, I think the good news is that there was a recent survey showing that about 59 per cent of the public were saying that the environment was top of policy priorities, particularly in terms of the recovery. So, there’s an open door there. But, at risk of violent agreement with Lord Deben around the terminology we use—sustainability, decarbonisation—it doesn’t mean anything to people out there. But when we start talking about—and this is the point back to the pethau bychain—when we start taking about that in practical steps, then it is about, 'Are you going to walk to school or are you going to drive? Are you going to make sure that you’re doing your recycling every week, and so on?’ Those things are really, really important.

I think there are a couple of key principles that we need to deploy here. One, user-centred design on climate-focused actions. So, I, for my workforce, have a season-ticket loan scheme for the bus. It’s for Cardiff Bus, and if a Stagecoach bus happens to come along before my Cardiff Bus I can’t use my pass on that Stagecoach bus. And that is just a fundamental—. How are we in 2021 and that is still the case? That’s madness.

I’ve gone to an electric vehicle. I went on my first long trip last week. After downloading about 20 different apps and trying to work out various connection points, the app that tells you where the next charging point is took me to an industrial estate where the charging didn’t exist. It's those sorts of things that are going to turn people off. So, we need to be really upping our game on some of those tech solutions around those things, and Government need to be throwing their weight around them.

Just one final thing, around eco literacy, I recommended in the future generations report that the Welsh Government should set out an ambition to make Wales the most eco-literate nation in the world. That is absolutely crucial. I think we’re doing a pretty good job in terms of our schools' eco-councils and the likes. Yesterday, my daughter came home and actually quoted, word for word almost, sections of Greta Thunberg’s speech, because in school they’d watched it on Newsround actually. But it has to go beyond that. I have a lot of hope for that generation. She will be much better than all of us at understanding the impact of her actions, but, actually, what about the people in our public services now who are deciding whether to mow the lawn or not, who are deciding whether to procure petrol fleet or EV fleet, and who are taking all of these pethau bychain, small decisions every day without any knowledge or understanding of the climate impact, and how do we get to them? So, when I’m talking about the most eco-literate nation in the world, I’m not just talking about our kids, who are absolutely running rings around us; I’m talking about everyone in our public services getting baseline training around environmental impact and what that means for their role.

Thank you very much. Sophie, I just wanted to ask you about your role in getting involved in the Welsh Government’s second low-carbon delivery plan. And picking up on the point made by Lord Deben about how nobody understands what air-source heat pumps are all about, we have a significant part of the population that's off-grid for gas, and yet when we last had a research paper on this, we only had 5,000 heat pumps installed in the whole of Wales. And that’s because we simply don’t have the people who are qualified to install them. The public will catch up with what they can do as soon as they hear their neighbour’s got something that’s so cheap. So, in your discussions with the Welsh Government, what are they doing to bridge that skills gap, and are our training institutions up to it? Otherwise, we’re never going to arrive.  

We'll go to Sophie first, and then Lord Deben for a short response as well.

So, specifically on skills, it's one of the areas that I'm most concerned about. You may be aware that I’ve published a report with the New Economics Foundation that showed the potential job creation opportunities and need in particular areas for a green recovery—so, things like retrofit energy assessors, reforestation and nature-based services, off-site housing manufacture, retrofitting, and so on. In all of those areas, there are significant skills gaps, and I'm not yet seeing that join-up. Although every time I meet with Ministers I ask them this question and they say that they're having discussions about it, I am not yet seeing what's coming out at the other end of the sausage machine being any significant change. So, questions like the youth skills guarantee—how much of that is going to be directed towards those green industries? In all of our programmes—this is where we have to be really forensic and go through all of our programmes—how are we going to be directing those skills programmes, both for younger people and, for example, reskilling, which is back to the eco-literacy point, but more intensive reskilling in existing sectors?

So, there are some significant concerns there, particularly on the heat pumps. I actually had a conversation with Julie James this week about that. They are doing some quite interesting work in terms of the supply chain for the manufacture of these products and trying really hard to pump prime the Welsh supply chain there, because they could bring in heat pumps from China or from other parts of the world, which would increase the number that we've got in Wales, but that wouldn't necessary be the right thing to do. So, I think they're taking a sightly slower approach here, and it's that balance between—and this is, really, what the future generations Act requires—. If you're just aiming to decarbonise, you might buy your heat pumps from China and get more of them in. However, if you're looking to improve prosperity, consider well-being for the environment and well-being for society, you would do it in a different way—the way that they are proposing—in terms of those local supply chains, and so on, for wider benefit. So, I think that the approach that they're taking there is in line with the future generations Act. But the integration across Government, particularly in terms of skills, and then down through the regional skills partnerships, I think, is a significant issue.

09:50

I do think that Sophie's absolutely right. I have a horrible feeling that we're going to have a lot of green jobs and nobody to fill them, and this is because we've always been bad, as a United Kingdom, at this training aspect. I happened to look at a committee meeting in the House of Commons back in the middle of the nineteenth century, which was pointing to the fact that Prussia did it better than we did, and I don't think it's changed very much since then. And I do think there's a huge hole in the whole United Kingdom national programme here, and it's something that Wales could be the leader in. I don't think it is at the moment, but it could be the leader, not least because of the enormous history of education being held as such a prised thing in Wales, because it was the way you got out of circumstances that you didn't like; you worked your way through, and education was crucial. The whole history of Welsh education is there. So, I believe there's a real opportunity.

The comparison is very simple. When I wanted to buy an electric car, I could do it very easily. As long you've got the money, then a lot of people out there will sell you an electric car. We have a heat pump—I thought I ought to. It took ages to find anybody who would explain what I should—. And I've got the best contacts you could possibly have on it, and if it took me a situation where I really, several times, almost gave up, it just shows why you can't expect Mrs Jones to be able to do this. Why should she—who's only peripherally interested in the subject; this is not the centre of her life—why should she? This is an industry where we not only have got to think about manufacture; we do have to train some of them to sell something in a way in which it's understood. And so, the skills thing is absolutely central.

Sorry, Jenny, we're struggling with time a little bit. I'll bring Janet in, and then I'll come back to you, because I know you've got a few other things you wish to ask.

Thank you. Sophie, in your submission to the committee, you've called on the Welsh Government to assess the carbon impact of their spend, especially their capital spend, and that they should also publish details on the overall carbon impact of their budget and major investment/infrastructure decisions. So, has the Welsh Government engaged with you on your calls? And given that many stakeholders say that they are worried about the pressures placed on them under the retrofit and net-zero drive, what work have you and your department undertaken to map the skill needs associated with these programmes to ensure that the necessary skills development and training are put in place to meet demand, which is exactly following on from the questions that have just been asked?

09:55

So, the work that we've undertaken on skills is really to map the gaps and expose, really, where action needs to be taken. So, in a number of these areas around reskilling programmes there have actually been declines, and the programmes overall have declined over recent years, so there needs to be a greater focus. So, in my skills fitness 'A Fit for the Future Programme for Government' report, I've made a number of recommendations to Government there. As I say, I'm still concerned that I'm not necessarily seeing any significant change as a result of that, and I'm currently, with my team, considering what action I can take in terms of the powers that are available to me in terms of identifying how we really start to move that forward.

In terms of the point on the carbon impact assessment of the budget, last year, there was a bit of progress in that the chief economist asked Calvin Jones, the deputy head of the Cardiff Business School, to undertake a fairly high-level carbon impact assessment of the budget. If you want my honest perspective on that, I think that the way in which that was done was just trying to probably stop people banging on about it, and it wasn't a serious attempt to actually analyse the carbon impact of spend, because it was very, very high level. What actually needs to happen now is what Lord Deben was saying earlier—we need to look at every single project from the bottom up, rather than a top-down approach, and look at what the carbon impact potentially is before we take decisions, not after. Now, Calvin Jones is actually going on a sabbatical and is going to make it his mission to do that, and I've had some discussions with Government about supporting that, with the climate change Minister. In our recent meeting with the finance Minister, she was not able to give any further information as to the approach that the Government are taking this year in terms of carbon impact assessing their spend, which, again, is worrying.

No, you can't, sorry, Janet, no, because you've had two opportunities. There are members of this committee that haven't had a single chance yet, and you're asking me to allow you in again before the end of this session, so, sorry, time is against us. Back to Jenny then, please.

Okay. I just want to focus on one other area before I allow other Members to come in, which is: what are we going to do in this second low-carbon delivery plan to reverse the really terrifying statistic, which is that new renewable energy capacity has been falling annually since 2015? In the context of the rise and rise of gas prices and the impact on poor households, that is, obviously, very, very worrying. So, I wondered what you both think could be done to focus on actually accelerating renewable energy generation rather than simply continuing to pay for coal?

Well, this is a prize example of it being very difficult for the Welsh Government on its own. It's actually a matter for the United Kingdom as a whole. We have, as you know, a very stretching target for offshore wind, which the Prime Minister has personally put in his 10 points, and that is there. I think that there are three things that we have to do and do them very quickly. First of all, we've got to look at the system. The system is crucially important here. It's not just for, if you like, the manufacture of electricity; it's getting it around more effectively and efficiently. We have a grid that was built for big central generating going outwards. We're now going to have a whole lot of places that are going to be putting into the system. I cannot get—I have to say this—the Government to think about it systemically. It keeps on thinking about bits of it, and that's not what we have to do. It is the most serious issue we have on generation—it is to think systemically, and we need a programme to upgrade the whole system from a systemic point of view. We don't even know how to bring offshore onshore sensibly. It's an absolute bugger's muddle what we've got going there. So, we really do have to think about this seriously. 

The second thing I think we have to do as far as this is concerned is we've really got to make it easier for people to do these things themselves. There are lots of examples on the continent where local communities and organisations actually are doing things themselves. And if you do that, of course, it means that people are much more willing to accept, for example, onshore wind, because it's the community that's doing it and the community that benefits by it. I really do think we've got to stop being British about this and we've got to learn from other people. I don't want to get onto my views on Europe, but I do think we are very bad at learning from other people. We seem to think we know it all. We're not good on the community action, and that's an area in which we could do a great deal more.

And the third thing is I do think the Welsh should be very much tougher with the United Kingdom Government on levelling up. Now, I do declare an interest, because I live about 30 miles from Sizewell in Suffolk. I do not understand why the new nuclear power station is being put in a place of full employment and not being put in places where people want it, where the employment is very much less. After all, we know that that is true. Levelling up means that, when you deal with the two forms of energy, renewable and low-carbon energy, you've really got to think of the nation in the context of levelling up too. And I really would like to see Wales demanding that we think seriously about the link between getting low-carbon and no-carbon energy and the need to provide jobs, and particularly replacement jobs for those that will be lost because of the green revolution. 

10:00

So, Sophie, focusing on what the Welsh Government can do, why do you think we haven't been more successful in engaging communities in having their own renewable energy schemes? Is it just a grid issue, or is it not the case that there are many more, other barriers to doing this?

Well, I haven't done specific work on this, but have looked at the work of others, and particularly the Institute of Welsh Affairs, their report on re-energising Wales, in which they set out a very sensible 10-point plan for moving more robustly towards renewable energy across Wales by 2035. But I do have lots of conversations with community groups who are trying to do this, and the stories that I hear are that the regulations and the process and wading through all of that leads a lot of people to—it's a bit like Lord Deben said on heat pumps; they very nearly give up. It's therefore often only communities who have within their community organisations particular sets of skills to be able to do that, and perhaps skills that you wouldn't necessarily find in some of our more disadvantaged communities. So, how are we expecting some of those communities to wade through all of the process to get some of these things done? So, I think that there does need to be more support around that, but the 10-point plan from IWA in terms of the overall picture: fund the future; improve building standards in homes; retain the benefits in Wales, so sourcing locally; use local land for local benefit—the amount of land that we have in Wales, Natural Resources Wales and so on, I think we could be better utilising that—futureproof the grid; get ahead in marine and harness, potentially, bioenergy. I won't go through the whole 10, but there's a plan set out there that I think it would be sensible for the Government to adopt.

Okay, so is it targets that are going to focus the Government on this, or not?

Very briefly, then: are targets the answer? Because I have other people wanting to come in.

So, with targets, I think they can be useful, but you have to do the targets in line with those other wider community benefits, because we could have massive big business moving in very quickly to Wales and covering Wales in windfarms and making a huge amount of profit from it. That might be part of the solution; a better solution is lots of pockets of community energy and so on, because those sorts of approaches have wider benefits across the aspirations of the future generations Act.

10:05

Or buying up farms and planting trees, as we're seeing increasingly at the moment. Delyth Jewell, you wanted to come in on a few different things.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I wanted to ask you about the impact of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, both in terms of the action that's come about but also the inaction. It's been called a code red for humanity, but we look back at previous COPs—you know, COP21, it was said, 'That's make or break.' It wasn't truly taken as an opportunity. What do you think that this means for the Welsh Government, but also people in Wales? Sophie, I know that you've spoken a lot about young people's place in all of this, and taking into account what Lord Deben has said about the little things that we could all do, but then this huge problem and how they interact, do you think that this idea, firstly, that Governments on the one hand can be very adaptable, humanity can be very adaptable—. What do you think the impact of this cataclysmically important report could and should be, when actually on the one hand we've got all these things that could be happening and should be happening, but also people kidding themselves and saying, 'Oh, maybe nothing is going to change'? Sorry, I know that's a huge question, but so much of what you've been saying is fascinating; I'm just trying to condense it into one.

