Diolch, Llywydd. I'd like to open my statement today by agreeing with some points made by the Prime Minister in his net-zero announcement of 20 September. The Prime Minister said that there must be an honest debate about how we secure the country’s long-term interest. He also said we need a credible path to reach net zero by 2050 in a way that brings people with us. Unfortunately, Llywydd, I regret that he did not take the opportunity of his speech to address either of the fundamental challenges he set himself.
When we boil down the Prime Minister’s announcements, I believe the direct and material changes to our emissions will be unhelpful but relatively modest. Much of the froth he wished to generate came from scrapping proposals that never existed in the first place. However, by acting in the interests of his party rather than the nation, he has generated much more damaging and wider impacts. He has disrupted the confidence of businesses and communities alike and has missed another opportunity to tackle the real challenges of the climate emergency. Market analysts have been unequivocal. The Prime Minister has made the UK a less attractive destination for institutional investors who are keen to invest in climate projects.
The Prime Minister described significant costs on working people especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet. Yet many of the financial pressures on householders are as a direct result of being locked into a volatile, fossil-fuel driven economy. We need businesses confident in the direction of travel to deliver solutions that help those under financial pressure to go green—solutions with lower lifetime costs than their high-carbon alternatives, solutions that give Wales an economic edge. Instead, the less well-off have the prospect of watching the better-off reap the benefits once more under a Conservative Government. Ironically, electric vehicles and low-carbon heating are two of the areas where economic benefits for struggling families are possible, but where the Prime Minister has put the brakes on progress. In fact, the UK Government’s own analysis of the zero-emission vehicle mandate recognises the significant cost savings of a switch to zero-emission cars and vans. While additional investment will be needed upfront, the Climate Change Committee clearly state the savings in fuel costs would offset the investment costs in later years. That said, new cars are not an option for many people in Wales. However, the sooner the market shifts to new low-emission cars, the sooner we will see a healthier, lower cost second-hand market. The Prime Minister in his speech chose neither to help the transition from costly, polluting fossil fuels, nor to support a transition to active and public transport. I just do not see how this supports our shared climate ambitions or delivers on his promise to support working people in the long term.
Turning to low-carbon heating, this Senedd knows that decarbonising our homes will require a coherent and consistent package of policy that fairly, and over time, incentivises the uptake of energy efficiency measures and reduces the cost of adopting low-carbon heating solutions. We know more energy-efficient homes cost less to keep warm. The Prime Minister has decided to delay the 2028 requirement for all private rental properties to meet EPC C. We know homes in the private rented sector are less thermally efficient than in any other tenure. Therefore, any delay in improving the efficiency of these homes will see many tenants in Wales continue to rent draughty, inefficient homes and face high energy bills for years to come. It also means the opportunity to drive more green jobs into our economy has once more been lost.
On off-grid homes, the Prime Minister failed to take the opportunity to unlock high returns on investment by enabling market mechanisms that replace oil heating with energy efficiency and low-carbon alternatives. Rather than reduce emissions and save householders money, many householders will remain locked in to higher cost, high-carbon, volatile markets. While the Prime Minister promised to increase the boiler upgrade scheme grants to £7,500, this primarily benefits the better off, who are able to fund the upfront costs associated with replacing their heating systems. A social tariff for energy would have been far more welcome, more effective and very much more efficient.
The Prime Minister went on to ditch so-called proposals that never existed to begin with. He mentioned taxes on eating meat—no such thing exists; new taxes on flying—I've seen no such proposals; compulsory car sharing if you drive to work—we've not seen those proposals; and a Government diktat to sort your rubbish into seven different bins. Well, given that England is so far behind Wales on recycling, you think they'd want to do something, and, of course, here in Wales we are very proud of the fact that we are currently third, soon to be second, in the world for our recycling. So, I think the Prime Minister has very seriously missed the opportunity once more to learn by our example.
In relation to flying, we know that 1 per cent of the global population are responsible for approximately 50 per cent of all aviation emissions, and I don’t believe a frequent flyer tax based on this 1 per cent would be either unfair or unpopular.
