6. Plaid Cymru Debate: Green energy

– in the Senedd on 20 September 2023.

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The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Lesley Griffiths, and amendments 2 and 3 in the name of Darren Millar. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2 and 3 will be deselected.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:52, 20 September 2023


Item 6 this afternoon is the Plaid Cymru debate on green energy. I call on Delyth Jewell to move the motion.


Motion NDM8355 Heledd Fychan

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Notes that the outcome of the latest UK auction for offshore wind means there will be no new offshore wind farms developed in Wales for the foreseeable future.

2. Notes that the independent UK-wide Climate Change Committee’s latest report on the progress of the Welsh Government’s decarbonisation agenda concludes that Wales is currently not on track to meet its Net Zero goals by 2050.

3. Notes that a UN report on the Paris Agreement stresses the need for fossil fuel emissions to peak by no later than 2025 to ensure that global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

4. Believes that Wales has the potential to be a powerhouse for clean and renewable energy.

5. Believes that this potential is currently being squandered as a result of the policy approaches of the UK and Welsh Governments.

6. Calls on the Welsh Government to develop a new green industrial strategy for Wales to realise its economic potential in green energy and to ensure that progress towards its Net Zero goals is accelerated.


Motion moved.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 3:52, 20 September 2023

Diolch. I'd say to start, Dirprwy Lywydd, that, when we tabled the motion for this debate, we hadn't realised just how maddeningly timely it would be. Sunak's decision making in London to row back—[Interruption.]—on key climate policies is a testament of shame. Yes, to the Prime Minister, it is a testament of shame and deep, deep concern. I hope that the Conservatives will reflect on this in their speeches this afternoon. We cannot turn our backs on our planet or we will all perish.

But, to return to the original impetus behind this debate, it is about potential. The infuriating thing about potential is that it's always in the future, always kept at arm's length. It seems that Wales's fate for so many years has been couched in these tantalising terms. We talk about the immense potential for wind and tidal energy, for Wales to become a powerhouse of the future, but the keys to unlock that door are kept on a chain in a closed room hundreds of miles away. That is the infuriating thing: our potential seems never to be realised, at least not under this system. And so, in recent weeks—recent hours, even—we've seen this dynamic play out yet again. The parameters set by Westminster for the offshore wind auction were so unrealistic, so constrained, that there is now no prospect for the foreseeable future of new offshore windfarms being developed in Wales, no means of harnessing our great potential. And this disappointment has come at a time when the Welsh Government has been warned that Wales is not on track to meet our net-zero goals by 2050. Now we've been blown yet more off course.

The time has never been more urgent for us in Wales to develop a new industrial strategy, a green industrial strategy. The devastating job losses at Tata serve to remind us of the real-life consequences of not having such a strategy. And the worrying, disturbing decision by Sunak, the Prime Minister of this Westminster Government, to renege on so many policies makes this all the more urgent too. None of the challenges facing us are remote or at a remove, and our means of dealing with them should not be either.

Because Wales has the potential—that's that word again—the potential to be a powerhouse for clean and renewable energy. So, let's give ourselves the means to do it too. Because, at present, neither the policy approach of Westminster nor of the Government here are making the most of that latent unrealised capacity we could have, the power we could produce. Our coastline is rightly celebrated as a tourist destination, but its beauty need not only be scenic. The Celtic sea could be harnessed to power the future. We could learn from what Ireland is doing across the water. It is facing the future, not the past. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 3:55, 20 September 2023


Because we are duty bound to our future, to the workers of tomorrow and the workers of today. We must have a green strategy to create green jobs, to show ambition. We have a duty to our children to create a way of working to generate energy, to empower our communities in a way that doesn't endanger our planet, to develop ways of living that can save our communities, that will recognise the dangers and risks of flooding, loss of biodiversity, of pollution in our water and our air. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

This isn't something we can simply put off, because the planet is burning around us and, in the UN's words, there is a rapidly narrowing window for Governments to move more quickly, since global greenhouse gas emissions have to peak by 2025 at the latest. And it is already so much later than we think. Our oceans are choking in plastic and our children are breathing toxic air. If we are to reach net zero in time—that phrase 'in time', because it doesn't bear thinking about what will happen if we don't do that in time—. But if we do, that will require transformations to be seen in our systems across all sectors, all contexts, including scaling up renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels, ending deforestation and implementing both supply and demand side measures. 

We must have supply chains that reflect our global responsibility, that connect our communities, and which don't allow us to hide our consciences offshore, out of sight, out of mind, a system that empowers consumers to make ethical choices, both businesses and individuals. And we need to invest in skills development, in research, in innovation. But 'must' and 'need' aren't enough. Saying it isn't enough. We are compelled by the climate catastrophe to act, and to act now. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 3:57, 20 September 2023


It's a cause of great concern that the London-based parties, both the Tories and the Labour Party, are weakening their policies in these areas, driven by fear or a lack of ambition, rather than by determination. Plans were published in August to create more than 100 new oil and gas licences. Westminster intends to make it cheaper to pollute our air here than it is in the rest of Europe, to make it easier to put appalling things into our rivers. And just yesterday we heard that plans to ban petrol vehicles by 2030 are under threat, and there is concern that energy efficiency targets for landlords and measures to reduce traffic may also be under threat. These are grave and very concerning developments. 

Solutions won't come from Westminster. Indeed, as we've seen, it's they who are holding us back, but we must ensure that our ability to respond to the climate crisis won't be undermined as a result of these concerning developments.   