Can I first of all say that we need to be very clear that it is a catastrophic situation that we're in, but you don't get people to act if you frighten them to a degree. If you frighten them to a degree, then they say, 'Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.' And therefore, I want just to remind ourselves that, if we take ourselves back 10 years, we would never have believed that we would have done as much and got as far as we have got in those 10 years. And who would have said that a Conservative Government would have made the commitments to net zero, to the toughest measures that there are in the world, to actually try to get COP26 into the United Kingdom? We would have thought they would be trying to get them as far away as possible. All those things have really changed; it's a very seriously advantageous position we're in. At the same time, we're nowhere near where we've got to be, but I think you have to start off by being willing to say 'thank you' for what has been done, being generous in praise for what is being done, and then say, 'Actually, it isn't enough, but we can do what is enough.' So, that is—. And therefore, the second thing I always say is, 'We now know how much it's going to cost us; it's less than 1 per cent of the gross national product.' It therefore is perfectly doable. Most of that will come from the private sector. The private sector has got huge sums of money available for investment and, because of the nature of the world in which to live, doesn't know where to put it. We really can see where the money is coming from. The biggest question we have is: how do you make sure that the transition is a fair one, so that it doesn't weigh heavily on those least able to pay? But at least we know we can do that. That's within our capability and therefore we can do the third thing, which is to engage the public, and we've been talking about how you do that, but the engagement of the public is absolutely crucial, because it is small things that add up, and also because there will be very real changes. And the first lot of those changes are of course the changes of climate change itself. We're not good at thinking about adaptation, because we haven't really realised just how much our lives are going to be affected by the climate change that's already in the system.

There was a scientist the other day that said something that I thought really pushed this home: he said, 'Everything that mankind has achieved in the whole of history was achieved in a climate which is different from the one we're going to live in.' It really brings it home just how different it's going to be, and we may feel, 'Well, it's not quite as bad here as it is nearer to the centre, nearer to the equator', but it's going to be very, very difficult here, and people are going to find summers very much hotter, they're going to find flooding and drought in the same year. It's not going to be the world that we have known. So, the battle is going to be also to help people through the changes, which are going to become more and more obvious. Now, that will help to get Governments to do what they have to do, because people will recognise you have to do something about it; that is true. But it's also true that it makes people very uncertain. I think our biggest difficulty is that we're going to have societies that are much less stable in their feelings about the future. That's why I'm very keen on the Welsh future generations concept, because it actually understands what the difficulty is going to be. 

This generation is going to find itself more and more uncertain about the world—a world that, in any case, is pretty nasty, and we really have got a difficulty here about the public. The last thing just to say is that it is remarkable what has been done already as far as COP26. Who would have thought what has happened? The Americans doubling the amount of money they're putting in to the developing countries; the Americans now having commitments that we would never have seen from them; almost every industrialised nation signing up to net zero—all of them but China up to net zero in 2050. Of course, they're not going to do it all, and they'll fall behind and all the rest of it, but we've never had a situation in which the world has been as acute as this. And isn't it good that we have one person who really has got it wrong and we can aim at him, and that is the Prime Minister of Australia, who has got it wrong, and our Government has got it wrong in signing a deal with him that actually undermines our farmers? We've got to bring that home—that if we really want our farmers to do their job properly and reach our standards that we're going to have, you cannot allow them to be undermined by imports being brought in from countries that are not doing that. If the Government hasn't understood that, it's about time we brought it home to the Government that this is not an acceptable position, and to do it with the man who is standing alone out, changing our climate—my climate and your climate too—changing our climate and saying that it's nothing to do with him, that makes it even worse. But isn't it good that it's just him? Because all these other nations have begun to move behind, it enables us, I think, to make a big step when we come to November. 

10:10

Okay. Thank you, Lord Deben. We've literally got three minutes, and I know at least three Members wish to ask further questions. So, Delyth, did you want to ask another question and maybe Sophie could respond to both?

The only other thing was—another huge topic—the impact of COVID on all of this. So, Sophie, with that in the mix as well.

Okay. I'll do my best on both of those. So, very quickly, just on the first question, I think if we're asking people to assess the climate impact of every decision they take in their lives, we should be expecting exactly the same from government, and in fact we should be asking government to show leadership on that, and that goes right throughout the public sector, which goes back to why it's so important to be assessing the carbon impact of spend, accountability in the system around that and so on. 

In terms of COVID, there were significant carbon reductions during the pandemic period, and whether those will remain I think is yet to be seen, particularly in certain sectors. I think, again, some of the small decisions—. The decision of the Welsh Government to aim for—I actually think it was a good step, but probably not ambitious enough—30 per cent of people working from home: why not fully hybrid working or a more ambitious target there? But you've got to commend Wales for being better than other parts of the UK. 

The issues around investment in a green recovery I think are really important, but, again, going back to that skills pipeline issue, we're not going to be able to take advantage of that investment in a green recovery if we don't have the skills pipeline, and all of that requires a long-term investment plan, which we also don't have. So, we're doing things bit by bit, but we're not going to be able to reap the full benefits of that if we don't have a long-term plan.

Okay, thank you. Right, Joyce, and then Janet to finish. And we've got—well, 60 seconds, but I'll allow a couple more minutes. Joyce.

The climate adaptation plan—the current adaptation plan, and what the next one should be focusing on, given the IPCC's findings. 

10:15

Okay, Lord Deben, maybe a couple of things you think it should primarily focus on, and then Sophie. 

I think land use in order to provide nature-based solutions to the real issues, for example, of flooding. And secondly, actually changing the rules—planning rules and the construction rules—so that every new house and every alteration takes into account the need for better ventilation, because the hot weather is going to be something that we're going to live with for short periods, but very serious periods, and old people, in particular, are going to be very much affected by that. I suppose I have a third one, which is I do think it's outrageous that we haven't really dealt with old people's homes in a much more forward-looking way, because that's where the problem is going to come. 

I'd agree with Lord Deben on the land management issue. I also think there are opportunities there around the creation of a national nature service, linking with skills and job opportunities. When you think about the fact that there's between 50 and 120 apprentices coming in to doing apprenticeships on areas relating to reforestation, but a demand for about 3,600 jobs—so, actually, we start pairing those things together. I think that there are some real opportunities there, and in terms of regulation, and so on, in terms of how we manage the land.

There's one big issue that I think is missing in the current one. So, it's focused on climate adaptation, but it's not really focused on what's going to happen for villages, for example, like Fairbourne in Gwynedd. What happens when—sadly, it probably is a 'when'—that community disappears? Whose responsibility is it to rehouse the 850-odd people in that village? What are the ongoing mental health issues that that kind of threat is posing? Who is being hardest hit by that? Speaking to the council there, they're pretty certain that what is happening is that more vulnerable families are being homed through private landlords in some of those areas that are at the highest risk. I'm not sure we've got a real comprehensive plan around what happens when crisis hits those areas, beyond just the climate adaptation issue. 

Thank you, Chairman. Lord Deben, in a written question recently, the Minister for Climate Change confirmed that the Welsh Government will be attending events with international networks, such as the Under2 Coalition and Regions4. They'll also be hosting COP Cymru events. What actions do you think the delegation should be taking to make the most out of the occasion, and what education steps would you like to see implemented to see COP Cymru galvanise the next generation? 

Very quickly, what it ought to be doing is making this an opportunity for creating permanent links with other bodies, countries of the same sort of size with the same kind of problems so that there's a proper sharing. There's so much out there of success that we can learn from, and I would start with learning from other people because then they will listen to us on the things that we get right. Therefore, it's that—it's the opportunity of creating worldwide links of people with the same sort of problems, the same sort of size, the same kind of relationship with their overall national Governments. 

The second thing that I hope they will do is to fine down some of the things that Wales has done well. I would quickly point out that the whole concept of the future generations legislation is something that I think we can teach other people. I think that what you have done on the front of waste is another area that I would want to do. But pick out not too many of them—two or three of them—and be able to showcase those so that others can learn from you. 

And, then, the last thing is make a hell of a fuss. I mean, do really make this important in Wales, because if you say what can you do for the Welsh people as a whole, it is to make them understand that they have a particular advantage that they must build on, and which they have to—. It's no good sitting there saying, 'We're Welsh and we're different.' The point is, if you're Welsh and you're different then you've got something that you can actually, if you like, sell, and show that there is a change that you can make. I just think that we should remember that one person can make a huge difference. A nation can make a vast difference, and that is what Wales could do.

10:20

I agree with everything said there. Jeffrey Sachs, who was a leading world economist who'd been an adviser to the last few UN secretary-generals, says that if you want to see where the good stuff is happening, look to the small countries. I think that we do have a good story to tell, and there are other small countries that have a good story to tell. So, coming together in those states and regions, I think, is really important in terms of learning.

I think the big ask, and the USP, that Wales can take to COP is the future generations Act. With my team, I've been doing a lot of work at a UN level, and you might have seen, about two weeks ago, that the UN secretary-general announced that there will be a special envoy for future generations and a trusteeship council for future generations at a UN level. Now, that is absolutely huge: a small nation like Wales getting that sort of commitment at the UN. We should be rightly proud of that. And that is the message. If every country in the world had a future generations Act, I think we'd be on a completely different trajectory, especially with that announcement from the UN level. I'm going to COP myself and have got lots of meetings set up with various people, hopefully including the new Scottish Minister who's got future gens Act delivery in his portfolio. But I think that there are lots of opportunities for the Welsh approach to be rolled out across the world.

Well, on that note, can I thank our witnesses for your evidence? As always, really valuable stuff that will certainly contribute and be an important part of our deliberations as we look at our priorities as a committee over the coming months and couple of years. It's really heartening to be reminded that even though we are a small nation, we are big enough, strong enough and clever enough to make a real difference in this respect. So, thank you to you all.

The committee will now pause and we will go into private session for a few moments just to have a changeover of witnesses, and hopefully reconvene in around five minutes. Diolch.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:22 a 10:28.

The meeting adjourned between 10:22 and 10:28.

10:25
3. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 6 – newid hinsawdd a llifogydd
3. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 6 - climate change and flooding

Croeso nôl i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Dŷn ni'n croesawu panel arall atom ni i roi tystiolaeth, a dŷn ni'n parhau i ganolbwyntio, wrth gwrs, ar newid hinsawdd o safbwynt ein blaenoriaethau ni fel pwyllgor a lle y byddwn ni eisiau ffocysu ein gwaith dros y cyfnod nesaf yma. O'n blaenau ni yn y pwyllgor ar gyfer yr awr nesaf yma mae gennym ni Haf Elgar, sy'n gyfarwyddwr Cyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru, Anne Meikle, sy'n gyfarwyddwr WWF Cymru, mae gennym ni Jeremy Parr, sy'n rheolwr llifogydd a risg gweithredol gyda Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru, a Clive Walmsley, sy'n gynghorydd arbenigol ar newid hinsawdd a datgarboneiddio, eto gyda Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru. Croeso i'r pedwar ohonoch chi atom ni.

Fe wnaf i gychwyn, os caf i, dim ond drwy ofyn ichi—ac efallai rhoi rhyw 30 eiliad i chi i gyd—jest i roi syniad i ni o a ydych chi'n teimlo bod sgêl a chyflymder ymateb y Llywodraeth i'r argyfwng yma dŷn ni'n ei wynebu yn ddigonol, ac a ydych chi'n teimlo eu bod nhw wedi delifro ar yr uchelgais a oedd yn cael ei gosod allan yn y low carbon delivery plan cyntaf. Fe wnawn ni gychwyn gyda Haf, efallai. 

Welcome back to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. We are welcoming another panel to our screens to give evidence, and we're continuing to focus on climate change, in terms of our priorities as a committee, and where we'll want to focus our work over the coming period. And in front of us in committee for the next hour, we have Haf Elgar, who is director of Friends of the Earth, Anne Meikle, director of WWF Cymru, Jeremy Parr, who is head of flood and incident risk management at Natural Resources Wales, and Clive Walmsley, who is specialist adviser on climate change and decarbonisation, again with Natural Resources Wales. A very warm welcome to the four of you.

I'll start, if I may, just by asking—and I'll give you 30 seconds each—you to give us an idea of whether you feel that the scale and pace of the Welsh Government's response to the crisis that we're facing is sufficient, and whether you feel that they have delivered on the ambition that was set out in the first low-carbon delivery plan. Perhaps we'll start with Haf.

Diolch yn fawr. Waw, mewn 30 eiliad—iawn, dyna her. Fe fyddaf i'n ymateb yn Gymraeg. Wel, i gychwyn, doeddwn i ddim yn credu bod y cynllun cyntaf yn ddigon uchelgeisiol o gwbl. Roedd e ar sail hen dargedau, sydd ers hynny wedi cael eu diweddaru, wrth gwrs, ond mewn ffordd, roedden ni'n cychwyn o'r lle anghywir. Nawr, mae yna ddatblygiadau wedi bod mewn ardaloedd penodol—os ydyn ni'n edrych ar ailgylchu; y penderfyniadau hollbwysig fel gwrthod heol lliniaru'r M4 yn allweddol ac yn arwydd positif iawn; yr hierarchaeth egni yn newid a throi ffwrdd o ddefnyddio nwyddau ffosil; a thua diwedd tymor diwethaf y Senedd a Llywodraeth Cymru fe welon ni nifer o strategaethau positif iawn, fel strategaeth aer glân a'r strategaeth trafnidiaeth. Felly, dwi'n credu ein bod ni wedi gweld rhai pethau'n cael eu rhoi yn eu lle, ac efallai rhai pethau drwg yn cael eu rhwystro, ond dŷn ni heb weld y deliferi eto, y gweithredu go iawn. Felly, mae angen tipyn mwy o weithredu yn y tymor yma o'r Senedd.

Thank you very much. Well, 30 seconds—wow, that's a challenge. I'll respond in Welsh. To start off with, we didn't feel that the first plan was sufficiently ambitious at all. It was based on old targets that have since then been updated, of course, so we were starting from the wrong point. Now, there have been developments in specific areas—if we look at recycling; vital decisions such as rejecting the M4 route; the new energy hierarchy changing and turning away from fossil fuels; and, towards the end of the last Senedd term, we saw many new strategies, such as a clean air strategy and the transport strategy. So, I do think that we have seen some things being put in place, and other things being rejected, such as the M4 relief road, but we haven't seen the delivery or the genuine action. So, we do need to see more action being taken in this Senedd term. 