We’ve worked, as I've already said, Llywydd, with our local authorities and engaged our householders across Wales to achieve our record municipal recycling rates, and I'm proud of the vast majority of the Welsh public who have made recycling very much part of everyday life in Wales. Llywydd, you will know that we're very shortly to introduce regulations to extend that source-segregated recycling to workplaces across Wales also.
Turning to the challenge of taking our communities with us, the national survey conducted in 2022 in Wales found that 74 per cent of people in Wales are 'very' or 'fairly' concerned about climate change, while 93 per cent think that the general public have 'some' or 'a lot' of responsibility to tackle climate change. We must harness this appetite to act. We can tackle the climate and cost-of-living crises at the same time, but, to do so, we must encourage openness, dialogue, exploration and action. We know that where we have acted on climate change, we have seen wider societal benefits. We need to share these benefits and demonstrate that Government is working at pace to make green choices easier, more convenient and affordable, and prioritising support to where it is needed most, to ensure no-one is left behind, to ensure our children and grandchildren are not the ones making the 'sacrifices' the Prime Minister talked about. This is how we take our communities with us, not by arbitrarily ditching important targets.
I was asked in this Chamber last Wednesday how Wales's net-zero commitments will be impacted by the recent announcement from the UK Government. Our own analysis will be informed by that of the UK Government given it is their policies that have changed. Sadly, the Welsh Government was not engaged by the UK Government prior to the Prime Minister’s statement. I have written to the Secretary of State at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, reinforcing the need to work together, to ask for the assumptions and analysis underpinning the announcement and for a meeting as soon as possible. Llywydd, I will make a further statement when I have received and considered the UK Government data. Diolch.
Do you know what? It's not often I say this, but I would like to thank the Minister for this and for opening her statement by agreeing with some points made by the Prime Minister in his net-zero announcement of 20 September. You note that the Prime Minister said there must be an honest debate about how we secure the country's long-term interest. He also said we need a credible path to reach net zero by 2050 in a way that brings people with us, and who could disagree with that?
Now, the UK has had the fastest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the G7, down almost 50 per cent since 1990, whilst, in Europe, Germany and France have only managed 41 and 22 per cent. The UK has surpassed the targets most countries have set for 2030, such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the US. In fact, the UK has overdelivered, if that's a possibility, on all its previous targets to date, and our Prime Minister is committed to achieving the most ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and 77 per cent by 2030. So, I do think you should join with me in expressing how proud we should all be that we are—and when I say 'we', collectively as the United Kingdom—the only major economy in the world to have such an ambitious target. Thanks to this progress already made, reaching the UK's 2030 and 2035 targets does not have to come at the expense of British citizens who are continuing to face a higher cost of living.
Now, the Prime Minister is ensuring that achieving net zero is not a punishment for the population. Will you do the same by scrapping your war on our drivers? You have advised that we need businesses confident in the direction of travel to deliver solutions that help those under financial pressure to go green, and that is exactly what our Prime Minister is doing. As of last week, up to 8,000 people, including current installers and those that are new to the industry, will be able to develop the skills and expert knowledge needed to retrofit homes and install insulation through a host of training providers thanks to the home decarbonisation skills training scheme. The energy security Secretary announced a £22 million increase in Government backing for renewables through the flagship Contracts for Difference scheme, taking the total budget to £227 million for the auction, which has resulted in successful projects in Wales. A grant worth up to £500 million, one of the largest Government support packages in history, is being made in a new Welsh electric arc furnace for greener steel production at Port Talbot, and a new multibillion pound electric car battery factory is to be built in the UK, one of the largest ever investments in the UK automotive sector. Here in Wales, we have massive UK Government investment in two amazing free ports that have energy, climate change and economic growth at their heart. So, the UK Government is enabling this green economic growth. Will you do the same by supporting our private landowners with the cost of renewable energy schemes? And, of course, we can’t forget that it was the Welsh Government—this Welsh Government—that stripped private hydro schemes of business rate relief.