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 3:58, 20 September 2023

As things stand, energy generation possibilities are shared—. Forgive me. Energy responsibilities are shared between the UK and Welsh Governments, with Westminster holding powers over the oil and gas industry, the electricity industry, including generation, transmission, distribution and supply. The Wales Act 2017 devolved further responsibilities to the Senedd, including licensing and granting consent for onshore oil and gas projects, onshore wind projects and renewable energy projects under 350 MW. In the Climate Change Committee's balanced pathway, 57 per cent of the required emissions reductions they identify between 2020 and 2025 come from sectors particularly dependent on Westminster. That means that their lack of action is all the more maddening for us in Wales, and likewise the UK Government's failure to upgrade our power grid is holding us back, constraining our chance to deploy and develop renewable energy installations, preventing communities from creating closer links between local projects and the areas that they could benefit. 

All that potential, again, that's lying stagnant. The infuriating thing always about potential is that it is always in the future, at a remove, but it need not be that way. The full devolution of energy powers is a necessity for our nation's future. Having a comprehensive plan is a necessity to make the transition to our greener future something we can be excited about, and not frightened.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:00, 20 September 2023


We have an opportunity now to benefit our future, to benefit our planet, to benefit the people of Wales, today and tomorrow. And I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate. 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour


I have selected the three amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2 and 3 will be deselected. I call on the Minister for Climate Change to formally move amendment 1, tabled in the name of Lesley Griffiths.


Amendment 1—Lesley Griffiths

Delete all and replace with:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Congratulates public bodies and businesses in North Wales for their success in securing funding for the largest ever deployment of tidal stream energy technology in Wales through the most recent Contract for Difference Allocation Round 5.

2. Calls on the Welsh Government and UK Government to work together to accelerate deployment of floating offshore wind, including by fully implementing the recommendations of the Offshore Wind Acceleration Taskforce.

3. Acknowledges the establishment of Net Zero Industry Wales and calls on the Welsh Government and the UK Government to work together to support the development of industrial decarbonisation pathways.

4. Calls on the Welsh Government to:

a) respond urgently to the recommendations in the Climate Change Committee's latest Wales progress report, including to produce plans to deliver a 10% reduction in car-km per person by 2030, to set out a decarbonisation pathway for agriculture, and to accelerate rates of tree planting by removing non-financial barriers.

b) ensure that Ynni Cymru enables communities to play a pivotal role in making Wales a powerhouse for clean and renewable energy.

c) ensure that Trydan Gwyrdd Cymru helps to maximise the economic benefits to Wales of the energy transition by delivering income to the public purse and stimulating Welsh supply chains.

5. Agrees with the findings of the recent UN report on the Technical Dialogue of the first Global Stocktake on the implementation of the Paris Agreement that the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided if all nations follow bold targets with tough action to deliver them.


Amendment 1 moved.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour


I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move amendments 2 and 3, tabled in the name of Darren Millar


Amendment 2—Darren Millar

Delete point 1 and replace with:

Notes that the latest UK auction for renewable energy contracts resulted in 3.7GW from solar power, onshore wind and tidal power projects UK-wide.


Amendment 3—Darren Millar

Delete point 5 and replace with:

Regrets the withdrawal of business rates grants for small-scale hydroelectric projects by the Welsh Government.


Amendments 2 and 3 moved.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative 4:00, 20 September 2023

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. And can I just put on record, please, my objections, really, to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom being referred to by his surname? I think we should have a Senedd etiquette that the Prime Minister, whoever he should be, should actually be referred to by his correct name, and he is the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister. I do think the use of somebody's last name—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:01, 20 September 2023

You have just put that on record, Janet.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

Thank you. So, the contracts for difference round 5—. Oh, and I have to say it's a bit rich for you to be denigrating the United Kingdom Government when they're way ahead of us in terms of their climate change objectives. [Interruption.]

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

Janet, your contribution.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

I'm aware of the news and more will be revealed later. But for now, I am really proud of the progress they've made so far. When you can actually compare your lack of progress to them, then you need to perhaps look more at yourselves. 

Now, the contracts for difference round 5 allocation results highlight six exciting key projects for Wales, including Foel Trawsnant windfarm, Anglesey solar park and Ynni Llanw tidal power project. So there are positive outcomes from the bidding round—[Interruption.] There are positive outcomes from the bidding round, including as much as 3.7 GW of solar power, onshore wind and tidal power projects.

However, it remains the case that the Welsh Government are still not on track to meet your own 2050 decarbonisation targets. The Climate Change Committee report highlights that, since 2016, renewable deployment has slowed. Offshore wind capacity increased by 26 per cent in 2015; however, after that it stagnated, with no increase in operational capacity between 2016 and 2020. Operational capacity of onshore wind increased by 12 per cent in 2019 and largely plateaued thereafter. Installation of solar capacity has increased at a slower rate since 2016, and as this report states, the Welsh Government should work more closely as part of a Minister-led infrastructure delivery group, and in conjunction with the new electricity networks commissioner, to ensure enabling initiatives for energy infrastructure are taken forward at pace, and that necessary policy changes are implemented in Wales to deliver a decarbonised and resilient power system by 2035.

I have spoken to Lord Deben myself about the report, and highlighted too my serious concerns about the lack of attention given to the marine environment, which we’ve highlighted in the Welsh Parliament's climate change committee. It is unreasonable to keep pursuing tree planting on agricultural land when we know that marine ecosystems can capture far more carbon per acre than forests. A square metre of sea grass captures triple the equivalent amount from a rainforest and 10 times the amount from grassland. We could do so much more to guide nature restoration and energy production. If only you were to act on our request for a national spatial marine development plan, this would clearly empower this Welsh Parliament to work with stakeholders to decide what goes where.