10:30

Diolch yn fawr. Anne. 

Thank you very much. Anne. 

There we are. 

Thank you. I think I would just say, in a very general way, I think we can all put our hand up and say, 'Nobody has done enough', and I'm going to say the same for Welsh Government. It's not because I have a particular criticism of this plan, and, as Haf says, there are many things that have been begun, but I very much support what the Minister was saying in her letter, I think, about this is the decade of delivery, and it's the make-and-break decade. And it's partly that because the last make-and-break was 'start reducing emissions seriously by 2015'—or was it 2016? Here we are, five years later, and I would just say nobody has done enough yet, and having it as a real, real top priority going forward over this decade is an absolute must. 

Okay, thank you. Would Clive or Jeremy want to add anything? Clive. Yes, Clive. 

Yes, just to say, I think it's really important that the latest reports from the IPCC and the CCRA3—that's the climate change risk assessment—really reinforce the urgency for a need for transformative change now and for everyone to do a lot more, and that's true for Wales, for Welsh Government, globally. It's really important. And the recent run of global events, in terms of extreme events, wildfires, drought, floods, reinforces the fact that we are increasingly in an age where climate change impacts are very real. So, the need for urgency is really clear.

But, in terms of the LCDP1—the first plan—I think it's important to understand that basically there were 100 actions or measures in there, and 75 of them were, really, collating existing things that were already in progress. There were some new actions, there was some new policy in there, but it was effectively—I'd call it—like a baseline, a starting point. Clearly, the next plan needs to drive things further, but I think one of the things I would say is it's really important that we don't see the publication of the plan in October as setting in place what happens for the next five years. It is—. In terms of legal terms, it is meant to be a plan for five years, but it has to be live and it has to be revised as technology and learning and delivery goes on.  

Okay. So, are there key areas that that second plan should focus on, then? Just briefly, Clive. Is there anything—I mean, there's everything, I suppose, isn't there, but particularly anything? 

It has to cover all sectors, which I think it will. It has to cover all parts of society and the role of everybody from Welsh Government, UK Government, through to individual action, and also I think we need to, through time, move towards having an important focus on how place-based adaptation and place-based mitigation can happen across communities. 

Okay. Anne or Haf, would you like to add anything in relation to the second plan, in particular? Haf. 

Ie, iawn. 

Yes, okay. 

Diolch. Yes, I'd agree with Clive that the plan has to be comprehensive and cover every sector—so, in some ways, it's difficult to go into certain ones—and also to be cross-cutting. And I think a strong principle for us is that is has to have climate justice at its heart. So, it has to be relevant to people and communities and nature, as well as decarbonisation. Just to add a few areas that we think need more attention—energy efficiency and home heating; now, we've long called for energy efficiency to be an infrastructure priority, and previous committees have looked into it as well, but we really need to ensure that the new Warm Homes programme that the Welsh Government will be introducing is ambitious, that it prioritises the fuel poor and worst first, and it needs to be much more ambitious, and also to support the private rented sector and owner-occupiers. There's a lot of good work going on in the social housing sector—they're leading the way—but, as National Energy Action Cymru have highlighted, I think 87 per cent of the fuel-poor are in the private-rented and owner-occupier sectors. And then heat—I think we all recognise that we're really behind in terms of decarbonising heat and having a strategy for that. That's been recognised by the Minister as well. So, we do need targets for heat-pump installations—we're well behind with that in Wales—but also the strategy, the skills, the finance options. So, that's something urgent that we do need to look at.

And maybe the second key area I'd highlight is transport. We had 'Llwybr Newydd', the strategy, and big strides ahead, I think, in terms of setting the direction of travel, if you like, and the roads review, but there's a lot to do. The next five years are absolutely key for transport and actually delivering on a modal shift, enabling that and reducing car dependency, across bus sectors especially, but also with active travel and behaviour change as well.

So, I think I'd highlight those two key sectors in terms of the targets, but also what's not included in the targets is our global responsibility and our consumption emissions. I hope that there will be reference to and acknowledgement of that in the plan, but that's certainly something that we'd appreciate. I know that a number of other groups have highlighted with this committee a key role for scrutiny, and if we don't measure and look at our impact in terms of what we use and consume and buy in Wales, as well as what we produce, then we're not taking our global responsibility seriously, and I think that's going to be a key issue for the coming few years.

10:35

Okay, thank you. Anne was nodding. I'm sure you might want to add one or two things, and then we'll come to Joyce Watson, then, for her next question.

Yes. I'd like to pick up particularly something that was buried in Clive's piece. I would say that we need a nature-positive approach to net zero in this. We know how entwined the nature and climate crises are and nature is both at the moment a net contributor to carbon emissions, but it's also a good way of mitigating them and is crucial to adaptation as well. So, I'm just hoping that the plan is not siloed, and that it brings those together effectively.

And the other thing that I don't think the Minister mentioned in her letter, which we can come on to in sectors, is the importance of the food, land and farming sector. I think it's really important, with where we are at the moment, that there are some clear targets and pathways particularly for that sector, at a crucial time when perhaps its emissions haven't been reducing as quickly as some other sectors'.

Thank you, Anne. Yes. Okay. And we'll pick up on some of this later on as well. Joyce.

Good morning, everybody. I'd like to know your views on the extent to which the Welsh Government is assessing the carbon impact of its spend and investment decisions and where you think it might need further work.

Yes, happy to come in on this. I'd say that it's difficult to tell, to be honest. I think, from what we see, that there isn't a comprehensive way of assessing impact. We've long called for a carbon budget to line up with the annual finance budget and for that to be published and for the whole process to take place together. So, I think we've got quite a way to go on that still. And we certainly need carbon impact assessments for every proposal and funding decision, crucially, as well—and not just on the positive decisions and those projects that we're championing as being decarbonising, but across every decision. It's just as important what we don't do and what we reject as what we do decide to do. So, it really needs to be systematic and comprehensive in that way. I think we can no longer accept getting locked into any further high-carbon decisions, any high-carbon infrastructure, and that's got to be a really clear principle. And to do that, we do need these carbon impact assessments across every decision.

I think as well, in terms of investment decisions, there's still investment in fossil fuels in Wales through pension plans—not the Senedd; the Senedd did decide to move towards divesting money from pension plans last term, so you're to be congratulated on that—and a number of local authorities have as well—but we really need the whole public sector in Wales to divest the pension funds from fossil fuels and then look at what those funds could be invested positively in as well.

10:40

Thank you, yes. I'll just pick up on the carbon assessment. We've been pushing for this for many years now. I'm not quite sure how it's being used at the moment, but I think in the past there have been quite a lot of instances where there is a carbon assessment, it showed the increase and the decision didn't change, and that's one of the key things—you have to say, 'Well, where's your offset?' And I don't think it’s enough to say, 'Oh, we'll decarbonise some more somewhere else' because everywhere is difficult to do, and I think you'd have to be very specific if you're going to come up with that argument again.

And I would just say that I would characterise it as even more than was there in the past, and we're asking, certainly in the run-up to COP, from the UK Government and we think the same for Welsh Government, that you should actually be thinking of this as a net-zero test on Government policies and spend. You've made a commitment to get to net zero. It's really difficult and it's really ambitious and it's the right thing to do. But, actually, you should be testing all your decisions against that aim.

Yes, if I can expand on what's been said; I certainly agree with what both Haf and Anne have said there. I think the first thing I'd say is that, actually, in relation to how the first low-carbon recovery plan and the second one have been produced—from the outside, admittedly, but my perspective is that there's been far more mainstreaming and more ownership of the plan across Welsh Government departments for the second plan. I think that's a positive thing, and I think that provides, if you like, the route for consideration of the carbon impact of expenditure and decision making to be more cross cutting across Government. I think there's a lot more to be done, but that's really important.

The other thing I just want to highlight is around procurement. So, if we look at the whole Welsh public sector procurement, we're talking about £6 billion. It's obviously done in a whole series of small elements, but, as I think Lord Deben was saying, the little things add up. So, I think there's a need for both Welsh Government and the wider Welsh public sector to be working together collaboratively to try and drive decision-making changes and embedding consideration of carbon in procurement.

Thank you, Chair. In terms of delivery of the next low-carbon delivery plan, NRW's September evidence recommends viewing the plan as a living document rather than something that is set out over the next five years. So, to all of the organisations, in your discussions with the Welsh Government in the development of this particular plan, how often have you suggested that the document be reviewed? What indicators for monitoring have you called for? How would you suggest these would evolve over the next five years?

Yes. So, I'll say a few words about our engagement with Welsh Government on the plan. It is different to the first plan, which was very much, I would say, a Welsh Government plan, rather than a plan for Wales. But the Minister has made it very clear that they wanted this one to be more a Wales plan. Certainly, the Welsh Government has asked organisations, and NRW has done this—we've provided a pledge, which sets out some of the main actions that we are going to be taking, and that will be a feature within part of the plan, under the all-Wales element—[Inaudible.]—I think it's going to be entitled, but that part of the plan. And in that, we've set out some of the areas that we know that we've got ambition within. So, we've actually got a top 10 decarbonisation priority list for NRW, and a plan for delivering on that, which we developed back in 2019, when the climate emergency was declared. So, that should feature in the plan.

We're also providing some case studies and, certainly in discussions that I've had with Welsh Government, I've very much reiterated what you just said—that it's really important that this is a live document and that it is revised. I haven't had any discussions about the timescales for that, but I would certainly hope that there would be a mid-term review, but also a flexibility for other elements to be considered in between time as well.

I think one thing just to be aware of is that in terms of actually understanding what is this delivering, it's really hard to do that on a live basis because of the—. It's a bit techy, but there's an 18-month delay in the national emissions reporting. So, for example, you asked the question earlier about has the LCDP1 delivered in 2020, but the issue is that we won't actually have the 2020 emissions until 2022. So, there is a bit of a lag there, which does affect our ability to understand how well our plans and our policies are working.

10:45

It does, indeed; you're right. Okay. Anne, would you like to come in on this?

In all honesty, I don't think we've had a lot of engagement around this plan and I think there could have been more. I think that's one of the reasons we would say that this is one of the areas for immediate scrutiny by the committee, after it is published. I don't think we have a very good idea of what will be in there and what won't be in there at this point and, therefore, I think we're all going to be sitting, looking at it quite hard and hoping that it's heading in the right direction. I think that's part of the point in saying, 'You have to look and review'. It has been developed in whatever form up until now; I'm not sure whether all the inputs that could help it have been delivered. And one of the ones I was thinking about particularly is—going back to the agriculture sector stuff, there's obviously been a lot of engagement with the sector around the sustainable farming scheme side of things, which is part of the crucial bit of delivery. So, you would want that perhaps brought into here and make sure that those things are all aligned. I'm sure they will be, it's just I don't know how that is happening at the moment from where we sit.

Under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, there is a requirement for a five-year plan, so there is a need to deliver on that, and we do expect it to be ambitious and to be cross-cutting and comprehensive. But, yes, we have very little idea what's going to be in it in reality. And there is a weakness, I'd say, in the Act, that there isn't a follow-up scrutiny process within those five years; it's only at the end of those five years. So, we did welcome that the equivalent committee to this in the last Senedd term did commit to annual scrutiny, and that is really welcome and very needed.

I think, in the position we're in at the moment, things are changing very quickly with things like the IPCC report, even since the targets were set last March in Wales. We do need to react, and we know that we need to move quicker. So, I do support the proposal to take this plan as needing to be reviewed, and I'm certain the extra, additional commitment will be needed, as we go along. I hope that will be the nature of the plan when it's published as well—that it's open to that. It's quite difficult timing if the Welsh Government are planning to publish it next month. We might not have had the UK spending review, or it might have just happened, so there are uncertainties like that, which make it difficult for it to be a completely clear and costed plan, if you don't know how much there is to spend, for example. So, I hope that, yes, that it will be a plan that can be adjusted and added to in time. We've not had a lot of engagement either, to be honest, so I back what Anne has said in terms of having to wait and see.

Okay. Thank you. There's never a perfect time, is there, I suppose, but there are some very practical considerations, and the spending review is certainly one of them. Thank you for that. Jenny Rathbone.

Thank you. Bearing in mind Clive's point about the time lag on the publication of actual statistics, do you think the new plan should contain sector-specific emission reduction targets, and, obviously, the accompanying emission reduction pathways? If so, which are your top three?

10:50

Who'd like to go first? Shall we hear from Anne first, or Jeremy? We haven't heard from Jeremy recently. Jeremy.

I will say flooding. The reason or part of why I haven't been drawn in so far is because, clearly, the area of my work and of my interest is—

—the adaptation side. So, I'm happy to come in on that.

I'm happy to give it a go. I think there are three areas of concern for me, and they're not necessarily the top three sectors in terms of where are the biggest emissions; it's areas where I feel there are concerns and gaps, perhaps. I'd say they are: land and agriculture, nature, and the little bit on the side of what I would call blue carbon, and the fact that it's not really considered at all. 

As I said before, I don't think the agriculture emissions are dropping swiftly enough. There are real opportunities here to actually set some clear targets, and get—what's the word—consensus around what they are, because different people are coming up with different versions. We have just done a report at UK level where we've actually looked and thought, 'Actually, we need a bigger target for 2030 if we're actually going to hit net zero than we thought we were going to have'. That may be also true of Wales when we bring that research in, and that's partly what we mean by—. When you've seen the latest info, you start to say, 'Maybe we need to revise this and work a bit harder on X or Y'.

