Energy Environment

Meeting the challenge or just hot air? Measuring progress in reducing Welsh greenhouse gas emissions

The Welsh Government’s 2014 Climate Change Annual Report sets out progress against its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the impacts of climate change. Looking at the headline figures, we can see that:

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

The Welsh Government’s 2014 Climate Change Annual Report sets out progress against its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the impacts of climate change. Looking at the headline figures, we can see that:

What are greenhouse gas emissions within devolved competence, and what is the Welsh Government’s target for reducing these?

Greenhouse gas emissions within the Welsh Government’s devolved competence are emissions in areas where the Welsh Government has the power to take action to reduce emissions. Examples of these include emissions in the devolved public sector, in peoples’ homes and from parts of the business sector. All emissions generated in Wales within these areas are included in the target, as are emissions from electricity consumption. The main areas not included in these figures are emissions from heavy industry and power generation from installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The Welsh Government’s target is to reduce these emissions by 3% each year from the baseline, which is measured using average emissions for the 2006-10 period. As 2012 is the second year of the target, emissions needed to have been reduced by 6% from the baseline to achieve it.

The way that the target is measured allows the Welsh Government to still meet its target even if there is an increase in emissions within devolved competence from one year to the next in some circumstances. This happened in 2012, where emissions rose by 3.3% compared to 2011, however as the reduction between the baseline and 2011 was 13%, the overall target of a 6% reduction over the two years has still been met. The chart below sets out emissions within devolved competence in each sector.

Source: Welsh Government, Climate Change Annual Report 2014
Source: Welsh Government, Climate Change Annual Report 2014

As these figures don’t cover all Welsh greenhouse gas emissions, what is the bigger picture?

Total greenhouse gas emissions generated in Wales rose by 5% between 2011 and 2012, leaving them at 17.9% lower than the 1990 baseline. According to the Welsh Government this is due to changes in global fuel prices causing a shift from natural gas to coal in the energy sector which as a result has increased its emissions.   As emissions from heavy industry and energy generation are not included within the Welsh Government’s 3% target, total emissions have increased by more than those in devolved areas.

To reach the Welsh Government’s 2020 target of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below the 1990 baseline, emissions in Wales will need to be reduced by a further 22.1 percentage points over the next eight years.

 Source: AEA, Greenhouse Gas Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: 1990-2012: Devolved Administration GHG Pivot Tables, July 2014

Source: AEA, Greenhouse Gas Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: 1990-2012: Devolved Administration GHG Pivot Tables, July 2014

What is likely to happen in the future, and what actions is the Welsh Government taking to further reduce emissions?

The Minister for Natural Resources refreshed the Welsh Government’s Climate Change Strategy in October 2014, particularly in response to performance against the 40% target and the implications of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Action being taken by the Welsh Government includes flood risk management, improving energy efficiency and investing in the green economy.

The Minister for Natural Resources has stated that statutory targets for emissions reduction and carbon budgeting are areas that the Welsh Government is considering. Issues of concern cited by the First Minister in June 2014 include that budgetary control of some high emission sectors is not fully devolved and so the Welsh Government might not be able to effectively deliver against the targets.

Looking forward, the Welsh Government predicts that emissions in devolved areas will have declined by around 3.8% between 2012 and 2013, but that overall Welsh greenhouse gas emissions will have increased by around 10%. This is due to a predicted increase of 20% in emissions from heavy industry and power generation from installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This is likely to mean that in the next annual report at the end of 2015 the Welsh Government will be continuing to meet its 3% year-on-year reduction target, but Wales will be further adrift from the 40% total emissions target.


Article by Gareth Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.