Similarly, we don’t have a national hydrogen strategy, and I’ve got to be honest, how disappointing with the new Infrastructure (Wales) Bill coming forward that hydrogen isn’t even mentioned. You’ve slashed business rate relief for small, privately owned hydro schemes on our farms in Wales. Welsh Ministers need to introduce measures to encourage these privately owned schemes. You also need to work co-operatively with the UK Government, and we saw that exchange here last week, when you were saying that they hadn't engaged and Huw Irranca-Davies mentioned that there'd been some engagement. We had a letter from the Minister, quite pointedly saying where you hadn't engaged with them, so much so that it led to an apology from you, Minister. [Interruption.]

Now, the Trawsfynydd site has incredible potential to help boost the UK's energy security with Cwmni Egino's proposals for small modular reactor technology. It has exceptional access to grid capacity, so let's work together on that. Eryri National Park could be enhanced as a power park, and we should make the most of the brilliant investments by our UK Government, including £26 million for two free ports, £160 million in ports infrastructure and £500 million in Tata Steel

Whilst the Conservatives are ensuring that Wales has a world-leading green steel sector, this Welsh Government is indirectly supporting the offshoring of carbon footprints. We need to be realistic that 2050 is a quarter of a century away. We are now in that transition period, and during this transition period—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:06, 20 September 2023

Janet, you need to conclude now, please.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

—fossil fuels are required, and one way they could do that is to keep the Ffos-y-frân mine open. It is a fact that it holds the best anthracite, esteemed by many across the world. It burns a lot cleaner, yet you're prepared to import from countries like Kazakhstan, and it's dirty coal.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

Janet, you've exceeded your time—you need to finish, please.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

I'm finishing now. Wales has the potential to be an energy powerhouse, but there is a need for new actions and a need for new determination by the Welsh Government. I implore the Welsh Government, actually, to stop looking about at what the UK Government are doing and just concentrate on what you are responsible for here in Wales. Diolch.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 4:07, 20 September 2023

I think that it's difficult to follow Janet Finch-Saunders, because there's so much wrong with the analysis, so I will proceed with what I'd already written.

Offshore wind is now cheaper than gas—I mean, that is an extraordinary situation. What it reflects is the absolutely unprecedented and terrifying rise in gas prices, which has left so many households unable to pay their heating bills. Despite this having provoked the steepest fall in living standards since the second world war, we hear Suella Braverman argue that greening our economy will bankrupt it. It's extraordinary. Tragically, we now know that the current Prime Minister is more interested in culture wars to save his skin than the well-being of future generations. I couldn't put it better than Zac Goldsmith:

'His short stint as PM will be remembered as the moment the UK turned its back on the world and on future generations. A moment of shame'.

The Climate Change Committee is shouting from the rooftops that we, collectively—the UK as a whole—are not on course to meet our net-zero commitments. But I can assure Janet Finch-Saunders, if you actually read the Climate Change Committee report, Lord Deben doesn't mince his words, but he's far more excoriating about the UK Government's role than the relatively minor criticisms that he has for Wales.

In that context, any rational Government would have ensured that the subsidy regime for the latest licensing round was sufficient to get bidders for offshore wind, which is not something that community energy operators can do. This is for the big operators; therefore, the subsidy has to be suitably large to whet the appetite of developers, who are going to have to invest large sums of money before they get any return. Instead, the plans for Wales's first floating windfarm, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, are on hold. Blue Gem Wind have simply had to delay any future developments, but they say they're still talking to the UK Government. Well, we'll just have to wait until we get a UK Government that's more rational about this.

But contrast this with the situation in Ireland, where an auction organised by the Irish Government has led to an oversubscription of offshore wind projects, due to deliver a combined capacity of 3 GW, which is a massive leap for Ireland, compared with its single offshore windfarm of 25 MW at the moment. This failure of the UK Government to set the right subsidy levels has really serious implications for the south Wales industrial cluster. We have the second largest industrial cluster in the UK and if we can't deliver clean energy in the quantities they require, these industries will be forced to go elsewhere or die.

In the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee this morning, David Clubb reminded us that Wales needs to increase its renewable energy production by 400 per cent to meet our net-zero obligations. I share Delyth Jewell's frustration that we are simply not taking advantage of the natural resources that we have. We are gifted, we have nine times more wind energy in this country than, say, Germany, simply because of where we are situated geographically, and it's just incredible. We don't have to rely on nuclear, which creates nuclear waste for future generations, or other unproven technologies, like carbon capture, to green our industries and everything else that we rely on through energy generation. The serious lack of any industrial strategy for a just green transition is causing unnecessary anxiety about changes in workforces like Tata. Jobs are being displaced, but there are huge numbers of new jobs that are being created and need to be delivered.

I support amendment 1, because it sets out clearly what we need to do to avoid the disaster of not acting on time. It certainly doesn't give us the luxury of having pseudo-culture wars about a default 20 mph. Far too many households live in transport poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their income, simply because they don't have other transport options available to them. And bus re-regulation will enable us to take forward reducing car miles per person by 10 per cent, which is in the amendment, and—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:12, 20 September 2023

Jenny, you need to conclude now, as well, please.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

Okay. So, equally, there's a huge amount of work to be done on decarbonising our agriculture, which I will speak about another day.

Photo of Cefin Campbell Cefin Campbell Plaid Cymru


We've already heard this afternoon about the importance of tackling the challenge of climate change. Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the twenty-first century. This is even more relevant in light of the UK Government's intention to row back on its decarbonisation targets. This is another example of the Tories doing what is allegedly popular, rather than doing what is right. This irresponsible recklessness should make us even more determined here in Wales to stay true to our commitment to be net zero by 2050, if not sooner.