I think land has the ability to be a bit of an ally; the big defence mechanism here for us. And it's got a real triple challenge: it has to produce food, has to protect nature and it has to help us get to net zero. There are lots of win-wins in there. Although the sustainable farming scheme is crucial, it's not going to come online until towards the end of this period. So, what are we doing in the meantime, what are the support levels and what are we actually able to do on land going forward? I think that's really important—that there's a good, clear pathway for a just transition in here, going back to Haf's point earlier about climate justice, I think. And nature really is the biggest ally in here. I have some real concerns that we're forgetting about the impact that carbon-rich habitats are having, and the fact that some of what should be carbon sinks are still emitting carbon because they're being damaged.

Peatland is the big problem. If I understand the stats correctly, that's the thing that's turning the whole of the land sector into a net emitter instead of a carbon sink, because they're still being damaged at quite a high rate. I would say the same is true of something like seagrass. We don't know exactly how much carbon it stores. It's pretty good at it, but, like with trees, it's much better at it when it's established. It's a good base, and we're losing it between 2 per cent and 3 per cent every year—it's being damaged and lost. So, we can't just look at, 'Oh, we'll restore some of this', or, 'It's okay, the farming scheme will help us restore some of it'; we're actually damaging it and creating emissions, and we have to stop that as a real urgency. So, I would say that needs to be in there somewhere. That says to me that we should be scrutinising some of the programme for government commitments around programmes, for example, on coastal, on saltmarsh and seagrass recovery, but on other nature targets, and whether they are directing effort to better management and better protection, as well as the restoration agenda.

Okay. Thanks. Clive, do you think targets and pathways to achieving them are a useful tool?

In terms of targets, obviously, we've now got legal Welsh targets. I think your question was around sectoral targets. I think we need to, if I'm honest—. Targets may be needed, but, to be honest, I think we need to move from target setting to delivery. We really need to focus on policy and what the barriers are to driving delivery. And targets, to be honest, I think, are a small part. It could be that they're necessary in certain areas, but I certainly don't think that targets are going to provide that kind of transformative shift alone. If anything, it's a small part. My understanding is that within the next plan, the low carbon plan 2, there will be sectoral trajectories going forward, which are really what should drive our thinking.

The other part of your question was around three sectors, and the three sectors I'd name are based on which sectors are failing to drive down emissions and where do I think that there's a really big challenge because lots of decisions need to change. The three are: transport, because, actually driving down transport emissions requires that millions of people across Wales make changes; land use and nature, because it needs tens if not hundreds of thousands of land managers and farmers and landowners to make changes; and the domestic sector, because, again, it needs millions of people to make changes as well. So, those would be my three.

Just to pick up on some of that, I agree with Anne very much that land use and nature are a really important area. There's been some academic work, and there are debates around the exact percentage, but it talks about the fact that, in terms of the total package for decarbonisation that nature and nature-based solutions could deliver, it's somewhere around maybe about a quarter to a third. There are debates about that, but it's a significant proportion, potentially. In NRW, we really think that nature-based solutions should be a real priority both for the Welsh Government and for ourselves. We've recently been involved in producing a new report with all of our UK partners across the environmental regulatory organisations, and that really does emphasise the role that nature can play. So, it's very much that the nature emergency and the climate emergency are very much intertwined, and there's a real need for us to focus on that sector, because we really haven't in the past been addressing that in sufficient detail.

10:55

Okay. Very briefly, could you just elaborate on what you mean by 'domestic'? Because I hadn't quite understood that—your third point.

By 'domestic', I meant in terms of the need for—and I think you had discussions in your earlier deliberations around this—moving to low-carbon heat and also renewable generation on domestic premises.

I certainly think that targets play a useful role in driving action, not by themselves, but as a focus, focusing minds and focusing what people need to report on, and then, of course, they need to be enabled. But I think the recycling targets are a good example of that in Wales, and we wouldn't be having this conversation around the plan on decarbonisation if we didn't have targets in the environment Act in Wales as well.

To get specific—and there's probably a lot I could think of, but just to highlight three, as you asked for, Jenny—in terms of transport, I think it's a key area, as I've highlighted and Clive just mentioned. I think a target on reducing car use would be a positive to see in the plan, and then, of course, we have to enable that, so that has to be hand in hand, not a target by itself. Closely linked to that, air pollution—I think we need targets on clean air and to reduce our air pollution. I think that's absolutely essential if we're going to really drive down air pollution in Wales. Hopefully, we'll get that in a clean air Act in the coming years. But I'd like to see that in a plan. And another climate justice issue, fuel poverty. There is a long-term strategy and plan by Welsh Government now, but I think we need a clear pathway and interim targets as well of what can be done in this Senedd term to reduce fuel poverty, obviously with the intention of eliminating fuel poverty as well.

Maybe just one general point to finish is that what we measure and the targets we set are crucial, and although we've got different targets, different objectives and well-being objectives and things like that in Wales now, I think we do tend to revert back to GDP and economic growth as being the main factor of how we're doing as a nation. And I would really like to see us move away, shift away, from that in this Senedd term. There's a lot of discussion and expertise in Wales around ideas around the well-being economy and developing a Welsh living standards framework. So, I think the whole question of what we measure and what we value is a key thing as well. 

11:00

I was just writing down what you said then, Haf.

Roeddwn i eisiau gofyn ichi am effeithiau COVID ar newid hinsawdd, y ffaith yn enwedig—dwi byth yn cofio beth ydy 'emissions' yn Gymraeg.

I wanted to ask you about the impacts of COVID on climate change. I never know what 'emissions' is in Welsh.

Allyriadau. Sut mae COVID wedi effeithio ar hyn? Yn gyntaf gyda'r lockdowns, ond wedyn mae pobl wedi bod bach yn llai parod i fynd nôl at drafnidiaeth gyhoeddus, ac efallai bod nifer o effeithiau eraill. Pa effaith bydd hynny'n cael ar bolisi yng Nghymru, ydych chi'n meddwl, achos o ran newid habits pobl, o ran gallu dod â phobl ymlaen gyda ni, faint mae COVID wedi bod yn—wel, ym mha ffyrdd ydy e wedi effeithio? Dwi ddim yn moyn eich arwain chi o ran y ffordd rydych chi'n ateb. 

Allyriadau—emissions. How has COVID impacted on this, on the emissions? First of all with the lockdowns, but people have since then been less prepared to return to public transport and perhaps there might be other impacts. What impact will that have on policy in Wales do you think, in terms of changing people's habits and bringing people with us, how much has COVID—or in what way has it affected this? I don't want to lead your answers.

Diolch, Delyth. Mae hi'n dal yn anodd dweud, mewn ffordd. Rwy'n credu, yn ystod y lockdowns cynnar, roeddem ni'n gweld pobl yn byw'n lleol iawn, ddim yn teithio yn eu ceir, yn gwerthfawrogi eu natur yn lleol ac yn gwerthfawrogi cymunedau yn fwy. Felly, buaswn i'n gobeithio y gallwn ni gymryd y gwerthoedd yna ymlaen wrth inni ddatblygu polisi yn y dyfodol. Roedd hi hefyd yn siẁd gyfnod o newid eithafol a phopeth lan yn yr awyr a ddim yn gwybod beth oedd yn digwydd, mewn ffordd hynod o negyddol, ond fe wnaeth e ddangos inni beth sy'n gallu cael ei wneud, beth mae modd gwneud mewn sefyllfa argyfwng. Ac rydyn ni'n sôn am yr argyfwng hinsawdd a natur, felly rwy'n credu bod yna wersi o ran cydweithio, blaenoriaethu a sut gallwn ni gymryd rhai o'r gwersi yna ymlaen o ran sut rydyn ni'n delio â'r argyfwng natur a hinsawdd yn awr.

Felly, rwy'n credu bod yna gyfleon yn sicr, ac rydyn ni wedi bod yn galw am adferiad gwyrdd a theg sydd, rwy'n credu, yn hollol allweddol ac rwy'n gobeithio y bydd yn greiddiol i'r cynllun datgarboneiddio hefyd, wrth gwrs. Felly, tipyn mwy o sôn am yr economi leol a'r economi gylchol, felly, datblygu swyddi ac economïau o fewn Cymru. Mae posibiliadau mawr o ran beth mae ein trefi ni ar eu cyfer. Beth sy'n digwydd yn ein trefi ni? Creu llefydd mwy addas ar gyfer beicio a cherdded, a mwy o lefydd gwyrdd yn agos at ein cartrefi ni hefyd, a thipyn o newid patrymau o ran teithio a gweithio. Felly, rwy'n credu dyna'r elfennau, efallai, sy'n gyfleon inni edrych arnynt.

Ond mae nifer o heriau, wrth gwrs, hefyd. Rwy'n credu bod ein cartrefi ni wedi dod yn fwy pwysig. Mae'n rhaid iddyn nhw fod yn addas nid jest i gysgu ynddynt ond i weithio ynddynt. Mae mwy o bobl yn gweithio gartref, felly mae yna bethau fel gwresogi tai sydd yn hollbwysig i hwnna. Ac fel gwnaethoch chi sôn, mae trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus wedi cael tipyn o glep. Mae wedi bod yn negyddol, mae wedi cymryd cam yn ôl, ac felly dyna un o'r rhesymau pam dwi'n canolbwyntio gymaint ar drafnidiaeth ac yn gweld hwnna fel maes allweddol, yn enwedig y diwydiant bysys, ond hefyd integreiddio trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus a'i gwneud yn saff, yn bosibl ac yn ddeniadol, i ddenu nid jest pobl nôl, ond i ddenu pobl i newid eu harferion ac i fynd a defnyddio trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus mwy.

Wedyn, wrth gwrs, mae'r dylanwad ar yr economi yn gyffredinol wedi bod yn negyddol, ac mae heriau mawr mewn sectorau penodol. Felly, gobeithio y gallwn ni gynllunio nôl ar gyfer economi gynaliadwy a net sero a datblygu swyddi newydd. Ond gan fod cymaint o effeithiau negyddol wedi bod, mae hyd yn oed yn fwy pwysig i sicrhau bod y trawsnewidiad yna yn deg ac yn cefnogi'r bobl sydd yn dioddef fwyaf, y cymunedau mwyaf bregus a'r sectorau mwyaf bregus, felly dwi'n credu ei bod yn fwy pwysig nag erioed i ofalu am ac i gynnwys y bobl a'r ardaloedd sy'n dioddef fwyaf o ran effeithiau'r pandemig, ond hefyd effeithiau newid hinsawdd yn y broses.

Thank you, Delyth. I think it's still difficult to say, in a way. During the early lockdowns, we saw people living very locally. They weren't travelling in their cars, they were enjoying the local environment and appreciating their communities more. So, I'd hope that we could take those values forward as we develop policy in future. And also it was a period of extreme change, everything was up in the air and people didn't know what was happening, in a very negative way, but it did show us what can be done, what it's possible to achieve at a time of crisis. And we're talking about the climate and nature crises, so I think there are lessons to be learned in terms of collaboration, prioritisation, and how we can take some of those lessons forward with regard to how we deal with the nature and climate crises now. 

So, there are opportunities, certainly, and we have been calling for a green and fair recovery, which I feel is entirely vital and hopefully will be at the heart of the decarbonisation plan too. So, we need to talk more about the local economy and the circular economy, so developing jobs and economies within Wales. There are huge possibilities in terms of what our towns are for. What happens in our towns? Creating more appropriate spaces for cycling and walking, and more green spaces closer to people's homes, and changing patterns in terms of transport, travel and employment. So, I think those are the elements that present opportunities for us to look at. 

But there are also several challenges, of course. I think our homes have become more important. They have to be appropriate not just for sleeping in but working in. With more people working from home, there are things such as the heating of homes, which is important in that regard. And, as you mentioned, public transport has had quite a knock, in a way. There's been a negative impact and it's taken a step back, in a way, and that's one of the reasons why I'm focusing so much on transport and see that as a vital area, especially the bus industry, but also integrating public transport and making it safe and attractive, and viable, not just to attract people back, but to encourage people to change their routines and to use public transport more. 

And then, of course, in terms of the economy in general, the impact has been negative, and there have been very specific impacts in particular sectors. So, hopefully, we can plan a net zero sustainable economy and develop new jobs. But because there have been so many negative impacts as well, it's even more important to ensure that that transformation is a fair one and supports those people who are suffering most, in the most deprived communities and vulnerable sectors, so it's more important than ever before to care for and include those people and areas that are suffering most in terms of the impacts of the pandemic, but also the climate change impacts in that process.

11:05

It'll have to be very, very brief, I'm afraid, then. Okay, Anne. And Clive, and then we'll come back to Delyth.

Just to take it in a slightly different direction, I think another key lesson and concern for people was about supply chains and global supply chains, and the security of them, including food, and this comes back to the points from earlier about being a globally responsible Wales. We're going to launch a report next month that will say, basically, 'We've got another 40 per cent of Wales's land overseas that we're using and much of that is in areas that are causing deforestation.' And that cannot be part of our solution. But also, those long supply chains, last up to the minute, are causing real stress locally and still are, as I noticed last weekend.

So, there's a whole raft of things around food, how it's produced. Are we going to have some local food hubs, can we connect up change, for example? There are opportunities here for change in some of the markets and the way—you know, where is food coming from? Can we produce some more of it in local hubs, and get a better connection to make us a bit more resilient against some of those global shocks? I think that's a big area to be looking forward to.

The short-lived positive impacts of the lockdowns on reducing emissions have been well known, but perhaps what's less well known is that, actually, investment in renewables, for example—this is based on the world energy agency—there was a big dip in investment and progress, and even on a very small scale, within NRW, we had a programme for the delivery of renewables and that got postponed due to COVID. So, there have been delays in progressing mitigation action and decarbonisation due to COVID, as well as the benefits. So, I think it's important to recognise that.