There’s no escaping the fact that the Minister and, indeed, Welsh Government, are still a staunch advocate of the European Union. So, could you, Minister, clarify why there is now a problem with us aligning our policy on electric vehicles with Europe by delaying it by five years? At the end of the day, such a move will be of huge assistance to the Welsh Government, which has as yet not met five of its own nine targets to deliver electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Diolch yn fawr.
Well, where to start, Llywydd? You know, Janet, there was a time that I thought you were a conviction politician that believed in climate change, but what you’ve just spouted puts the lie to that. The UK is world class; it is absolutely world class. It is world class in overstating what it’s doing, and underdoing it. We had the fastest reduction because we started in the worst place. There’s a difference between fastest reduction and actual reduction. Read your Government’s Climate Change Committee report if you want to see what’s really happening. Read Chris Skidmore Conservative MP’s report. There are lots of Conservative voices who are pro climate change who railed against this last announcement. I honestly thought you’d be one of them; I’m very disappointed. There’s no point in countering what you said. It’s based in a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of climate change. If you delay the introduction of something, you delay the investment, you lose the first-mover status, you lose upfront investment in climate change. And if you think investing in a single electric arc furnace in Port Talbot is the answer to that, there's no hope for you.
I’m very concerned about how this is going to have an impact not just on businesses, but on the most vulnerable people in our society, people who are least likely to be able to pay for all of these things, because, for as long as we remain as committed and as subject to these global markets of gas—we’ve seen in recent months how volatile those markets are—it is the poorest who will pay most. So, I’m really worried about that, and, Minister, I’m sure that you’ll agree about that.
We’ve got a situation here where the Prime Minister of the UK has decided—. We talk about people throwing caution to the wind; he’s thrown caution and reasonableness not into the wind, but into the fire, and I think that, as representatives of the people of Wales, it’s our duty to seek answers and clarity about how this profound shift—because it is a really profound and regressive shift—in UK policy is going to actually—[Interruption.] I don’t think that people will welcome it when their bills are high.
I was going to ask, Minister, how you think this is going to affect Wales’s journey to net zero. You’ve laid out quite a lot of that already in your statement. Could I ask what you think is going to be the most challenging aspect of this for the Welsh Government and what steps can be taken by the Welsh Government to try to mitigate the repercussions of that most challenging element?
And, again, I was going to ask you, in terms of engagement with the UK Government, if there had been any prior consultations or discussions between the two Governments before this fundamental shift in policy, and not just the shift in policy, but all of the accompanying narrative—you’ve already answered that in your statement as well—and whether any further avenues have been explored to protect Wales’s interests following Rishi Sunak’s decision over the past week. It is clear that this has come about because of perceived public opposition to green policies, but I think, more cynically, it was perceived perceptions in one particular by-election. Unfortunately, both of the major London parties had gone into some kind of race to the bottom. I'm worried about how that could result in either party that leads the next Westminster Government being weaker on climate policy. That would be disastrous for our planet. But, on a practical level, have there been any conversations that have taken place between the Welsh Government and any delegation representing what would be the next UK Government should Labour win that election, and can any clarity be given to us about whether that delegation would commit to keeping true to the policies that we need to actually be true to, for the sake of our climate and our environment? I do despair about how this is going to affect the poorest people in society.
Diolch, Delyth. Who would have thought that you and I would be on the side of Boris Johnson and George Osborne and Janet would be against them? In what world has that come to pass? But that is where we find ourselves, because it turns out that Janet just agrees with whoever the current Prime Minister is, regardless of their policies or their commitments. I really regret that that's what's happening on the Tory benches opposite us, because actually we did have a consensus in this Chamber on the need for climate change action, and it looks like that's unravelling, which is very unfortunate indeed.
It is absolutely imperative that we have certainty in the transition process for our businesses and for our investors. We will hold fast to ours. We need investment in the grid, which I really hope the Government is not going to water down—fortunately, it wasn't in this investment—and we need that investment to come fast, because we need—Janet even mentioned it herself—the free ports here in Wales to be able to take advantage of the opportunities in the Celtic sea. Unfortunately, Llywydd, we've already seen a watering down of the proposals for Celtic sea opportunities, so I really hope they can be accelerated again.