From the estuary of the river Loughor to the far reaches of the Llŷn peninsula, mid and west Wales are surrounded by the Celtic sea and the Irish sea. I've spoken a number of times in this Chamber before about the unique nature of the coast around the region, and the opportunities that present themselves as a result. But, I have also warned about the way that these opportunities are far too often wasted. Depopulation, poverty, lack of skills and wages below the Welsh average—all are characteristics associated with our coastal communities. It is important to note, of course, that all of those problems have worsened as a result of a decade and more of austerity and cuts to public services by the Tories. But it is also fair to note that the Welsh Government hasn't shown enough ambition either in its support for these communities. It is clear that we must work harder in Wales to make maximise the potential, as Delyth said earlier, for the development of sustainable blue energy.

We do know that floating offshore wind, FLOW, has the capacity to transform energy production, and that west Wales has the ability to be a leader not only in these islands, but across Europe and the world, in the development of this clean energy source. With this comes so many possible opportunities to develop local supply chains, skills and high-paying jobs. In many visits that I've conducted across Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, I see the potential and have heard communities calling for those opportunities.

Photo of Cefin Campbell Cefin Campbell Plaid Cymru 4:15, 20 September 2023

Dirprwy Lywydd, what we have recently witnessed with the disastrous outcome of the UK Government's offshore wind auction calls uncomfortably into question whether these opportunities will be actualised. It is little short of scandalous that there were no floating offshore wind winners in this year's auction of contracts for difference, including Erebus, Wales's first planned floating windfarm off the coast of Pembrokeshire. But to add insult to injury, and despite the direct impact that this would have had on Wales, the Welsh Government had no involvement in setting the auction price. As we heard yesterday in the context of Tata Steel, once again, the Welsh Government has been completely sidelined by the Tory Westminster Government, which is hellbent on undermining this place at every opportunity. I heard with a great dollop of irony Janet Finch-Saunders's plea for the UK Government and Welsh Government to work together. Speak to your colleagues. It's not happening when it comes to offshore wind energy. Wales cannot be allowed to continue to be a passive bystander in processes that are so vital for our green industrial development. I would ask the Welsh Government what concrete guarantees it can give me that this will not be allowed to happen again. 

Before the summer recess, the Senedd passed a Plaid Cymru motion calling for devolution of the Crown Estate. We know that this too is vital for securing Wales's green energy, a made-in-Wales approach on offshore wind energy and the social and community benefits that will flow from it. According to a House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee report, FLOW in the Celtic sea could be worth £20 billion in terms of direct capital investment into the domestic market, with direct investment two or three times more. Introducing a mandatory community ownership criterion for offshore wind developments could provide an opportunity to ensure that Welsh households, community groups and pension funds all benefit from this investment. As it stands, the Welsh Government has no power to insist on this or any other community benefit criteria. So, finally, can I ask the Minister to provide an update on the progress that's been made on ensuring that the considerable investment opportunities represented by FLOW will directly benefit our coastal communities, and that we put a stop to our apparent willingness to persist as an extractive economy?

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative 4:18, 20 September 2023

If the events of recent months have taught us anything, it is that climate change is a clear and present danger to our continued existence, with tens of thousands of people killed by flash floods across the Med, temperature records smashed at home and abroad and large parts of the world on fire. Climate experts tell us that these extreme weather events are no longer in the extreme, they are becoming the norm. As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s first global stocktake report highlights, we are not doing enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. We're currently at around 1.2 degrees and we have seen the impact that a warmer global climate is having on our weather systems and life on this planet. 

The United Nations report goes on to call for more ambitious mitigation targets. Wales, it seems, is not doing its bit. As the motion before us today notes, the independent UK-wide Climate Change Committee has concluded that Wales is currently not on track to meet its net-zero goals. We have to do better. The Welsh Government pays lip service to net zero but lacks the commitment to achieving it, with failures to plant enough trees and roll out electric vehicle charging points, but worst of all, an abject failure to provide a reliable modern public transport network. The Welsh Government runs the trains and we have the worst-performing network in the UK. They have undermined local bus services while at the same time taken decisions that drive up congestion. We need to decarbonise vehicles, not force people out of their cars. We all know that decarbonisation is a vital and urgent need. And as I have said many times, decarbonisation is a challenge but also a huge opportunity for my region. Yesterday, many Members of the Welsh Government criticised the deal between the UK Government and Tata to move away from virgin steel production at Port Talbot. Using steel scrap instead of virgin ore reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 58 per cent. Using recycled steel to make new steel reduces air pollution by 86 per cent, water use by 40 per cent, and water pollution by 76 per cent.

In Wales, we were early champions of reduce, reuse and recycle, but when it comes to steel, it appears that does not apply. I welcome the injection of £0.5 billion to enable Tata to transition from fossil-fuel-intensive steel production to cleaner, greener production. Sadly, this will mean fewer people working in steel production, but that opens up new opportunities: as we embrace a green industrial revolution, we will need the high-skilled workers from Port Talbot to transition to producing plant and equipment for the region to embrace floating offshore wind, green hydrogen and new grid-scale battery storage. I urge the Welsh Government to work hand in hand with the UK Government to ensure my region is at the forefront of the next industrial revolution, whilst at the same time ensuring we dramatically cut our carbon emissions. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Luke Fletcher Luke Fletcher Plaid Cymru 4:22, 20 September 2023

Delyth mentioned how timely this debate is, and we have a bit of breaking news here ourselves, Delyth: the Welsh Conservatives are now completing their journey to emulate Trumpian politics. We’ve heard this all needs to be revealed by the PM. Well, if the leaks are anything to go by, it’s 'Goodnight, Irene' for the UK as a serious place in the world as an investor in the green economy. I think this speaks to the lack of agency as well that we have here in Wales. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen from the negotiations on the decarbonisation of the steelworks in Port Talbot, at present we have very little control or ownership over fulfilling and benefiting from our economic potential. It is a damning indictment of our peripheral position in this union of unequals that the fate of our steel industry is being left in the hands of a UK Government that has shown time and time again its complete disregard for the interests of Wales.