The other thing I think I'd say is: others have said about behavioural change and so on around things like active travel, but I think one really important point is people's engagement with nature. Certainly not across the piece, but there has been a significant increase in that, and I think that provides us with opportunities for people to have more support for what we talked about in terms of nature-based solutions going forward. So, I think that's something we have to recognise.

And a final thing, very briefly, is just to highlight the fact that our chair, Sir David Henshaw, led a group, which I think you'll be aware of, but just to reinforce that I think that group's recommendations around the COVID recovery should be really critical and I'd certainly encourage the committee to consider those further in your deliberations.

Yes, and that's a very important point. That mustn't get lost, absolutely. Diolch. Delyth.

This is a large question, so feel very free to give your top-line thoughts on it. In terms of another way as to how the crisis has been reframed then, not just by COVID, but the IPCC report, Haf was saying earlier about how targets can help people to focus minds, and help Governments to focus minds. Do you all think that the IPCC—? What has been your impression of how the IPCC report has been—? Is that an opportunity for Wales within the UK? Do you think it will focus minds or do you think that there are pitfalls still? Again, I know it's a large question, so what are your main thoughts?

Thanks very much. So, yes, my expertise is in flood and incident risk management, which is part of the reason why I wasn't contributing to the decarbonisation, but there is a large element of adaptation around this, and around this question. So, decarbonisation is massively important; we must stop things getting worse, but it is happening, so the main messages from the IPCC report, which resonated, and we need to make more of, is that first point, that it's real, and it's happening, and then secondly, that we do need to adapt. Adaptation isn't a dirty word; it is real, and we need to move into that adaptation space. But we need these things at the same time. I'm not saying decarbonisation is less important, no; both things are absolutely important. And it is that link between the climate emergency and the nature emergency as well, and the link that's been made on nature-based solutions. These things aren't mutually exclusive. They can work hand in hand.

But the bit I would say from a flooding perspective is that we still get people who say, 'No, it isn't happening and it isn't real. I'm not in an area at risk, and I don't really believe the modelling.' Where people get flooded, it's real and it's happened, and there's an immediate touch point there, and it's easy, if you like, to engage with communities in those circumstances. But the nature of our Valleys and the nature of our hilly locations, 10 miles in a different direction and it can be a different community that gets flooded. So, it is challenging to engage with communities at times that perhaps don't see it as an immediate thing, or perhaps don't want to think about it, because it is a hugely difficult area.

I could talk about flooding for hours and hours. I think the key messages I would say around flooding would be, first of all, let's recognise the infrastructure we already have, in terms of our flood defences, in terms of our warning systems and our hydrometry, which means the gauging stations. There's a lot of infrastructure there already that we need to invest in, and we need to make sure is fit for the future. That's hugely important.

The second area, I would say, is that adaptation absolutely is needed. So, you take somewhere like the Taff valley and storm Dennis. It's colossal amounts of water that came down that Valley at 800 cu m a second. That's like 800 little cars every second going past. It fills an Olympic-sized swimming pool in three seconds. How do you manage that quantity of water? We have to think big, we have to think catchment scale. The sustainable farming scheme and agriculture is going to be hugely important here, not only on a farm basis, but also on a catchment basis, to try and look at ways in which we can store water upstream, and also get those multiple benefits. Land use planning is hugely important, and the recent announcements around TAN 15, technical advisory note 15, which is about development and flood risk—it's a techie thing, but it's hugely important in terms of how we manage—

11:10

I could talk for hours, yes, sorry.

No, no, Members particularly want to pursue questioning on flooding, I know, and we will be coming to that. So, maybe we'll make progress, but we'll get there. I'll allow Anne in on this, and then we'll have to move on, sorry, because time is against us and otherwise we won't get to those questions. So, Anne.

It was just really short. We commission monthly polling on public opinion, which we don't necessarily publish. The one that came out last week, for the first time in many, many years, has climate change as No. 2 on the list after the NHS in public concern. So, I would say it's not just the IPCC report, but all the publicity around flooding, around disasters globally, around COP coming up that's pushing it back to the forefront. So, it's well in front of a lot of other things that we often think are more important to people. So, I would just say, yes, it's definitely having an impact.

A lot of what I was going to ask has already been answered in some ways, but it is about the current adaptation plan that Jeremy started, and why that next plan should focus on the IPCC's findings. But I particularly want to ask Anne, who mentioned blue carbon, because I had a proposal for a blue carbon Bill, which didn't get chosen, so I've got a real interest in that.

Yes, obviously at international level, at national level, the inventory on emissions does not include emissions from oceans. It just doesn't count them at all, and yet we all know we'd be in a much worse state if the ocean had not been absorbing carbon for many, many years. But also, in a similar way, it has opportunities within its habitats to help us further, just as the land does, and it's very common that it's missed out in the thinking, because it's not in those numbers, and we are all—and Governments are—numbers driven. There are targets to hit, there are statutory targets and that blue carbon is not in them, but without it we would be in a much worse state, and we dismiss it at our peril, I think. When you look at where are the carbon-rich habitats, what can you do about it, they do overlap a lot to adaptation, which we were also talking about. The things that help coastal flood defences in the natural sense are often those salt marshes, et cetera, which are also very good carbon sinks. I'm no expert in that area, but I feel like it's a very underappreciated area of concern, I think, and could be much higher up on our list. 

11:15

I just wanted to pick up on food that Anne mentioned earlier. How do we educate the public to understand that if we import food, or we buy food that is dependent on imported soya and corn, how do we get people to understand that this is a choice around how much carbon emissions we're generating?

I think we probably can for a significant proportion of what I would call pioneery-type people who have a particular concern, but, in all honesty, I quite like the line that Iceland came up with when they were talking about this. They said, 'Why should the poorer people who are part of their constituency not be able to play their part, and it's our job as retailers and as producers to make it possible for them to not damage things? They shouldn't need to make an active choice; it should be built into how we produce and how we sell food, et cetera'. In all honesty, I think that's the truth—it's the people in the middle who can make it possible for people. Yes, there's a lot that can be done by people making active choices, and it's those signals that drive, along with regulation, corporates to do something differently, and you saw that with all the furore over plastic. You just need enough consumer interest and enough regulation and then, actually, businesses will do it for you.

Okay. Clive has indicated, so I'll allow Clive to come in, and then we'll come on to Huw, and thank you, Huw, for being so patient. Clive.

Just to pick up on Jenny's point around blue carbon, so, first to say, I think blue carbon, we need to put it in perspective in the sense that the emissions from Welsh peatlands are massive, and in terms of our land use, peatlands are the No. 1 thing we need to address. NRW is developing, with Welsh Government funding, a national peatland action programme, but there is a huge challenge over the next few decades, to be honest, to address that challenge, and there are issues around skill shortages and all sorts of things around actually delivering on that, as well as the funding of that. 

And also, woodland creation, as well as things like urban trees are equally important, but focusing on the blue carbon, again agreeing that it is an important area, NRW has undertaken and commissioned research. So, we now have for Wales, as well as other parts of the UK, but we've commissioned for Wales an evaluation of what blue carbon delivers i.e. what intertidal and marine habitats deliver in terms of carbon sequestration, and it is significant. Some of those habitats that you've already mentioned, such as salt marsh and seagrass beds, are the important elements within that.

So, we've got the evidence base but we now need to move towards the need to recognise that, actually, the impacts of climate change are actually going to be reducing and destroying intertidal habitats such as salt marsh. Therefore, creating compensatory habitats—and there are some projects that we're currently progressing to restore some of these coastal habitats—but that is definitely a priority that we should see that links both to carbon storage but, very importantly, and linking into what Jeremy said, it's also equally important in some places in providing some adaptation benefits as well. 

Thanks, Chair, and if you want me to, I'm happy to roll into the questions that I had later on flooding as well. But if I could first just address one question to our NRW colleagues, and it's on the question of the quality of your engagement at the moment with Welsh Government on climate adaptation, and whether there are any other points that you haven't mentioned already that you'd like to pick up on on adaptation that don't involve, if you like, the flooding, which I'll turn to in a moment.

11:20

Okay. I'll start off and then if you're going to come onto flooding later, I'm sure Jeremy will pick up on the flooding at that point.

Just to say that—. Jeremy mentioned this, but it's really important that we recognise that historically over the last decade adaptation has been the poor relation to mitigation, and, in many senses justifiably, we've been very much focused on mitigation. Certainly, in NRW we recognise that we need to have equal focus, given the increasing impacts of climate change. We're currently at the moment using—. There's a new ISO—. That's the International Standards Organisation, which has produced a new standard around adaptation. That's something that wasn't featured or covered within the plan. It was only published back in 2019. But it sets out a set of principles and frameworks, which is informing how we develop an organisation-wide systematic evaluation of climate risk vulnerability and adaptation—'What do we need to do?' Effectively, it's going to enable us to have an organisation-wide adaptation plan. And I think that's very much going to drive greater consideration of climate change within our organisational risk registers and so on, and I think that, going forward, there's a real need, certainly, for the adaptation and for the next adaptation plan or the revision of it—. My understanding is that Welsh Government intend next year, in 2022, to undertake a revision, which is really important, because as you know we've had publication of the CCRA3 this year. The current plan was produced based on CCRA2, so it's really important that that mid-term review for that plan happens and takes on board the elements from CCRA3 but also the IPCC report et cetera.

The other thing to, I think, emphasise is that I think that—. That's what we're doing in NRW, but I think there is a need to move towards, organisationally, across the public sector and including the Welsh Government, to have a much greater focus on recognition of climate risks and including them within governance processes. The National Audit Office recently produced a report recommending that ARAC committees should be considering climate change. So, I think that's another really important development that we need to take forward across the Welsh public sector going forwards.

Thank you, Clive. I know Jeremy wants to come in on this. Shall we just roll straight into flooding and then Jeremy can pick up on a few of those issues then? Huw.

Thanks very much, Chair. Yes, and I'll try and bundle some of these together so, Jeremy, you can range large in your answers then. So, listen, the things we want to ask are, first of all: where are we on your actions to address issues identified in the 2020 flood response review? So, there's a big one there. But could you also touch on the use now of nature-based solutions and interventions to manage flood risk? We saw the maps being produced—I think it was yesterday—but they didn't come just as the maps, the scary bit; they came as, 'What we're going to do about it as well,' and part of that was nature-based solutions. Just on those two, and then I'll come on to sustainable drainage systems.

Okay, thanks. So, in terms of the flood review, everybody will remember the origins of that flood review were really scary events in February 2020, and just to say at the outset, the impacts of that go on. The impacts go on with communities and the impacts go on in terms of how people are impacted. That whole mental health element of it is really important. We undertook a thorough review. We published it in October. There are a series of recommendations in there. We are heavily engaged in delivering those. We have made good progress on many of them, but many of them are long term in their nature, and that fits in, really, with that kind of debate around adaptation, and I'll make a point there, because adaptation is long term. Adaptation is difficult. The point that Clive was making around the need for different organisations to come together and work together, and the point I was making earlier around catchment approaches. I think, sometimes, flooding is seen as a flooding problem or a water problem, but some of the things that we need to engage with and look at are—. There are locations where communities are awfully close to rivers and we need to ask difficult questions about what the right response to that is.

And Jeremy, can I just ask for your honest response on how effective you think we are now on catchment approaches to this, genuinely? Is it patchy across Wales? Do we have shining examples or are we still scrabbling towards this?

11:25

I think it is mixed and I think it is patchy. There's lots of good collaboration that takes place, but I don't think we are truly working on the big catchment scale. If you take the Taff as an example—you could take anywhere as an example—you've got three local authorities at least. You've got Merthyr, you've Rhondda Cynon Taf and you've got Cardiff; you've got NRW and you've got a whole host of players, and it is important that we do move together.

RCT have taken the initiative to set up a strategic route to look at some of those big-ticket questions, but they do need to be looked at—both the local element of it and the big element of it. Just to give you an example, in managing that water down the Taff, it's tempting to build bigger defences, but if you do those it pushes the water downstream and it sends it downstream to another community.

None of that is easy, and there's a lot of work that is required there. We're setting off on that path, but there is a lot of work to do. We need to think long term. There's a concept here about adaptive pathways, which says, 'Right, this is the long-term likelihood in terms of what we know from climate change; how do we respond to that?' Fairbourne's an example of where that discussion has been kick started, for a variety of reasons, but it needs to take place in a lot of locations. It's challenging, though, in terms of resource and what's required to deliver.

Yes, indeed. I think you've probably flagged that this might be an area that we need to return to, as a committee, already in your comments. Could you just move on then to the use of nature-based interventions and solutions, not simply in light of what you've just said but in a wider aspect across Wales, with flood and coastal inundation et cetera, et cetera? Where are we on that?

It's absolutely, hugely important, and colleagues have mentioned the role of salt marshes, for example, in terms of taking the energy out of waves hitting the shoreline. So, nature-based solutions are—the point I would make is that they're part of the answer. There is no one single answer here, but nature-based solutions are definitely part of the answer.

We're working hard with colleagues on some pilots across Wales, and the Welsh Government have funded those to really put things into action. The other side of it is also true, though: that they're part of the answer but they're not the sole answer, because when you're looking at such big quantities of water, then you need other solutions as well.

The multiple-benefits side of this is massive, isn't it, as well? Linked into the point I was making, it's not just a water quantity and flooding issue; there are other benefits. So, it's absolutely central to what we do, and we incorporate this wherever we can and we're running pilots to learn more, but I would stress it's not the answer—that single answer—on its own. It's not a panacea.

Thank you, Jeremy; thank you, Huw. I know, or I'd imagine, Janet, you're pretty keen to come in on flooding, I would think, so if you want to ask your question on flooding and then we'll have to bring the session to an end because we're out of time, I'm afraid.

