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The Welsh Government

The Welsh Government
3.1 million (2012)
£52 billion (2014)
The Welsh Government


Total GHG emissions (year): 45.83 MtCO2e (2012)

GHG emissions/capita/year: 14.9 tonnes CO2e (2012)

Wales is one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom. It has an area of just over 8,000 square miles (20,722 km²) and with a population of just over 3 million.

Wales has its own Government – the Welsh Government - and democratically elected legislature – the National Assembly for Wales.  Devolved responsibilities include areas like health, education, economic development, transport, agriculture, housing, planning and the environment.  In 1998, Wales became one of the first nations in the world to have a legal duty in relation to sustainable development at the heart of its constitution.

The Welsh Government has had a Climate Change Strategy in place since 2010. The strategy sets out the Welsh Government’s overarching commitments in terms of both reducing emissions and taking action to adapt to the consequences of climate change.  In working towards a reduction of at least 80% by 2050, the Climate Change Strategy set two headline emissions targets: 

  • a 3% annual reduction in emissions  (in areas of devolved competence)
  • a 40% reduction in overall emissions by 2020

To date, Wales has met its 3% annual emissions target and decreased emissions against the 40% target by 17.9% against the 1990 baseline, with positive progress in areas such as waste management and recycling and energy efficiency in domestic homes.

Wales has a proportionately high share of the UK’s heavy industry and is a net exporter of energy. A significant proportion of Wales’ emissions are therefore covered by the EU Emissions trading Scheme (ETS), accounting for just over 50% of Wales’ overall emissions.

Wales has a growing energy and environmental sector employing approximately 58,000 people in 2,066 companies. The sector has seen significant growth, with an increase of 90% from 2006 in sales turnover - from £1.24 billion to £2.36 billion.


At the heart of the innovative action being taken in Wales are the principles of Sustainable Development.  This can be seen in a number of key areas, in particular the Government’s legislative programme, the action to tackle fuel poverty whilst increasing energy efficiency and the successful drive to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Legislation for Sustainable Development

The current legislative programme contains landmark pieces of legislation that further enshrine Wales’ commitment to sustainable development and strengthen efforts to tackle key intergenerational challenges like climate change.

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act places sustainable development as the central organising principle of the public sector in Wales. It sets ambitious and long-term goals for a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales based on sustainable development principles and linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In putting these goals into law, it also establishes the role of a Future Generations Commissioner and aligns accountability against the achieving of the goals as the public sector’s overarching purpose.  

The Environment (Wales) Bill will put in place legislation to plan and manage Wales’ resources in a sustainable and joined-up way.  In doing so, it sets out requirements to manage, use and enhance Wales’ natural resources sustainably, enshrining the ecosystem approach from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity  which is essential to ensuring the resilience of ecosystems and tackling climate change.  It also puts in place the legal framework for not only statutory emission reduction targets, but also carbon budgeting towards the goal of at least an 80% reduction by 2050.  In addition the Bill further strengthens action on waste thereby further supporting the move to a more circular economy.

The Planning (Wales) Bill modernises Wales’ planning process with sustainable development in its centre, ensuring that planning decisions consider social, economic and environmental aspects.

Tackling Fuel Poverty and Climate Change, whilst supporting Green Growth

Work on energy efficiency has demonstrated that action on climate change can drive economic growth whilst also tackling vulnerability and inequality. The Welsh Government’s area based energy efficiency programmes and Warm Homes Programme have directly improved over 10,000 homes in some of the most deprived areas of Wales.  These schemes work to reduce the number of households in fuel poverty - making homes warmer and more energy efficient - whilst also providing jobs and training for local people.  Programmes include the Arbed ERDF Project which has created more than 470 new jobs and provided over 60,000 hours of training to new and existing employees. This has helped to support a wider increase in employment in the energy and environment sector together with a 90% increase in sales since 2006, which saw it outperform the majority of other sectors in Wales as one of the few sectors to have continually grown throughout the recession.