And of course, this is a theme that has echoed throughout our history. During the first industrial revolution, Wales’s wealth of coal, iron and copper was extracted in vast quantities from the south Wales Valleys, from amongst the mountains in the north, and in fact, there is no better example of this than the freight trains that pass through Pencoed: when westbound, they are empty, and when eastbound, they are full. Communities, our communities, that sustained those industries for so long saw—and see—very little of the rewards and have been thrown on the scrapheap, starting with the Thatcher administration, and forgotten since, with decline and poverty now an accepted characteristic for communities that actually drove the wealth of the UK.

The balance of power between the wealth creators and the wealth extractors in this country has always been skewed heavily in the favour of the latter, and I'm afraid that almost a quarter of a century of Welsh Labour in power has done little to address this. Now, we risk seeing the same pattern emerging in relation to the green industrial revolution, as Welsh workers are sold the false dichotomy that implementing new technologies to facilitate the green transition, such as the installation of electric arc furnaces at Port Talbot steelworks, will unavoidably put jobs at risk. We must reject this notion that the green transition in Wales has a trade-off that Welsh workers and communities must bear.

With the relevant powers at our disposal, as well as proactive economic policy on the part of the Welsh Government, the decarbonisation of our heavy industries could become a golden opportunity to transform our communities. A recent study showed that the global green energy sector could be worth upwards of $10 trillion by 2050. Wales could reap the rewards of this green energy boom, but it is vital that we have the tools and the workforce in place now. That's why it would irresponsible for this Government to continue down the same path it has done for the past 25 years when it comes to the economy. Over the past six months alone, we've witnessed the closures of the 2 Sisters site in Llangefni, Avara Foods in Abergavenny, and Biomet in Bridgend. Meanwhile, we continue to suffer low rates of employment and high rates of economic inactivity relative to the rest of the UK.

Now we need a radical change of direction before Wales gets left behind yet again. This should include proactively exploring options to upscale the co-operatised ownership models of our industrial sector, as well as placing an emphasis on upscaling the green skill profile of our workforce. We also need a mission-led style of governance in terms of our engagement with the private sector, to ensure that Welsh SMEs can become active partners in delivering green transition. As such, we also need to look at the Development Bank of Wales, empower it, fund it properly, reform it where needed, to take an active role. This should be underpinned by a new economic development Bill for Wales, with clear targets for translating investments in green energy into substantive productivity gains for our economy.

Our future as a powerhouse of the green industrial revolution is within our grasp, but at present that potential is being squandered as a result of the UK Government's centralisation of decision-making powers and its blasé approach to net zero on the one hand, and the Welsh Government treading water with their economic plans on the other.

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour 4:27, 20 September 2023

It's quite something to be speaking in this debate at the same time as the Prime Minister is trashing the policy in London, and to do so in a way, a day after Parliament has risen for recess, to avoid scrutiny—now this is a Johnsonian school of governance, isn't it? [Interruption.] I'll take an intervention if you wish to. But it's avoiding scrutiny, avoiding accountability, and playing to a gallery of rogues. Here we go.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative 4:28, 20 September 2023

Thank you for taking the intervention. Would you not agree with me that there are numerous occasions, when we're breaking up for Easter, Christmas, any recess period here, when statements are released one after another, after another and another? Would you not agree with me that that is also to avoid scrutiny here in this Welsh Government?

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour

This is a Parliament, not a Government, remember. Let me tell you this: I've told Ministers in this place that they should be making statements here and not via the media. I've done that time and time again, where necessary. But I do not remember a single occasion in the 16 years that I've been a Member here where a Minister or a First Minister has turned entire Government policy on its head the day that Parliament goes into recess. It's a disgrace, and nobody on the Conservative benches should be seeking to justify that. And this is important. This is important, Janet. I'll say this to all of you decent and good Conservatives: do not become an enabler of the poor and the bad, because the attacks on net-zero policy come from the same school that gave us Brexit and the same school of disinformation that spread all those rumours about conspiracies during COVID. The same people are responsible for it. Do not become their enablers, and do not justify that sort of approach to policy and to politics, because there lies destruction for all of us, whatever party we may represent.

This is important, and I say this to the Minister as she replies to the debate. Now, I've got no doubt at all that she will keep the faith and that she will continue to drive forward this policy in a way that should be happening in London. And she will also, I hope, be making it absolutely clear that our policy will deliver, not just with net-zero responsibilities and targets and objectives that we've set ourselves, but also do so in a way that is fair and that ensures that equality measures are also met, because one of the things that concerns me, and we saw this with the ludicrous decision that Sunak took some months ago to award licences for North sea exploration. That will have no impact on the fuel bills faced by the people of Blaenau Gwent this winter. It won't have any impact next winter either, or in fact the winter after that. Because those licences will take decades to deliver fossil fuels, which then should have been phased out according to the Paris agreement, and which then are subject to the international markets for energy prices. So, what you're actually doing by issuing licences of that sort is ensuring that you lose control of energy supply, that you lose control of your ability to deliver not just green energy, but energy in totality. Not only do you not take back control, something that I've heard enough from your benches, but you lose control of what you've already got. It's a policy that's bad on every level, and there's no Conservative in this place who should be in any way seeking to justify or support that.