Yes, just a quick one. The CCRA found that more action is needed and that risks are not being managed effectively. So, Jeremy, how are NRW informing work on the Welsh adaptation plan, and that's with regard to building defences to guard against flooding and coastal erosion? Clive, how is NRW advising on a long-term strategy for heat and energy efficiency, particularly as they pertain to passive cooling? Would a strategy be ready for publication this year, in line with the CCC recommendations? I hope I didn't say that too quickly.

Okay, so, the reports that you referred to—the commonality, I would say, between them is that they all stress the importance of adaptation and adaptation to flooding. It is one of the major risks. I've said in the answer to the previous question that more—absolutely more—needs to be done. But, you know, it's also a balance between what needs to be done there and what needs to be done in all of the sectors of public spending.

I think what's important is that it's not—if you like, fingers aren't pointed that it's anyone's problem to solve on their own. We do need to do this together. As a flood professional, I can't stop the rain falling and I can't stop that element of it, but what I can do is put the best thought into how we manage it, and that's what we continually try to do in NRW.

I could go into all sorts of examples of the sorts of actions that we're taking. The bit that I would stress—I know we're short of time, Chair—is that it's not just about defences. I think it's increasingly about making people understand that we need to learn how to live with huge quantities of water; making properties more resilient so that they can bounce back quicker; insurance. All of these things are also part of the mix, as well as defences. Defences will always be important, but there's a whole host of other things as well.

Thank you, Jeremy; thank you, Janet. I always remind people that rain is free hydrofuel, so we need to look at the positives as well, but, certainly, we've had a great deal of information from all of our panelists. Apologies that we're running out of time. It was always going to be ambitious, I think, to get through all of our questions, particularly with four witnesses before us. I was hoping to finish with asking about key messages and ambitions from the Welsh Government in relation to COP26, but maybe we can ask you to provide a written note on your thoughts around that, because that would be important for us, as a committee.

With those comments, can I thank you for joining us, once more, and for your very valuable evidence to us? You will be sent a draft transcript as well to check for accuracy. The committee will now break. I think we'll take a ten-minute break now and we'll reconvene for 11:40, promptly, so that we can change witnesses et cetera in the meantime. So, we'll go into private session and back into public at 11:40. Diolch.

11:30

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:30 a 11:41.

The meeting adjourned between 11:30 and 11:41.

11:40
4. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 7 – yr amgylchedd a bioamrywiaeth: llywodraethiant a thargedau
4. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 7 - environment and biodiversity: governance and targets

Croeso yn ôl i gyfarfod y pwyllgor newid hinsawdd, amgylchedd ac isadeiledd yn y Senedd. Dwi'n falch iawn o ddweud ein bod ni'n symud at ein trydydd panel ni'r bore yma, fel rhan o'n gwaith ni i edrych ar flaenoriaethau'r pwyllgor yma dros y cyfnod nesaf, a ger ein bron ni am yr awr nesaf, mae gennym ni'r Athro Richard Cowell o ysgol ddaearyddiaeth a chynllunio Prifysgol Caerdydd, Ruth Jenkins, sy'n bennaeth adnoddau naturiol gyda Chyfoeth Naturiol Cymru, Annie Smith, sydd yn bennaeth polisi natur a gwaith achos gyda RSPB Cymru, a Clare Trotman, sy'n rheolwr polisi ac eiriolaeth Cymru gyda'r Gymdeithas Gadwraeth Forol, Ac mae Clare ac Annie yma, wrth gwrs, ar ran Cyswllt Amgylchedd Cymru. Felly, croeso i'r pedwar ohonoch chi. Fe awn ni'n syth mewn i gwestiynau, a'r cwestiwn cyntaf—Janet Finch-Saunders. 

Welcome back to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee at the Senedd. I'm very pleased to say that we're moving to our third panel of the morning, as part of our work on considering the committee's priorities for the coming period, and before us for the following hour we have Professor Richard Cowell, from the school of geography and planning at Cardiff University, Ruth Jenkins, who is head of natural resources at Natural Resources Wales, Annie Smith, who is head of nature policy and casework with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Cymru, and Clare Trotman, who's policy and advocacy manager with the Marine Conservation Society. And Clare and Annie are here today on behalf of Wales Environment Link. So, a very warm welcome to the four of you. We'll go straight to questions. The first question comes from Janet Finch-Saunders.  

Diolch, chairman, and good morning. So, I was quite disturbed by the Minister's response to the CCEI report on the environment Bill, that confirmed the Welsh Government will learn—that they are planning to postpone work on biodiversity targets until after COP15 in May 2022. What discussions have you undertaken with this administration with regards to the Wales nature recovery action plan? And what steps should be undertaken prior to COP15 to ensure that these targets are introduced as quickly as possible? We could perhaps get a taskforce in place. 

Diolch. Bore da, bawb. 

Thank you. Good morning, all. 

It's good to have the opportunity to talk to you. The first thing I want to say is that there is no reason why the Welsh Government needs to wait until the outcomes of COP15 are in place—they're high-level targets—and to announce its intention to put high-level targets on the face of legislation. So, we're looking at a nature positive framework that's equivalent to a net-zero framework. We need a high-level target to halt and begin to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and for substantive recovery by 2050, and associated duties on Ministers to set a detailed target framework, including interim targets, so that there's clear accountability for every successive Government, and that goes into the detail of some of the means of how you get there, looking at different measures of biodiversity, of habitat scale, of habitat quality. Those go into a secondary legislative framework that is developed downstream of getting the Bill into place. And I think, absolutely, for the first part of that, there is no cause for delay, and, in fact, countries like Wales, who are really depleted in their biodiversity—we desperately need to be restoring ecosystems—need to show leadership in this space and not sit back and wait to see what the world is willing to agree to. 

Thanks. I'd just like to support everything that Annie said. It's important to do some of the work now, because setting targets is one thing, but actually most of the effort is in the governance measures you need to institutionalise those targets in areas of public policy, where they actually bite on decisions and make a difference for biodiversity and nature. And, actually, that's a lot of the work that's involved, and, as long as you know the broad direction of travel, there's no reason why that work should not start a great deal earlier. 

Just to say, I agree with what's been said so far. Targets can send really clear messages to everyone, and they can help everyone to understand investment and provide accountability, but that's not to say we're standing still. Even if we now want to work on some targets and get them into some legislation, I think we're already taking action—the work that we've been doing with others, including talking to Welsh Government, and the investment that's already being provided. The nature recovery implementation plan is setting out lots of goals that we are beginning to take forward and proactively working with others through the different mechanisms that we've got, certainly in Natural Resources Wales. So, using those mechanisms, including our ability to give grants and our ability to provide land management agreements to individual land managers, the Welsh Government has provided some resources to help us to start restoring peatland and we are beginning to make a difference.

11:45

It might be worth just giving the marine biodiversity perspective here, because I think, often, when we think about these kinds of targets, our brain goes to terrestrial just naturally. Just to say, really, that we fully support WEL with the need and the call for biodiversity targets, which would not just complement but also strengthen the targets that we've already got in the marine environment. We have a target to meet good environmental status under the EU marine strategy framework directive by 2020. We've missed that deadline and we do not know what's going to be coming next in terms of replacing the MSFD. So, having something that would work for both marine and terrestrial is really very welcomed here.

And just a quick comment on the nature recovery action plan, NRAP—we're still not quite sure how that interacts with marine. There isn't an equivalent one for marine and we know it's quite terrestrial-heavy, so trying to understand how this could work together in that sense would be really helpful as well.

Thanks, Chair. And I noticed how much the Minister's responses to this demand for domestic targets sooner rather than later was moving as we went through the end of the last Senedd and subsequently over the last few months, and it's good to hear that we're not waiting for that; we're getting on with stuff. But can I ask you: you're also quite expert, some of you, in how we should take this agenda forward from a legislative perspective. So, whether it comes now—. I suspect it'll have to be live and we'll have to amend and ratchet up this, a bit like climate change, but what's the best legislative vehicle, do you think? Is there agreement? What's the best way to embed these in domestic Welsh biodiversity targets? I can see Annie—go ahead. And you don't all need to answer this; if you agree with what Annie says, by all means just stick your thumbs up.

Thank you. So, I think there have been discussions—there have been discussions already in this Senedd about the environmental governance Bill being the place that could bring in nature recovery targets. And I think that absolutely makes sense, not only because it's likely to be the earliest opportunity, but also because these things are closely linked together. And just thinking, for example, about the stakeholder task group's report on environmental governance and the recommendations that the Minister accepted, they included a high-level objective that would basically serve to integrate a high level of environmental protection and ambition across Government, which is absolutely part of the purpose of having ambitious targets. That's part of what's needed in order to bring a targets framework to life. So, there are really strong synergies and I think those things should be done together, ideally. We know both of them are urgent and there's no excuse for delay, really.

Okay, so, if we have to wait for intelligent, good targets, that's the right mechanism. Do we have any dissenting voices from our other panellists or are you all in agreement? Ruth, you wanted to add something.

Not specifically dissenting; so, yes, I would agree—we note the Minister's intention to bring in the environmental governance Bill. This could provide the mechanism; it seems appropriate. But I would agree, I guess, and just emphasise, really, what Annie said, that bringing in some high-level strategic targets shouldn't delay too much, I would hope, the bringing in of that Bill. We wouldn't want to see that Bill delayed, and I think spending more time and providing more scrutiny in a longer context for more detailed targets that are required for everyone to work on, I think seems sensible.

11:50

Okay, that's great. A really clear message—get on with the high-level commitments there, and then follow it up then with the greater detail, working with groups. Could I ask you then: does anybody have any thoughts on whether the UK environment Bill's approach to targets is appropriate for Wales? Richard, go ahead.

Thanks. Well, if you mean, 'Does the commitment to legally binding targets have relevance to Wales?’' then, yes, Wales has equal need for legally binding targets to set that high-level context, to provide the framework for policy, and to mean that the goals have to be delivered in the face of day-to-day political pressures, even when it's inconvenient for Ministers to do so. That's the sort of framework that was offered by EU environmental legislation. It's the sort of thing we're at risk of losing with Brexit. And by having targets, Wales would also participate alongside the UK in having a firm framework for policy, which, of course, sets a firm context for investors, business and so on in terms of knowing the long-term and future direction of travel.

Okay, I can see nodding of heads. Is there anybody who wants to add anything to that? Ruth, and then Clare.

I think just to remember that we've already got quite a powerful framework for the environment in place in Wales, and actually it would appear that perhaps England are trying to catch up with some of that. So, adding and using that framework and making sure that targets are part of that framework, I think is going to be really important. I guess the other message from us is also just to remember that some of our existing legislation has already got targets in it. So, we would also want to see new targets in synergy with those.

I don't really want to comment on the appropriateness of the UK environment Bill, but just to say that we're working with DEFRA, with our Westminster colleagues at the moment, to try and get marine biodiversity written into those interim targets that they're developing at the moment and we're struggling a little bit. So, really just another plea for when we're thinking about this to think holistically—land and sea—and we're doing the same advocacy work, really, at Westminster at the moment.

Thank you, Chair. The Prime Minister has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the UK's land by 2030, safeguarding a further 400,000 hectares—the size of the Lake District and South Downs national parks combined. However, the Welsh Government hasn't put this commitment on record. Wales Environment Link also note that there is no mention of national parks in the Minister's letter to the committee. Do you agree that this is a missed opportunity for the 4 per cent of Welsh land that is categorised as an area of outstanding natural beauty and the 19.9 per cent of land that comprises our three national parks? So, looking forward, what steps would you like to see implemented to increase this number, and through which practical categorisation?

Thank you. So, just firstly, I think that the UK Government and the Scottish Government and the Northern Irish Government have all given a commitment or an endorsement of this 30x30 target, which is about protecting 30 per cent of land and sea, and managing it well for nature, by 2030. I think what's really—. It goes back to that point about needing to lead the way on this instead of waiting until the absolute end outcome and saying, 'Okay, we’ll do that'. If we see that this what needs to happen, let's commit to it.

It's worth saying, the 30x30 target is what I would describe as a means target to achieving biodiversity strategic goals, and also it's a SMART articulation, I suppose, of what is a high-level goal for Welsh Government already. So, we talk, in Welsh policy, about resilient ecological networks, needing to improve the condition, extent, management et cetera of our wildlife sites and to make sure they're better connected et cetera. So, this just gives a measurable and deliverable aspect to that. So, I think it's important for Welsh Government to commit to it. What is critically important though is that it doesn't become a target about lines on maps. It's not a purely area-based target, it's a target to protect and manage for nature, and we know that, with our existing suite of protected sites, getting the right management in place is a massive challenge.

It's well under-resourced at present. You know, even monitoring is not well enough resourced to give us the full picture, but what it does show us is that what we know about is often not in a good state, and that applies to the land and the sea. So, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty absolutely have a role to play in enabling delivery of this target. But, as they are, they are not areas that, as a whole, are protected and managed for nature. You know, they're just not; they include towns and intensively farmed land and all the rest of it. So, it's not good enough to say, 'Oh, we've got about 30 per cent already. If we do this new national park, then that will sort us out'. We need to look at how those areas contribute to delivering the target from the well managed and achieving-quality side, and that's going to need monitoring and management, and, actually, ascertaining that those areas are delivering for nature.

11:55

I'll come in on, well, certainly on the national parks and the AONBs: I think, just to remember that, actually, those areas also often own quite a lot of land, so there is a major contribution from that perspective. Also, the other roles of the national parks are also about bringing nature closer to people. Also, I would agree with what Annie's saying in that this shouldn't just be lines on maps, and we need to remember those municipal urban areas and bringing nature closer to people, and giving equitable access to nature needs to be part of this.

But, I think, we are aware that the Welsh Government are considering how this commitment could be delivered in Wales, and, I think, taking some time to make sure that, in making any designation of 30x30, we are considering all the sorts of social opportunities that also come with that, as well as ensuring that we are using that target to recover nature, and do that in a way that enables nature to become more ecologically resilient, which, as Annie says, requires those joint areas of management to ensure conditions as well as connectivity and those other attributes.