Recycling and circular economy

Wales is aiming to be a zero waste (100 per cent recycling) nation by 2050 and to recycle at least 70% of waste by 2025.  In order to achieve this, statutory recycling targets have been set, which, coupled with an investment of up to £750 million to support local authorities to deliver next generation waste facilities, has seen Wales achieve the highest recycling rates in the United Kingdom and become 4th in Europe from a low initial starting point.  Importantly, as well as significantly increasing recycling to 56%, work in the waste sector has significantly reduced emissions by 20.4% and delivered economic growthThe Welsh Government also anticipate savings against future costs of over £5.5m on food waste and over £500m on residual waste programmes.


The Welsh word for ‘children’ is ‘plant’ and as part of Wales’ commitment to future generations, for every child born or adopted in Wales, one native Welsh tree is planted in Wales together with one in Mbale, Uganda. This not only creates forests and increases carbon storage but also raises environmental awareness.  The Ugandan trees also provide other benefits as they are grafted fruit trees planted outside people’s homes to provide much needed shade and a valuable extra source of food supporting resilience and adaption for Ugandans already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Key Targets / Successes

Climate policy and GHG emissions reduction targets:

  • Reduce emissions within devolved areas by 3% each year
  • Reduce all Welsh emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Build resilience and adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Most innovative climate actions and emissions reduction successes:

Since the adoption of the target in the 2010 strategy, Wales has met its 3% annual emissions target and progress against the 40% target has seen emissions decrease by 17.9% against the 1990 baseline.

The latest Climate Change Annual Report for Wales shows that all sectors have reduced their emissions in comparison with the baseline, the reductions for each sector being as follows:

Transport Sector (-8.2%), Residential Sector (-7.2%), Business Sector (-16.7%), Agriculture and Land-use sector (-1.2%), Resource Efficient and Waste Sector (-20.4%), and the Devolved Public Sector (-3.1%).

The framework for climate change action in Wales has been further strengthened this year, by the passing of the Well-being of future Generations Act.  The Act, in identifying long term goals to improve the well-being of Wales and apply sustainable development principles, makes specific reference to the need to act on climate change by reducing emissions, building resilience and ensuring that Wales is globally responsible in its actions.  The Act also ensures that risks from climate change are taken into account and appoints a Future Generations Commissioner with advising on climate change as part of a wide remit.

 In addition, the Welsh Government has proposed to further strengthen the climate change commitments through an Environment Bill currently before the Assembly, which:

  • Includes a statutory target of at least an 80% target reduction of emissions in Wales by 2050;
  • Puts in place the legal framework for carbon budgeting.

Energy efficiency

The Welsh Government have invested £108 million annually to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standards.  Although the housing stock in Wales is quite old, 74% of the existing social housing has been brought up to an energy rating of D or above and the Welsh Government is working to 100% of all homes by 2020.

The Welsh Government Warm Homes Programme includes two energy efficiency schemes, Nest and Arbed. Nest is a scheme working to help reduce the number of households in fuel poverty and make homes warmer and more energy efficient. It offers advice and support to save energy and maximise income. Arbed was established in 2009 to bring environmental, social and economic benefits to Wales and coordinate investment into the energy performance of Welsh homes. Nest and Arbed have improved over 10,000 homes in some of the most deprived areas of Wales, whilst providing jobs and training for local people. In particular, the Arbed ERDF project has delivered 32 schemes in 19 of the 22 local authorities across Wales, created more than 470 new jobs and provided over 60,000 hours of training to new and existing employees. The schemes have been delivered by companies that are based in Wales, with most being SMEs. So far the programme has saved around 2.48Ktc and energy savings of 9.5 gigawatt hours.

Wales is building on these successful schemes and looking to accelerate action and delivery through its Energy Efficiency Strategy and its support and advice service - Resource Efficient Wales (REW). REW is a single point of contact to support people and organisations to save energy and water and to reduce and re-use waste.

As well as looking at social housing, the Welsh Government is also looking to lead by example and has reduced emissions on its own administrative estate by 32% in 2014/15.

Eco-schools Programme

The international Eco-schools Programme is particularly successful in Wales with over 90% of schools actively engaged, representing over 430,000 students.  The programme looks at energy, water; transport; waste minimisation; biodiversity; healthy living; litter and global citizenship. The Eco-schools Programme engages and educates children and young people on issues such as Climate Change, as well as providing a platform for community engagement.