The one that really, really bothers me is the switch from gas heating. We will have to do some analysis of that, Delyth, but we really hope that we will be able to continue to invest in air-source heat pump manufacturers here in Wales, so that they will have an order book that means they can accelerate their investment, because without that, the price will not come down, as is the projected curve. You know how that works: you put the investment in upfront, the order books go up, the cost of each individual unit comes down, the cycle continues. You have the adoption of a new technology, and that technology becomes cheaper over time, as has happened with every other technology. What this does, in a frankly illiterate economic policy, is elongate the investment for that and therefore the probable curve. But I haven't done that analysis yet. We will hope that we can hold fast to ours.
We need to help society come to terms with changing. The aviation one is a classic example. If you do an analysis of the cost of travel by air and the cost of travel by rail, you can immediately see that we have a Government putting its subsidies into the wrong part of our transport network, because it's rich people who fly and it's poor people who use the train, by and large, and this is a Government that's for millionaires and not for the normal people. We will continue to do what we can. I will do a further analysis and bring it back, probably to the climate change committee, but, Llywydd, there'll be another statement here in the Senedd once we've done it. So, I hope we can hold fast, but there's no doubt at all that this is very disheartening.
Thank you, Minister, for your incisive deconstruction of Rishi Sunak's statement and the harm that he's going to do. Clearly, we have lost any claim, as the United Kingdom, to be a leader on the transition to a carbon-neutral future—totally depressing in the context of the UN conference that was taking place last week.
On a more local level, I have one piece of positive news. One of the petrol stations in my constituency, on the corner of Newport Road and Elm Street, is run by MFG, and they had already installed eight EV charging points, so I rang them up and they are reporting that they're not going to change their business plan in any way—that they are continuing, that they do not think that this is going to impact on their business plan, which is obviously really, really encouraging to hear. But not all businesses will be doing that. They're making a sensible transition, obviously, whilst keeping hold of their petrol station next door for the meantime. But clearly, the bigger decisions around the Celtic sea and other, much bigger ticket items are likely to be impacted.
Just looking more locally at the impact of the decision to delay the 2028 requirement for making all private rented properties energy performance certificate C, I just want to probe with you what impact, if any, the PM’s decision will have on Wales, given that we obviously have devolution of housing in Wales. For any of my constituents who are in private rented accommodation, any delay is further descending them into extreme poverty because of higher rents and colder homes that are much more difficult to heat. So, that's the one I want to focus on for now, which is something that I feel we ought to be able to do something about, in conjunction with private landlords.
Thank you very much, Jenny. There are a couple of things there. On the transition to electric vehicles, we very much hope that Welsh companies will hold to their investment plans. It does require two things. It requires the grid to be upgraded. It's great that, in Cardiff, you can do that, but there are many parts of Wales where that would not be possible because the distribution network simply isn't enough to power eight cars at the same time in some places. So, we have been continuing to have the conversations with both National Grid itself and with the UK Government about the upgrade necessary to be able to do that. There's also a collateral point, I suppose, that the grid is so bad at the moment that some of the energy that's being produced has to be switched off because it can't balance across the grid. If you directed some of that and put an incentive scheme in place to put electrolysers in, you'd be producing green hydrogen out of that energy, even before you've upgraded the grid. We've been pushing what are really pretty modest investment schemes that would transform the ability of people to green their fleets, for example, with the availability of hydrogen in small quantities all over Wales, which could happen very easily. So, there are some things that we're still progressing. I really hope the UK Government isn't going to row back on some of the commitments it's made there.
On the effect on the PRS, there are some things that we can do, but, of course, property law, in and of itself, is not devolved to Wales. The other issue is that we were hoping that to go alongside the EPC C requirement would come an investment strategy, because one of the other things we have to guard against is that people don't come out of the PRS altogether because they can't afford the upgrade. So, we're already doing things like our private rented sector leasing scheme. I'll just take the opportunity once more, Llywydd, to push it. I push it every time. If you're a private sector renting landlord, then if you come into our scheme, we will help you upgrade your house. You will get the standard local housing allowance rent all the way through with no voids, no exceptions, no difficulty and no hassle. And at the end you will get a better quality house. So, it's still worth it, even though the LHA hasn't been uplifted for quite some time. There are some things we can do, but we were relying on the UK Government's strategy to bring an investment programme with it, and we will have to look to see what we can do on top of that to do it here in Wales.