Good morning, all—just about. Anyway, I want to look at the national site network, but I also want to make a comment on the previous one: just that I can't see the sea mentioned in it; it's all land-based again. So, I'll make that comment, and I'm sure others will have recognised it. But what is the action that's required by the Welsh Government, and others, to ensure that the new national site network better protects Welsh biodiversity, wherever that might be—land or sea?

Who wants to pick up on that first of all? Go on then, Annie, and then Ruth and then Clare.

Thank you. Joyce, I think that's a good point, and we do probably hear more about the land side of that 30x30 target. But, in developing international targets and the targets that UK Government and the other Governments in the UK have committed to, it does talk about the sea as well. So, that is absolutely a fundamental part of it, and getting the management right of marine protected areas is absolutely key.

So, the national site network is the new name for the Natura 2000 network, and it's absolutely critical that the protection and management of those sites is upheld, in spite of having come out of the EU frameworks. You know, the legislation is still there, and it's a really important way of protecting and requiring delivery of management in those key areas. We know that management is under-resourced, as is monitoring—we've already touched on those things. There are also actions needed to continue to bolster and complete that network. So, for example, in 2016, there was what's called a special protection areas review, where there's a scientific look at the adequacy of the network to protect declining bird species, and there were a number of gaps identified, through that process, for the Welsh site network that still need to be addressed and which we're not seeing progress on so far. So, there are elements like that of making sure that it's adequate, making sure that it's joined up; it's part of a big network with our nationally important sites—our sites of special scientific interest. We've already talked about how there are high-level commitments to resilient economic networks. Those sites needs to be well protected and managed, bolstered, better connected and bigger—more of them.

12:00

I'll come in on that as well. Obviously, designating a network is not enough; sites need to be managed. If we're to build functioning ecosystems, they need to be connected. Often, these sites form really important high-nature conservation value hubs, but they are often isolated in the environment. So, that management requires engagement with individuals. Many of these sites are owned by individuals. They require technical advice and incentives to support appropriate management. Obviously, we are already trying to support the management of those protected sites, but it's a big task if we're going to add to it. We need to recognise the inputs that are required. We need to build those requirements into other opportunities that are happening at the moment, like the new sustainable farming scheme, and I think we also need to recognise that there are other high-nature conservation sites, as well as those that are currently designated and protected, particularly those, I think, which are close to communities and often managed locally, often by local authorities and other non-Government organisations. [Interruption.] So, lots to do. Thank you.

Well, I was just going to add, really, that we also need to recognise that bringing in resources—. There are, perhaps, opportunities that we need to consider in Wales about where new investment could come from, and maybe new sectors that might wish to engage in supporting the network.

Thank you, Chair. Just with regard to marine protected areas, there are three things, really, I think, that are critical to make sure that they are managed effectively and improved—and I will keep these brief. Firstly, the management of the existing network; we need a long-term strategy, really, for funding and resources for monitoring and for management of those sites. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, they are still, on the whole, failing, and we are resulting in biodiversity loss. Secondly, we need to complete the network. There's a big gap with regard to protection in the offshore area that we manage in Wales. It's gone very quiet on the marine conservation zone front. I would hope that Welsh Government are looking to try to start the public conversation around MCZs again in the next few months. I really want to try and impress upon the fact that that needs to happen; we are now behind the rest of the UK with that. And thirdly, it's also about how MPAs interact with fisheries and vice versa. And I think it's gone, again, largely quiet on the fisheries management front, really, from Welsh Government, for a variety of reasons, but we don't have a functioning Welsh Government designated fisheries advisory group anymore. Lots and lots of policy implementation has just come to a standstill on whelks, on assessing Welsh fisheries activity—there's a whole list. We just need to find the resource to get some of this done.

Absolutely. Okay. Thank you, Clare. Fine, okay. Thank you, all. We'll go on, now, onto Janet.

Right. Thanks. Sorry—I beg your pardon; I've been scribbling down. The nature recovery action plan has funded actions that have been collated in a smart delivery plan, which will be monitored and reviewed annually. The RSPB and WWF have now called for a suite of smart long-term and interim targets to be established in secondary legislation. Can you explain your vision for the different targets, and whether you believe these should be scrutinised by us in the Senedd, and whether the smart system has worked appropriately under the nature recovery action plan?

Okay. RSPB was name checked, so I suppose we come to Annie first.

Thank you; thank you for that question. That recommendation is from our report, 'Putting Wales on a Path to Nature Recovery', which basically sets out the framework that we think we need around these high-level targets in primary legislation that we've already discussed, with a secondary framework developed in secondary legislation that is about, really, how you get there. So, in relation to that framework of targets, of course, it would need to be developed with expert input, with public consultation and with scrutiny from the Senedd.

In relation to the nature recovery action plan, I'm not sure if I've got the right end of the stick. I'd say in the notes we were given there is a question about whether it was fit for purpose, and so that's stuck in my head, but what I would say is that there is an absolute absence of targets in the nature recovery action plan, and is it fit for the purpose of halting and reversing biodiversity decline? No, it's not. That absence of clear targets and how we are going to get there is stark, it just doesn't do that.

And the other related point that, again, links back to the need to have statutory targets, essentially, which basically put the accountability for the state of the biodiversity in Wales onto the Government so that across Government we drive action. The nature recovery action plan is our national strategy under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Every country is required to produce one to show how it's going to meet the targets set under the CBD. So, the nature recovery action plan as a document is at a very high level, it doesn't deliver on that at all. It sets out a good narrative, but it doesn't drive the action, but also, when it's reported against, it's reported with—the UK as a whole submits a report to the CBD, and so there are bits of that reporting that Wales hasn't even been able to furnish. The data for the UK report has come from England and Scotland, for example, on protected site condition, because we just haven't had the resources in place to get that regular monitoring and reporting. So, we need to not be able to hide behind any of that, we need to know how things are in Wales, and that relies, I think, on a good accountability framework within Wales.

12:05

I agree with the points about setting the targets, but I would say that the nature recovery action plan isn't doing nothing. It is driving some investment, we're starting to see real actions, particularly in relation to driving the opportunity for multi-year programmes of work, and I think the thing for me is that in order for us to tackle the crisis on nature, we really need to engage much more broadly across more sectors, more policy areas, and I think we need to do more to help the nature recovery action plan reach more parts, rather than falling in particular places, both within Welsh Government and also in the public and voluntary sectors. So, I would suggest that aside from setting high-level targets within a legal framework, we do need to work with that nature recovery action plan. I wouldn't want to see that all starting again, it is beginning to have traction, but I think the engagement more broadly, the broader engagement with the public, the conversation that we need to have with the people of Wales on the contribution that they and other sectors need to make—if you look at the evidence that's been supplied in the 'State of Natural Resources Report', there are clear messages in there that we need to make changes to some of the systems, the food system, the energy system, the transport system. And in order to do that, we're certainly going to need to do more than what's outlined in the nature recovery action plan.

Thank you. Just as we need to be measuring our carbon emissions in everything we do, we also need to ensure that biodiversity restoration is wired into our legislation. So, what are the gaps you may have identified, certainly in the environment Act, the future generations Act, or indeed the planning and building regulations? Are they sufficiently clear that we need to give a home to nature when we're developing new buildings, whether it's swift boxes, green roofs, or any other aspect of how we ensure that buildings are not just fit for humans but also for nature?

12:10

Thank you. I'll just comment a bit on the interface with planning. I think some of the minor mitigation measures, like swift boxes and the like, are probably reasonably well developed, but they could undoubtedly be improved. The key issue for planning is how biodiversity features in the strategic decisions about the allocation of sufficient and the right space to contribute towards nature conservation goals. The link is not down there in the design and delivery of projects, although that could be improved, but in the wider setting up and formation of strategic spatial plans. At the moment, plans are predominantly driven by things like housing targets, to which biodiversity and nature is a caveat. The question is how one could make planning equally responsible for delivery on those targets, right at those highest levels, where strategic decisions about allocations of land are made. 

I think that's a really important point. Thank you, Richard. We could spend half an hour discussing that, and maybe we will later on because it's all about identifying those priorities for us as a committee in our future deliberations. Ruth. 

Yes, and I would agree with what Richard has just said, but I think there is more that we can all do, not just strictly from a planning perspective but a whole land-use perspective. The natural resources policy has set out some of the priorities for Wales, and nature-based solutions is one of those headline priorities, building in nature to provide solutions, to produce high-nature and low-carbon solutions. We're not getting enough focus on that through the planning opportunities, and although we've seen big strides and changes to the planning Act as part of the framework legislation for the environment in Wales, it sits alongside the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, and it sits alongside the well-being of future generations Act to provide that framework. But we need to see the evidence around the environment, the challenges to the environment and the challenges to society associated with environmental change being more clearly built into land use planning decisions. 

I'm going to throw a bit of a curveball into this one, but I will keep it brief. This is really just picking up on an issue with regard to the environment Act, actually. The Welsh Government gained powers for the offshore as part of the Wales Act 2017 but it was actually after the enactment of the environment Act. So, we now have a situation where the environment Act doesn't actually cover the offshore area of Wales, it only goes out to 12 nautical miles. And that might be okay for now, but of course the products of the Act, such as the SoNaRR, the area statements that we've developed in co-ordination with NRW, and the national resource policy, they won't cover that offshore area, which is a large, large area that we now have devolved competence for. If our seas are going to get busier with regard to things like floating offshore wind, new MCZs, future fishing opportunities, we really need to try to rectify that through legislation. 

That's an important point. Yes, thank you. And Annie, briefly, then. 

Just a really quick point. I agree with everything everyone has said. I'm just going to bring it back to the absence of a targets framework. I think Richard's point was really clear, that biodiversity targets help with that integration into other systems, like the planning system. I'll leave it there, because I know we've run out of time. 

It was important to underscore that point. Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Okay, we'll move on now, then, to Delyth Jewell. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I wanted to ask you about environmental governance. I know that Wales Environment Link had said in the evidence to us that we could now be in a situation in Wales where we have the weakest environmental governance structure in western Europe. Do you think that the Welsh Government needs—well, should they be doing more in terms of—? Do you think that there's a particular timescale that they need to be following in order to bring in an environmental governance structure so that we don't have this gap in Wales?

I can't see why we can't do this in the next 12 months and have a Bill that goes through in the second year of this Senedd. The recommendations that the Minister has accepted for what needs to be in the legislation are there in the stakeholder report, so there's more work to do to turn them into legislation, obviously, but it needs to be really driven by an ambitious timetable, because unless the Minister commits to it and effectively resources it, it could go off into the long distance, really. And I feel like there's—. Of course—. There is a public consultation, the stakeholder report, which draws in stakeholder views quite effectively, and it's a product of that. We've got the Government's position on that, so I don't see why we need to go into consultation on a White Paper, for example. I think adequate scrutiny and consultation could be achieved through, for example, a draft Bill, and what we've seen in Scotland and in England and Northern Ireland is that the work on what does this body look like, how do you put it together, actually runs in parallel with that. So, you scrutinise the clauses in legislation—[Interruption.]—[Inaudible.]—

12:15

So, basically, if it's given sufficient priority, it can be done. The Minister's spoken of the possibility of a second year Bill. We need to nail that on and have it ready to go by next summer, or whatever, so that we can—. We are well behind the rest of the UK. Environmental Standards Scotland is getting its statutory powers on Friday.

And it's not as if we didn't know it was coming. Richard, you wanted to come in, and then Ruth.

Yes. I very much support Annie's answer, and it's only just a swift extra detail. The founding legislation for Environmental Standards Scotland I believe includes a review clause, whereby after a certain period of time, they'll review it, to see whether it's working well and fitting in with the wider features of the governance landscape. Inserting a similar clause in Welsh legislation would be a partial defence against the need for further extensive detailed consultation at this stage. You can base that review on what the practical experience has actually been.

The broad consultation that's been done already on the proposals in 2019; a substantial majority of stakeholders who engaged in that consultation were in agreement on key issues, so there's not a big area of dispute here. I think it is really important that the legislation happens as soon as is practicable, but obviously, we also acknowledge that there is an interim position, and NRW is working with that position, recognising that we are already responding to support that work.

I'm happy with those answers, Chair, but I think Janet may have wanted to—

I think Janet does, yes. I was just checking that you'd concluded. So, Janet, do you want to come in on this as well?

Yes. During the fifth Senedd, I repeatedly challenged the then Minister for environment to come forward with substantive plans on environmental governance. As the evidence from the Wales Environment Link makes clear, interim environmental protection assessor for Wales is a role which is different to that of formal oversight, and enforcement of environmental law. Looking ahead to required permanent structure, what high-level objectives and core principles should be used as the founding values for creating such a body, and how would you wish to see an environmental governance Bill act in relation to legally binding nature targets? All of our conversations today have been targets and all these asks, and to me, I want it all wrapped up into how we can make it more strategically streamlined and actually make a difference.

Thank you, Janet. And can I just add to that as well: I mean, Richard has touched on Scotland momentarily earlier; are there any things we can take from the English and Scottish approach as well, which would possibly contribute to the point that Janet is making? So, who wants to come in on that first?

I'm happy to. So, on the objectives and principles there was a clear recommendation from the stakeholder group, which we were part of and support, which is that the legislation should set a high-level objective for a high level of environmental protection, and articulate ambition for the environment. We've talked a lot about the need for recovery of our ecosystems and restoration of our ecosystems, so we'd expect that high-level nature recovery ambition, as well as protecting the environment, to be part of that. And that objective, the stakeholder group said, would serve as a kind of integrating force, so that's a cross-Government objective that brings the environment onto everyone's books, really.