Renewable Energy

The Welsh Government’s energy policy, Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition, sets out how Wales will move from fossil fuel based energy generation to utilise a wider mix of energy sources, which are mainly renewable or low in carbon. Currently there are onshore wind energy projects in a third of Local Authorities in Wales realising economic and community benefits. The capacity of renewable energy installations in Wales increased by 55% to 1.8GW during 2014, with significant increases in areas like offshore wind.

Building on progress in on- and offshore wind energy, marine energy is also a key priority. Wales already has some smaller scale schemes and is now seeing proposals for major schemes like constructing a 320 MW tidal lagoon in South Wales between the ports of Swansea and Neath. If consented, it will be the first tidal lagoon in the UK, capable of powering over 155,000 homes (equivalent to 90% of Swansea Bay's annual domestic electricity use) for 120 years.

The Ynni’r Fro Programme supports community scale renewable energy schemes. It offers communities advice, grants and loans to enable them to develop renewable energy projects. The programme has  supported  57 community led renewable energy schemes since 2012, with 11 of these schemes on course to be constructed and generating a combined installed capacity of 5.5MW by the end of 2015. Estimates show that a total of £8.72m of private sector investment will be levered into Ynni’r Fro projects by the end of 2015.

Current Activities

Flagship initiative

The  primary legislation that embeds sustainable development and strengthens the framework for climate change action through the application of the ecosystems approach and the legal requirement for carbon budgeting is particularly innovative.  In this way, the Well-being of Future Generations Act and Environment Bill builds on Wales’ previous achievements as one of the first nations in the world with a constitutional duty on sustainable development.  The legislation demonstrates how the key international workstreams covering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity can be integrated at the subnational level to drive real change.  The legislation is also already gaining international recognition. 

The UN recently praised the Act saying: "The Wales Future Generations Act captures the spirit and essence of two decades of United Nations work in the area of sustainable development and serves as a model for other regions and countries… We hope that what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow. Action, more than words, is the hope for our current and future generations.”

The Size of Wales is another example of an internationally innovative scheme developed in Wales and co-funded by the Welsh Government.  The focus of the work has been to sustain an area of tropical forest the size of Wales. The aim of the project was to plant 1 million trees in highly deforested areas of Uganda to help restore soil stabilisation.  

The project has now achieved its aim with the Wales’ First Minister planting the one millionth tree in Mbale, Uganda in January 2015. The ambitious next phase of the project is now looking to plant 10 million trees and help 5 coffee co-operatives to grow shade trees to protect coffee crops, supporting over 30 villages to establish tree nurseries, and working with over 1,600 families.  In 2011, the project was recognised by the UN as 1 of 10 lighthouse projects from around the world.


The Welsh Government's 3% emissions reduction target includes a sectoral target for transport. Current and future actions will focus on reduction of transport emissions through promoting healthier and more active travel journeys, supporting public transport through significant investment in bus, rail and the Metro and enhancing network resilience.

The  Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 is intended to enable more people to walk and cycle and generally travel by non-motorised transport. Making walking and cycling safer and more practical encourages healthier lifestyles, reduces carbon emissions and improves Wales’ environment.

Work on delivery of the next phase of a modern, high-quality public transport Metro system for south east Wales could begin as early as 2017, estimated to cost £500 - £600 million, to serve the growing public transportation needs of the Cardiff Capital City.

Sustainable land use

The Welsh Government’s Woodlands for Wales strategy sets out a 50 year plan for developing and using Welsh woodlands and trees to bring maximum benefit to the people of Wales. The strategy aims to increase urban woodland cover, and to make Wales’ woodland more diverse by planting a wide range of species that are more resilient to changes in climate as well as reducing Wales’ green house gas emissions. This work supports the delivery of the target to plant 100,000ha of new woodland by 2040 and an estimated 6 million trees have been planted between 2009 -15.

Farming Connect provides farm and forestry businesses with advice, guidance, training and events. It recognises the valuable role  the agricultural sector has in the future management of the environment and the sustainable use of Wales’ resources, with an emphasis on sustainable management as an essential and integral part of good business management. Activities include renewable energy generation and diversification, as well as climate change adaptation and sustainable management of natural resources and delivery of ecosystems services.  Glastir Woodland Management and the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme supports land managers who wish to create new woodland and/or manage existing woodlands providing carbon sequestration. It provides beneficial outcomes for a range of woodland type, species, and soils and water. Early estimations suggest that the six measures within Glastir could reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a farm by farm basis by up to 24%..