But what I want to say to the Minister is this: it would be useful, I think, for all of us if she could outline the role she sees for Ynni Gwyrdd Cymru, the public energy company that we're seeing delivered here in Wales. Because one of the issues that I have is about how we go about meeting our targets, not just the fact that we have targets and we've agreed on what those targets are, but how do we do it? It's important for those of us who are looking at this place from the Heads of the Valleys, shall we say, that everybody shares the responsibility for doing that. The Minister will know there's about half a dozen large-scale applications in my constituency, a relatively small geographical area. It is important that all of us have the same responsibility and that not everybody has over-responsibility, if I can put it in that way. But also that community benefits are addressed. We've seen the exploitation. Luke Fletcher is absolutely right. My constituents witnessed the human cost of energy, the human cost of coal in the past. What we need to be able to do is to ensure that we have community benefit for the communities that host large-scale developments. At the moment we simply don't have, it appears to me, the structures in place to deliver that community benefit, and what I would like us to be able to see is the role for the community, the green energy company that the Welsh Government is establishing—the space for that to happen and then that the development takes place in such a way to ensure the responsibility is shared across the country, but also that the communities that host these larger scale developments have community benefit at a much, much, much higher scale than is currently being proposed. And—

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour

I am coming to a conclusion. And by doing so, we have buy-in from community, buy-in from people who host developments, buy-in from the wider national community, and I hope that the sort of running away from responsibility that we're seeing in London today is something that we'll view from a distance, but won't witness in Wales.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru


Last week's news about Tata should have sounded a clear alarm about the importance of ensuring that the journey to decarbonisation is one that is inclusive, fair and just. Just transition must be more than just empty words. I agree entirely with Alun Davies in terms of the need to share fairly the developments across the country and among all of our communities that will be able to deliver the green future, because ensuring that we reach net zero is about more than achieving something positive and essential for the planet, it also means achieving something positive and essential for the Welsh economy and our people too.

As we move through the next decade, we will all see significant changes in our daily lives arising from this challenge. But the truth is that thousands of families in my region today face the negative side of that challenge, and it's not acceptable, and it's not inevitable, as we heard from Luke Fletcher. Indeed, it is absolutely essential that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, that the unfairness of the past is not repeated, and that the green future is one that brings prosperity and opportunities to the workers of Wales, rather than disempowering and disillusioning them, and leaving them, their families and their communities feeling completely helpless.

Wales was one of the world’s first fossil fuel economies, of course, and it left a permanent mark on our physical and human geography, so that half of the population of Wales today live in the narrow valleys where coal was mined, or in the ports where it was exported to the rest of the world. So, what can we learn from Wales's transition away from the coal industry, as we face another major change in our economy? The lessons are very clear. As a result of the first wave of industrial decline, during the great unemployment of the 1930s, Wales lost a large proportion of its population, from the coalfields in particular. Political conflict accompanied the rapid decline of the 1970s and 1980s, leaving so many people in Wales feeling that their Government in London was against them, and creating a sense of mistrust that continues to this day. National productivity also remains very low by western European standards, with dire knock-on effects for income and wealth, and, of course, health.

Decarbonisation is not a simple process, nor necessarily a fair one, and it will affect different people and communities in different ways. Therefore, we have to achieve this in a way that avoids creating or exacerbating inequalities, avoiding at all costs what so many people in Wales experienced as a result of the last period of great economic change. Indeed, as we've heard this afternoon, we have to use the possibility of transformation to reduce or eliminate these inequalities.

In the case of Tata, the unions say that a better transition to a green future could have been created. For example, by using more than one type of technology to create green steel, by carrying out the transition over a wider period to give workers the opportunity to reskill, so that we don't lose them, as we did in the transition from the coal economy, and that they're part of the transformation rather than a waste product in that process.

We know that huge changes need to happen in Wales in order to achieve the level of ambition that is set out in our targets. The economy must go through seismic changes in our industrial and energy sectors, but we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. Wales was left behind as we moved away from coal. The plan was not one that had the benefits of Wales and its people at its heart. Rapid decarbonisation must take place in Welsh industries, yes, but we must invest to secure jobs in existing industries, and those that will emerge.

Minister, the Welsh Government must play its part in this. It must make the case for our nation and its needs in discussions with the Westminster Government on the decarbonisation of industry and the transition to renewable energy, in order to ensure that we can maximize the benefits of the transition, rather than paying the price for a green future without feeling the impact of those benefits.

Part of this is to continue to demand the devolution of powers over the Crown Estate, so that we can manage our own resources and accelerate the expansion of Welsh renewable energy. But it also means ensuring that the UK Government provides and attracts investment in our energy system, as we've heard from Cefin Campbell, in our grid, in our ports and in our heavy industries.

The green future presents so many opportunities to ensure social justice, but there is also a risk that it may deepen inequalities, as I've mentioned. It has a huge potential to be a new and sustainable growth engine, a net producer of good green jobs that can contribute significantly to the eradication of poverty. It is the duty of the Governments at both ends of the M4

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:39, 20 September 2023


Sioned, you must conclude.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru


—to plan carefully to ensure a just transition, because without that, there is a very significant risk that we will not achieve a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable economy, which is essential to the well-being of future generations. 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour


I call on the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James.