The four core principles that were advocated in the report were the precautionary principle, the polluter-pays principle, the remedy damage at source principle, and prevention. So, those are core principles from the EU treaties which, together with integration, really importantly help to give a strong foundation for decisions about policy and law. I think I spoke earlier about that high-level objective being really well aligned with the driver around having these legally binding targets that give us that further articulation of high-level ambition that then is detailed in further secondary legislation to the framework. I think also those detailed targets need to involve expert input, consultation, scrutiny. The governance bodies are bound to have a role in that, but not themselves, I think, own the targets; so, they're Government-owned targets, but their role certainly will involve scrutiny of progress and the opportunity to give advice around that, and actually, you might anticipate that people might challenge policy, for example, on the basis that it would be incompatible with delivering on those targets, as we've seen happen with carbon targets and the Heathrow third runway, for example. I think there are close connections there.

I would just go back to the point Ruth made earlier, actually, and say the environment Act also has a lot of important machinery in relation to the nature recovery targets. So, we've got the natural resources policy, the SoNaRR report—there are mechanisms there for reporting and effecting change in policy, if you see what I mean. So, it is important that it's all joined up. But I think, hopefully, Janet, that gives a kind of idea of how strategically relevant they are to one another.

12:20

I'll call Ruth in a moment. With all of that in mind, Annie, we do have certain aspects you mentioned, SoNaRR and everything, in Wales that might not be the case elsewhere, so to what extent can we look to England and Scotland in terms of their legislation and their processes in terms of a template, potentially, for us?

We absolutely can, and an important point there, actually, is that there are stakeholders involved in supporting Government on this. There are a lot of people who prioritise it. The RSPB, as an example, is a UK-wide organisation that's got experience of what has happened and what the legislation looks like in the different places that can help us bring those discussions and that support into this process, too. So, we've had a good chance to learn from what's gone on elsewhere, is one key point. But I think there are elements from everywhere that will support development of the Welsh framework. So, if we're thinking about process, the process that DEFRA have followed in relation to environmental targets, with setting the high level and publishing a policy statement to indicate how people are going to be involved in developing the secondary legislation framework, which work is going on concurrently with the passing of the legislation—so, there's an example of a process that the Welsh Government should look to make use of.

The Scottish continuity Act sets up a duty on the environmental principles, for example, in a really similar way to what the stakeholder group has recommended. So, not identical, but close, and something that we can look at to help bring to life the recommendations that the stakeholders made. I think there's a load of learning we can do also about the ways the bodies are being set up. So, they've been set up as shadow bodies. Environmental Standards Scotland I think is probably closer to what we've recommended for Wales in terms of independence and accountability to Parliament and that sort of thing, and has been working on developing its own strategy over the last six months or whatever. So, there's a load of lessons that I think we can take from process and content elsewhere. 

12:25

I agree with the point that was made earlier about embedding it in our legislation. I think there are some opportunities as well—and I think somebody mentioned earlier; I think it was Richard—about periods of review. Obviously, with the timetables that we've got around the Environment (Wales) Act, the SoNaRR report, natural resources policy—those are on a five-yearly basis so that they inform a programme of government. I think, likewise, the scrutiny of targets, the review of those targets—we could also fit that into that five-year cycle. And I think the other thing, just on the England/Scotland position, is that part of what also came out of a previous scrutiny session was a discussion around the transboundary issues, and the cross-border issues that we also have in Wales around some of our natural resources, particularly on how they're used. That's also relevant in this discussion. 

Yes, absolutely. A lot of nodding heads. Thank you, Ruth. Okay. So, we're talking about what we'd like to see, but, of course, in the meantime we have an interim assessor here in Wales. I'm just wondering what the view is on the functioning of that arrangement at the moment. I'm not sure how many complaints are being raised, but are there any thoughts or views about where we are? How's it going, in your view? We'll start with Ruth this time.

We've already, obviously, been working with the interim assessor. We've had one full written piece of work that we've done to support, advise and give information to the assessor. We're expecting some more. Obviously, this is new work for us, so it's new work that we're having to resource, and it's early days. We're obviously looking to work with the assessor. We're getting feedback to make sure that what we're providing is adequate and supported, but we're expecting perhaps up to another three more requests coming in. How big this is going to get and how much work we'll have to do is a bit unknown at the moment, but it's definitely new work for us.

Just to say we've had a very positive introductory meeting and some other opportunities to talk to the interim assessor, so I feel very positive, certainly, about her appointment and the way she's undertaking her work, I think. She's very much looking at getting expert opinion, working with others, and so on. So, I think it's certainly a very welcome role and a very welcome appointment. I think it is really important—and I know the committee's aware of this—that that role is not the same as a permanent governance role. So, the volume of issues that are being raised and work that's being done should not be taken as any justification for slowing down. Do you know what I mean? I'm sure there will be much more to come in this sort of area, as Ruth described. They're not equivalent. 

Yes, and the fixed period of that role as well, I suppose, focuses the mind in terms of making sure that we have a more permanent arrangement in place in good time. Okay. We're coming on to our last question now, and it's from Joyce Watson. 

I think you've covered a lot of it, but if there's anything you want to add about the approach to the environmental principles, which you've talked about, but in the absence of legislation. 

I can come back on that point—

12:30

We'll come to you all, then, in turn, for some final thoughts as well on the back of that. Annie.

Just on the principles question, the Welsh Government is going to bring in some interim guidance for Government on application of the principles in lieu of the legislation. The stakeholder task group did get a chance to offer some comments on a draft of that, which was very welcome, but we won't see it again until the Minister has approved it. I'd just say that our response was fairly positive, but that point I've made about the recommendations from the task group being around an overarching objective that puts into effect what the Welsh Government has stated as its ambition, to tackle the nature emergency and turn around biodiversity loss as part of it—you know, a high level of protection and ambition—that objective was a key part of the stakeholders' recommendations supporting the application of the principles, and our feedback into the process was that that was an element that needed to more strongly come out, really. So, we wait to see what emerges at the other end. We need something in place of that sort, but obviously, again, getting the legislation as quickly as possible must be a priority.

Absolutely. Okay. Thank you. Ruth, would you like to share any thoughts with us as we conclude?

I've got nothing further to add. Obviously, getting the legislation in place will be critical if the full role that is required in relation to environmental governance is going to be effected in Wales.

I'll keep this brief. Just to say, really, that obviously we absolutely need this legislation in place, but we're hugely delayed on existing policy implementation with regard to managing our marine environment in Wales, and that needs to be dealt with with some level of urgency, really, if we're going to halt biodiversity loss. Just on an additional note as well, I recognise that marine biodiversity and sea fisheries actually sit within separate portfolios in this Senedd. It's just a plea really that when we're thinking about the marine environment we think about it as a whole ecosystem. I would like to hopefully see a little bit of crossover between the two committees on how they go about dealing with future fisheries policy and current policy as it needs to be implemented.

That would be lovely. Thank you. Diolch.

And final thoughts from Richard, as well, to conclude our session.

Three quick points, then. What makes nature crises and climate crises crises is that time is running out. It's a major contradiction to acknowledge a crisis and then put off the legislation to start to deal with it. Secondly, if you want to give nature its net-zero moment, you should look at the machinery around net zero in the climate change legislation and see what's made that effective, and put that into place in an appropriate way for nature too. And a key part of that is corporate ownership of the targets, so that biodiversity targets are not just a Natural Resources Wales or environment problem; they are an agriculture problem, a planning problem, a transport problem and so on. So, beefing up mainstreaming is critical.

Wonderful. Well, on those notes, can I thank the four of you for your evidence to us today? Really valuable stuff, and it will make a big, big contribution to our deliberations over where we go as a committee over the next period. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you very much. You will be sent a draft transcript to check for accuracy. So, with that, thank you all.

The committee will now break, and we will reconvene as a committee in private session at 13:20, so that we're ready to go into public with our next panel at 13:30. Okay. Diolch yn fawr iawn. So, we will move into private session now.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:34 a 13:32.

The meeting adjourned between 12:34 and 13:32.

13:30
5. Blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd, a Seilwaith: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 8 – yr amgylchedd a bioamrywiaeth: adferiad gwyrdd
5. Priorities for the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee: Evidence session 8 - environment and biodiversity: green recovery

Croeso nôl i gyfarfod y pwyllgor. Rydyn ni'n symud at ein sesiwn nesaf ni fel rhan o'n hystyriaethau ni o flaenoriaethau'r pwyllgor. Mae ein sesiwn nesaf ni yn mynd i fod yn ffocysu'n benodol ar adferiad gwyrdd. Cyn gwneud hynny, a gaf i ofyn i Aelodau a oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw fudd i'w ddatgan? Joyce.

Welcome back, everyone, to the committee meeting. We move on to our next session as part of our consideration of committee priorities for the Sixth Senedd. Our session now is going to be focusing on the green recovery. But before doing that, can I ask Members if they have any declarations of interest, please? Joyce.

I have two: one as a member of the RSPB and the other as a Woodland Trust member.

Dyna ni. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gyda hynny, mi wna i groesawu'r tystion sydd wedi ymuno â ni heddiw: yn gyntaf, Katie-Jo Luxton, sy'n gyfarwyddwr RSPB Cymru; Jerry Langford, rheolwr materion cyhoeddus gyda Coed Cadw; a Claire Shrewsbury, cyfarwyddwr mewnwelediadau ac arloesi gyda WRAP Cymru. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi. 

Dwi am gychwyn. Mae hi wastad yn beryglus gofyn cwestiwn cyffredinol ar y dechrau, achos mae'n bosibl y byddwch chi'n ateb pob cwestiwn arall sydd gennym ni i ofyn yn ystod yr awr nesaf, ond efallai jest i ni gael bach o gyd-destun, gan ein bod ni'n sôn am adferiad gwyrdd, efallai y gallai pob un ohonoch chi jest dreulio'n llythrennol rhyw funud fach yn esbonio i ni beth fyddai'ch blaenoriaethau allweddol chi o safbwynt yr adferiad gwyrdd. Efallai y dechreuwn ni gyda Katie-Jo. 

There we go. Thank you very much. With that, therefore, I will welcome the witnesses to the meeting: firstly, Katie-Jo Luxton, who is the director of RSPB Cymru; Jerry Langford, who is public affairs manager with Woodland Trust; and Claire Shrewsbury, director of insights and innovation with WRAP Cymru. Welcome to all three of you.

I will begin, if I may. It's always a worry to ask a general question, because maybe you will answer every other question that we have to ask you during the next hour, but as we're talking about a green recovery, maybe each one of you could just explain, just for a moment, what your key priorities would be from that perspective, in terms of the green recovery. We'll begin with Katie-Jo.

Thank you very much, Chair, for inviting me in. I think I would probably start by saying that a green recovery is an opportunity for us to think differently in the wake of the significant COVID pandemic. But, that was a pandemic layered upon a climate and nature emergency, and what we're proposing through the green recovery is to think very differently around our economic models.

There's been some brilliant work by Professor Dasgupta in the last year looking at how we have a transformative change in how we recognise and value the environment and nature, and how it supports us. So, I don't think we're asking for much; we're asking for a complete change in the economic model and our social model. But what would that translate into in practice? Key to that, we think, are nature recovery targets. We've seen how effective the climate net-zero target has been at driving behaviour change across the Government, and we think that is really, really important within the public sector, but also looking at how that is driving sectoral change in the private sector and also in social and domestic life as well.

We think it means a new approach to really embedding environmental understanding and ecological understanding in areas like strategic planning—so, marine planning, for example, in our terrestrial planning system and across the work of other departments. We welcome the fact that the Welsh Government has got a well-being objective to mainstream climate and nature across all departments. But I would really encourage you to push the Minister hard on how that is being done. In our experience, Government is really quite siloed and hierarchical, and it's quite difficult to get things considered in different departments. If you're an environmental body, you get shunted back to the environmental Minister all the time, and I think that's a real challenge for working cross-sectorally. And, quite often, bodies don't consider biodiversity recovery as a core function, and therefore they sideline it.

And then the final thing I'll flag is resources. This comes down, quite often, to where the money is. Follow the money. Quite often, it's the way the money is being spent that is damaging the environment, so you've got perverse subsidies and vested interests, and where we can spend the money constructively to have a more restorative economy.

13:35

Okay. That's a good starter for 10, I'd say. Thank you, Katie-Jo. Jerry.  

Yes, thank you. I'd echo Katie-Jo's last point, and say that the starting point is a reallocation and reprioritsation of funding and resources. Don't invest in a dirty recovery, and that, in itself, will enable a green one. So, it's a move away from the unsustainable high-emission high-pollution activities—the development that encourages car dependency—and a move on to the greener opportunities in the nature-based solutions. And, I think, green recovery should and can be very much focused on people and jobs, and investing in skills, because a lot of these jobs need to be really quite high-skilled jobs, and it's a case of making those employment opportunities more possible for small businesses and organisations everywhere. I think, particularly in land management, there's a lot of opportunity for improvement that actually comes from more boots on the ground. So, it does come down to how you enable rural and other businesses to actually create and sustain skilled employment opportunities. All these extra trees that we aspire to plant need to be planted by someone, and there are also lots of opportunities in the supply chain for that. 

Thank you very much for inviting me. So, here at WRAP Cymru, we really welcome the inclusion of the circular economy in your thoughts around green recovery, and obviously the circular economy means that we'll move away from that take, make and dispose linear pattern of behaviours, and that means that across the whole supply chain has got to work together. So, we need to have appropriate collection methods to get really good-quality material out of both our households and our businesses back through really prosperous reuse and reprocessing, and then reused again in new products. So, we see that there's lots of opportunities here in Wales to be able to do that, and we welcome us being able to play our part and support the Welsh Government in being able to do that.

Excellent, thank you, Claire. And we'll be pursuing a number of the themes that we've just heard across the hour that we have ahead, really. Thank you. Okay, on to Janet.