International collaboration

The Welsh Government is committed to playing its part internationally, working with partners through both the Climate Group and the Network for Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) and building support for a global deal in Paris 2015.

Since the Johannesburg Summit in 2002, the Welsh Government has developed a strong track record of international collaboration, with examples including:

  • Being a founding signatory and chair of the session that agreed the Gauteng Declaration in 2002;
  • The Wales for Africa programme in Mbale; Safeguarding an area of forest the Size of Wales in Africa (2015), a response to the dual challenge of climate change and international poverty reduction. The First Minister planted the one millionth tree in Mbale, Uganda in January 2015 and launched the ambitious next phase of the project looking to plant 10 million trees.
  • Being a founding signatory to the Compact of States and Regions (2014);
  • Being a founding signatory to the Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding (the ‘Under 2 MoU’ 2015).

In addition Wales has many bilateral links with other partners, including in Africa.  For example, Wales and Lesotho have been linked for almost thirty years, with Welsh charity Dolen Cymru, supported by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, creating life changing links through education, health and governance.  The First Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Lesotho in April 2014 to collaborate particularly with regards to climate change and sustainability. Through the clean energy grants scheme, in Summer 2014, Wales Africa Community Links worked with communities in Tanzania, Zanzibar and Uganda to bring rural electrification (using sustainable sources such as solar and hydro micro generation)

Innovative financing:

The Welsh Government is working to put in place the finance, support, innovation, skills and legislation to drive Green Growth and has already committed £5 million to the development of Green Growth Wales. 

The proposed Green Growth Wales fund aims to increase and accelerate projects to deliver green investment in Wales. It focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on encouraging investment in resource efficiency, renewable energy generation and waste projects.

Green Growth Wales is developing a pipeline of projects encompassing renewable energy, resource efficiency and energy from waste, with the intention to raise significant levels of private finance to support those projects.  These projects will provide new opportunities for businesses in Wales and protect and create jobs.  A package of project development support will ensure that organisations make use of the latest technologies and approaches that deliver the best energy solutions and  maximise the opportunities for Welsh businesses.

Building on our support of innovation, the Sêr Cymru programme (which means Welsh Stars) looks to enhance and build on the research capacity in Wales and has committed £50 million, which complements the £85 million capital investment in the energy industry and wider climate change framework worth almost £164 million.


The Climate Change Strategy includes an Adaptation Framework aiming to address Wales’ climate vulnerability by:

• Building an evidence base on future impacts.

• Mainstreaming adaptation to build capacity within organisations and communities.

• Communicating adaptation to ensure that decision makers understand the risks and opportunities and are equipped to manage them.

This is delivered through sectoral adaptation plans, which aim to deliver climate resilience in Wales’ sectors’ aims and objectives for the coming century. It is delivered through public sector guidance, which aims to help Welsh organisations adapt to the challenges of a changing climate, as well as through public service boards.

This has recently been strengthened in primary legislation by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which contains a requirement that Climate Change risks are fully considered by public bodies for future policies and actions and provisions under the Environment (Wales) Bill.  The Bill will set out the approach for the sustainable management of natural resources in Wales, which will help to adapt to the impacts of climate change; in doing so enshrining the ecosystem approach from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to deliver lasting, sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits which is essential to ensuring the resilience of ecosystems and tackling climate change.

More Info

Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy:

  • agriculture, food, fisheries, forestry and rural development
  • economic development
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and health services
  • highways and transport
  • housing
  • local government
  • town and country planning
  • water and flood defence

Most important economic sectors:

The following sectors all contribute significantly to the Welsh economy: energy and environment; advanced manufacturing and materials; ICT; creative industries; life sciences; financial and professional services; tourism; construction; and food and farming.

GHG breakdown by sector (%):


5.77 MtCO2e (19.13%)


7.11 MtCO2e  (23.57%)


9.39 MtCO2e  (31.15%)


5.93 MtCO2e  (19.65%)

Ressource Efficiency and Waste

1.14 MtCO2e (3.77%)

(Devolved) Public Sector

0.82 MtCO2e (2.73%)

Current power sector mix (%):














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