Photo of Julie James Julie James Labour

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. I very much welcome the opportunity to respond to this debate today. I share the disappointment expressed in the Plaid Cymru motion, that the most recent contracts for difference allocation round failed to attract a single bidder from the offshore wind sector. I suspect that despite the brave face of the UK Secretary of State, in truth, he was absolutely unable to hide the fact that this is a real setback for what must surely be one of the foremost green industrial opportunities, despite Janet Finch-Saunders's extraordinary attempt to make it sound like a triumph. In fact, I think that this failure showcases the Tory Government's complete and utter failure to grasp any idea of economic investment strategies, their total incompetence in the face of any kind of industrial strategy, and, frankly, the appalling hypocrisy shown by the Government on green issues in general.

Photo of Julie James Julie James Labour 4:40, 20 September 2023

I also share the sentiment in the Plaid Cymru motion that the evidence continues to build for the need to further accelerate the pace of decarbonisation, and that we should be looking to UN experts, as well as our own climate change committee, to inform our plans. Wales has indeed, as many of the contributors have pointed out, abundant natural advantages, and we need to take full advantage of those natural resources, in order to benefit the people of Wales, as well as to help our planet recover.

Where I do depart, though, from the view expressed by the original motion is that we should content ourselves with a counsel of despair. Such a view does not reflect the momentum we're seeing in Wales gathering behind exactly the kind of changes we need to see. I agree we need to call on all interested parties to do more, but I believe we're in a much stronger position to do that if we acknowledge progress as the basis for doing so. The Government amendment therefore seeks to recast the original motion in a form that I hope all parties in the Senedd feel they can support.

Every party in this Senedd is keen to promote offshore wind as a huge industrial opportunity—[Interruption.] I'm so sorry. I don't know why my watch keeps doing that. There were a series of reasons, many of them obvious before the auctions were concluded, I must say, that the offshore wind opportunities were not grasped in this year's allocation round. The task now is in correcting that for the next round next year, and in doing so, we can avoid there being no offshore windfarms developed in Wales for the foreseeable future, as Plaid Cymru's motion fears. Indeed, the UK Government has brought together its own offshore wind taskforce, and we would support the full implementation of their recommendations. It would be significant, I think, if the Senedd would throw its weight behind that call too, and the Government amendment today proposes that we do that.

The original motion I think also makes a major omission in not highlighting the fantastic success of tidal energy in north Wales. There has never been anything like this scale of tidal stream technology deployed in Wales before, and these things do not happen automatically or easily; they reflect the hard work and determination of a range of partners working together in both the public and private sectors to create the conditions for that to have happened. As Welsh Government, we have been lobbying the UK Government for many years for greater support for tidal stream. Regional political leadership from right across the political spectrum has been instrumental in making this a north Wales success story, and I feel it would be right for the whole Senedd to congratulate that success, in the way the Government amendment proposes. And it is right, of course, that we should aim for the highest possible ambition, as the Paris agreement puts it. In doing so, it is important to highlight those areas that demonstrate how progress can and is being achieved. Tidal stream in north Wales is just such an example. The way in which different partners have come together to play their part, with a bit of positive peer pressure, I think helps to show how we can make greater progress in more areas in future.

Dirprwy Lywydd, there are indeed some siren voices out there who question whether the ending of the UK's contribution to global warming is a desirable goal, and it will be interesting to see what our Prime Minister says later today. The trailers don't seem very reassuring, though, and I was not at all impressed by the sudden embracing of the coal industry by the Conservative Government. Typical, though, of the Conservatives, always decades too late with their embracing of anything even remotely positive. If only you'd embraced the coal industry in the 1980s and not in the 2023s, I think we'd have all been a lot happier. But I think that the arguments put by climate change deniers and people who say that we need to go slower and with much less progress are profoundly misguided and will once again be shown to be on the wrong side of history.

The debate today, just as both the UN global stock take and the Climate Change Committee report emphasise, is really about how can we match ambition with specific actions. We've seen important policy progress on energy in the last 12 months, with announcements on the establishment of Trydan Gwyrdd Cymru and Ynni Cymru—new institutions that will help ensure that the public gain a much greater share of the benefits of the energy transition, as Alun Davies has pointed out. These build on the success of the expansion of renewable energy generation belonging to public bodies, as supported by the Welsh Government energy service, with some public bodies reporting that, last year, they earned income, after running costs, in the hundreds of thousands of pounds from individual installations. These policies are very real and tangible examples of how, by taking action to deliver our ambitious energy goals, with communities, public bodies and businesses working together, we can create immediate benefits for the people and the environment of Wales. And I would urge all Members of the Senedd to express their support for expanding community and public sector energy generation through these policies, and to encourage the public bodies and community groups in their own constituencies and regions to seize the opportunities that these policies help to create. 

The CCC committee progress report produced over the summer will be the subject of a detailed Government response before the end of this calendar year. Both the Government and the Senedd will wish to consider the findings of the report very carefully. The challenges set for us by the committee include areas around which there is fierce debate. It would be an important signal of climate leadership if the Senedd were able to forge a working consensus around a set of ambitious actions to address these challenges. The Government amendment doesn't ask Members to agree with the committee's findings—the Government is taking time to consider them and the Senedd will want to too—but the Government amendment does call on Members to support a response to these challenges with some urgency. 

I hope Members can give their commitment to identifying those positive actions they would support to deliver against the challenges before us and to secure Wales's place as a global leader in climate action. That does include the energy transition. It also means to curb transport emissions and to create a very significant woodland carbon sink in Wales. I hope that Members will agree that stoking fears, rather than being prepared to make the case for change, will only serve to undermine the good progress that people in Wales have helped to bring about. It is not consistent with the calls made by UN scientists that policymakers have to grasp these challenges rather than focus on the confected conflict and half truths that provide short-term political advantage to the detriment of the long-term interests of the people of Wales.