The other thing is, of course, that the private rented sector is subject to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, so they have to make it fit for a human to live in, so that means they do have to have electrical certificates and all the rest of it, and we will be looking to see whether we can extend our Warm Homes programme to the PRS, because we're looking at doing whole streets and communities, and some of those will be PRS. So, I am hoping we'll be able to make some inroads, but it isn't the same as having a central Government investment scheme, clearly. We will look to see what we can do there. And, obviously, we've done things like we've changed our building regulations so that we have more energy efficiency, more thermal efficiency coming in, so we'll continue with those programmes.
In the end, what this has done is—. As I said, it has had a fairly marginal effect in and of itself, the announcement. What it's really done is put a massive pebble in the confidence pool for investors in the UK. That's the real damage the Prime Minister did last week, by actually taking away the interest of global climate change investors from the UK, because if they make u-turns at that speed without any prior consultation with anyone, they can do it again. That's the thinking. So, I'm afraid the sooner we have a Government that is committed to that kind of investment and can give certainty of investment structures, the better.
Minister, I also regret that we have to have this discussion today. I am saddened. You'll know from many discussions we've had that the region that I represent was devastated as a result of climate change and the climate emergency in 2020, and the risk that's still very real for many. I would like to dispute some of the things that have been said in terms of how the UK Prime Minister was thinking about poorer communities in this, because, actually, those who are suffering, as was rightly outlined by Delyth Jewell, are the very people who cannot afford to wait for us to take action. They can't afford to move from areas that are at risk of flooding; they can't afford insurance; their health is deteriorating because they live in damp homes, because they couldn't afford to fix them. So, how are we going to counter this extremely dangerous narrative? Because it's highly effective when you have a UK Prime Minister being broadcast into every home and able to say, 'This is going to save poor people money, isn't this wonderful?', when, actually, the cost of climate change is being felt day in, day out, not just in people's pockets, but with their lives. So, what is the Welsh Government going to be doing to counter this narrative and stay firm in our commitment to the climate and nature emergency, and not allow people to be gaslit by the UK Government?
Absolutely, Heledd; I couldn't agree more. As it happens, we were already embarking on a programme of what we call behaviour support across Wales, and that will be part of Wales Climate Week in this coming autumn now. We have Youth Climate Week as well coming on, and we have been deliberately reaching out to communities that didn't participate before to try and get them in; we've got ambassadors for many communities actually working hard in their own communities to try and engage people in that discussion.
There's no doubt at all that with the announcements made, what we've done there is let the rich people off the hook. They're the ones who cause the most climate difficulty, actually. They tend to have bigger vehicles, they take more flights, they have larger houses, et cetera, et cetera. The poorer you are, the less your carbon footprint, effectively, and that's one of the issues we need to address, isn't it? We need to get to a just transition, and we need to make sure that the investment is put in in order to do that.
So, we'll continue to push forward with our programmes and policies. As I said, the specific effect of what he said isn't that great; as you've correctly identified, it's the behavioural and signalling effect that's so—. I don't know what to call it. Depressing, I suppose, is what I want to say, really, because the message is that, somehow, the climate can be put off for our children and our grandchildren to deal with.
You've heard us say in this Chamber many times that we need to do twice as much in this decade as we did in the preceding 20 years. We have been quite fast in decarbonising from where we were, but that's because the UK was the dirty man of Europe not very long ago, and obviously it's easier to get from 'very bad' to 'not too bad' quite quickly. It's getting from 'not too bad' to actually world-leading in what we're doing that's the difficult bit, and that's the bit that they've just thrown away.
There's much to be disappointed about here when we've got a climate and nature emergency and a cost-of-living crisis. The Prime Minister's removal of home insulation targets and regulations is yet another climate crime, one that benefits fuel companies and unscrupulous landlords when it could really have helped people, especially with the cost-of-living crisis.