We as a Government will certainly not be doing that. We will hold fast to our course in the face of the real—

Photo of Julie James Julie James Labour

I certainly will. 

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour

Thank you. I can see she's coming to the end of her remarks; I wanted not to miss it. There are a couple of questions I asked you in my contribution about community benefit and about the intensity of development. I'd be grateful if the Minister, if she can't address those matters this afternoon in her remarks, could write to me and other Members on those issues so that we're able to understand where the Government stands on these things. 

Photo of Julie James Julie James Labour 4:47, 20 September 2023

Certainly, Alun. I can answer them right now. We have two companies that have come to pass in Wales. One is a directly-owned state energy developer. The people of Wales will directly own the energy produced from the state-owned energy developer, and will therefore not be confined to the current community benefit regime but will actually directly own the energy. So, we'll be able to directly use the profits from that to improve the energy system in Wales. That's very much part of why we're doing it. It would also give us a seat at the table, of course, in the transmission networks and in the general planning for that. 

And in co-operation with Plaid Cymru on Ynni Cymru, we've been able to really accelerate community energy across Wales, with really good engagement from community partners. And as I've already said, many communities are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds, which directly supports their communities. We're very pleased to support those in co-operation with Plaid Cymru as part of the co-operation agreement, and Siân Gwenllian and I had a really great visit up in north Wales over the summer to see a community benefiting from just those changes. So, I hope that answers the question, Alun. 

But, as I was saying, we will not turn back from our course. I hope all Members will support the Government amendment today and acknowledge the role we have to play in providing the climate leadership communities in Wales are calling on their democratic representatives to provide. This is not a counsel of despair—it is indeed a beacon of hope. Diolch. 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:48, 20 September 2023


I call on Delyth Jewell to reply to the debate. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru


Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd, and thank you to everyone who has participated in the debate this afternoon. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

We began with Janet. Janet set our number of the areas where she thinks the Government here should progress further. She referred to Lord Deben. I can only imagine how devastated Lord Deben will be by what he will be hearing as we speak, no doubt, from the head of the UK Government. And on that point, I'll be pleased to refer to the Prime Minister by his full title just as soon as any of the things he does on this area are either right or honourable, because at the moment they are neither. Janet also talked about the need for investing in hydrogen and supporting businesses. I was disturbed, though, to hear about any call for us to keep Ffos-y-fran open, on so many different levels. 

Jenny told us about how it would be difficult to follow what had already been said in that, but she reminded us about how offshore wind is cheaper than gas at the moment, and that there is a human cost to this. Jenny said that the head of the UK Government has indeed turned his back on the world, and I share Jenny's frustration so much about what is going on at the moment.   

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:49, 20 September 2023


Cefin mentioned the difference between what is thought to be 'popular' and what is beneficial to our population—

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

—the differences between populism and supporting the population.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru


He particularly talked about the risk to our coastal communities and the impact that the neglect of the Tories will have on those communities, and he asked what the Government could do—

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

—to put an end to us being always in this position of extractive policies. 

Altaf talked about how extreme events in the climate are now becoming the norm—those two extremes. One of the dangers about that phenomenon, I think, is that it allows too many of us to become used to the desperate cries for change, and I'm afraid that, for the head of UK Government, in this case, familiarity with the urgency of the situation has bred contempt. But Altaf has talked as well about the need—. And I really do agree with what Altaf said about supporting workers in a just transition, and that was a theme that was taken up by Luke Fletcher. Luke complained about the lack of urgency, about how this is affecting workers at Tata, how the disregard for workers is an echo of what our communities have been treated with for decades. It was a theme picked up by a number of contributors. Luke talked about how the trains at Pencoed show how extractive the system is, how the wealth leaves the very places that create that wealth.

Alun spoke, I think, at the same time as when Sunak was speaking—I think that he did start on time—and pointed out that the Prime Minister was doing that to avoid scrutiny. Alun laid down a challenge for the Conservatives here: do not become an enabler of the poor and the bad. And Alun asked the Minister about how we will reach targets in a way that benefits communities in the Heads of the Valleys too, and again spoke about the human cost of how energy is being raised again.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:51, 20 September 2023


Sioned reminded us all about the need for the just transition to be more than empty rhetoric. It’s not inevitable—being unjust is not inevitable—but we must empower our communities. Decarbonisation, as Sioned said, is not simple, but we must avoid creating more inequalities.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

Again, the Minister condemned the UK Government's recent actions in recent minutes. She talked about the projects that deserve our attention and our congratulations, and I share the Minister's concern about the Conservatives' decision to embrace coal—as she said, decades too late. If only they had embraced the coal workers in the 1980s. And I do share the Minister's support for community groups. Of course, I'm very glad that you talked about Ynni Cymru and the important part that will play.

Now, during the time that we've been having this debate there has been another contribution, not in our Chamber, but to this debate nonetheless. Rishi Sunak, with behaviour neither right nor honourable, has reneged on key policies that will make us meaner in all senses. It will make us a mockery, but the cruel joke is on all of us. It's on our planet, which is slowly dying. It's on our children's children, who have no voice here, but whose lives will be curtailed, made harder, less joyful, less beautiful—generations that will judge us on what we do and on what we fail to do. Their eyes are on us now. We should ask ourselves if we'd be able to meet their gaze or if we'd instead avoid it with shame in the knowledge that we condemned them to that fate. 

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:53, 20 September 2023


The proposal is to agree the motion without amendment. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes. I will therefore defer voting until voting time. 


Voting deferred until voting time.