Another one I want to highlight is scrapping recycling. Like you said, the Welsh Government has invested millions over the years to become second best, hopefully, in the world, at recycling, and that material is extremely valuable as well, as a recyclate, and recycling has actually brought people along with it as well, and made them feel that they're doing their bit with the climate emergency, and wanting to volunteer regarding litter picking and other things as well, so it's really important. Minister, can I just ask you, though, with that, will it impact on any consequentials coming to Wales, and will it impact on what we're trying to do, which is really important? And the extended producer responsibility legislation, has that been scrapped now, on the back of this? Thank you.
Thank you, Carolyn. The recycling one is particularly depressing, isn't it? The Prime Minister said something about needing to have seven bins in your home in order to recycle. We know that that's not true if we live in Wales. Some people can have seven bins in their home, of course; actually, I happen to have seven bins in my home, but you can do our recycling schemes in Wales without doing that, and we've done very well right across the piece.
Our recycling journey is a really interesting one for the opposite benches, if any of them are interested, because, of course, we in Wales also had people kicking back against the loss of black bin bags and so on, but they very rapidly realised that if they recycle, not only do they lower the waste their household generates—and we've got loads of evidence to show that waste generated lowers considerably once you collect it in that segregated way, because people can actually see what they're wasting, particularly in food bin collections, for example—but we also know that that's made us a world leader in attracting reprocessing firms coming here to Wales, actively seeking out our recyclate and taking virgin materials out of the production chain. The Prime Minister has entirely forgotten that that's what recycling is about. This isn't about the inconvenience of a householder; this is about saving the planet's precious resources for our future generations and, actually, the green economy and the circular economy being the next industrial revolution. So, I couldn't agree more. Our councils right across Wales, and all of our people in Wales, have embraced that wholeheartedly. And it's just a real shame that the UK Prime Minister has decided to, well, once again, pull a cheap publicity stunt off the back of a piece of information that is at best, disingenuous, and at worst, deceptive.
Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. It's—I apologise—no coincidence; I couldn't remember the word. It's no coincidence that Rishi Sunak's approval ratings fell to their lowest levels ever very soon after he made this announcement on pausing climate change measures. We know that a failure to invest in these interventions that are required now will mean a higher cost when it comes time to do that in the future, and it will require more extreme action later on as the crisis intensifies. Now, what this also shows me is that there are still very significant weaknesses in the devolution settlement, that Wales's ambition on net zero can not only be held back, but indeed undermined to such an extent, and so easily, by the UK Government. Now, the First Minister is very keen to paint a picture that a Labour Government in Westminster would be some kind of nirvana, but, Minister, can you tell us what a Labour Government would do differently when it comes specifically to empowering this Senedd and empowering us with those additional powers that we need, not only to meet the climate challenge but to prevent the UK Government from undermining what we're trying to do?
Thank you, Llyr. So, I couldn't agree more. I mean, what we're talking about is a proper industrial strategy and a proper economic strategy that allows the kind of investment across the economy that we need in order to radically change our economy to a green circular economy. And we have had very good conversations with the Labour frontbench about Keir Starmer's very-often-quoted vision for a green energy superpower. You can't do that unless you have the upfront investment in the grid and the infrastructure, you have the investment in, for example, the Celtic sea—there are many opportunities around the UK coast—and if you don't harness the natural resources of an island nation such as ours in order to combat climate change, but also, frankly, in order to not be reliant on things like imported gas. One of the biggest problems we've had with our energy crisis is the cost of imported gas. The fact that we have an energy price tagged to the marginal cost of gas is frankly ludicrous, given the amount of renewables that we generate here. We have a grid incapable of taking the level of renewables we could be generating. The UK could be a net exporter of renewables very easily, if you had a Government with the foresight to invest.
So, I very much look forward to—and I agree with the First Minister—I very much look forward to a Government that actually acts in the interests of the UK overall and turns us into the green energy superpower we richly deserve to be. And, of course, for Wales, that will mean harnessing our tidal power. I know that you're very interested in that. We have done well in tidal power so far, but we could do a lot better with the right kind of investment.