Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

11/11/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

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

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Baroness Brown of Cambridge Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd
Climate Change Committee

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

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

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:01.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 14:01.

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

Croeso cynnes i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith yn Senedd Cymru. Gaf i groesawu'r Aelodau i gyd atom ni'r bore yma? Dim ond i nodi ein bod ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau gan Jenny Rathbone, ond gwnawn ni faddau ei habsenoldeb hi gan ei bod hi, wrth gwrs, yn COP26 yn Glasgow heddiw, yn sicrhau, fel mae nifer o Aelodau eraill wedi'i wneud dros yr wythnos a hanner diwethaf, bod llais Cymru yn cael ei glywed. Mi fydd Aelodau yn ymwybodol bod hwn yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, felly mae yna ddarpariaeth gyfieithu o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Does dim angen i Aelodau bod yn gweithredu'u meicroffonau; mi fydd y technegwyr yn gwneud hynny ar ein rhan ni. Gaf i ofyn ar y cychwyn, felly, a oes yna unrhyw fuddiannau gan unrhyw Aelod i'w datgan? Nac oes. Diolch yn fawr. Mi ddylwn i nodi hefyd bod Joyce Watson yn bwriadu ymuno â ni yn nes ymlaen yn ystod y cyfarfod. Fel rŷn ni wedi'i gytuno ymlaen llaw, fel arfer, wrth gwrs, petawn i'n colli cysylltiad â'r cyfarfod, yna mi rŷn ni'n flaenorol wedi cytuno y bydd Delyth Jewell yn camu i'r adwy ac yn cadeirio yn fy absenoldeb i hyd at y pwynt, gobeithio, y byddaf i'n gallu ailymuno, petai angen gwneud hynny.

A very warm welcome to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee of the Welsh Parliament. May I welcome all Members? Just to note that we have received apologies from Jenny Rathbone, but we will forgive her on this occasion, of course, because she is attending COP26 in Glasgow today, ensuring, as many other Members have done over the past week and a half, that the Welsh voice is being heard there. Members will be aware that this meeting is held bilingually, so we do have simultaneous interpretation from Welsh to English. Members don't need to operate their own mikes during the meeting; the technicians will do that on our behalves. May I ask first of all: are there any declarations of interest from Members? There are none. I should also note that Joyce Watson does intend to join us later during our meeting. And, as has previously been agreed, if there is a problem with my connection, then we have agreed that Delyth Jewell will take the chair temporarily whilst I seek to rejoin the committee.

2. Addasu hinsawdd
2. Climate adaptation

Ymlaen â ni, felly, at yr ail eitem ar gyfer y cyfarfod heddiw, lle y byddwn ni, wrth gwrs, yn ystyried addasu hinsawdd. Fel yr oeddwn i'n sôn, mae rhai ohonom ni wedi bod yn COP26 yn yr wythnos ac ychydig yn fwy diwethaf yma. Dwi'n un ohonyn nhw ac mae Cadeiryddion eraill y Senedd wedi bod hefyd, ynghyd â rhai Aelodau eraill. Mi roedd e'n gyfle i ni rannu ein profiad ni o Gymru a hefyd i ddysgu o'r hyn sydd yn digwydd mewn gwledydd eraill, a dwi'n siŵr bod llawer o'r dysgu yna yn rhywbeth fydd yn werthfawr iawn i ni wrth i ni symud ymlaen i edrych ar yr agenda yma. Mi fyddwn ni'n aros yn eiddgar iawn i weld, wrth gwrs, beth yw canlyniadau'r trafodaethau ac a yw'r 1.5 gradd wedi cael ei gadw'n fyw. Mi ddown ni i wybod, mae'n debyg, o fewn y ddau neu dri diwrnod nesaf yma.

Mae lliniaru newid yn yr hinsawdd yn aml yn cael lle amlwg mewn trafodaethau, ond mae'n rhaid inni beidio ag anwybyddu, wrth gwrs, pwysigrwydd addasu i newid yn yr hinsawdd heddiw. Mi fydd Aelodau'n ymwybodol bod y trydydd asesiad risg newid hinsawdd wedi'i gyhoeddi nôl ym mis Mehefin eleni, ac mae'r asesiad yna, a dweud y lleiaf, yn eithaf sobreiddiol. A heddiw, fel roeddwn i'n awgrymu, mi fyddwn ni'n cael cyfle i edrych ar rai o'r materion allweddol sy'n codi o'r asesiad hwnnw a'u goblygiadau nhw i ni yma yng Nghymru, ac unrhyw gynllun addasu i newid hinsawdd fydd gan Lywodraeth Cymru wrth iddyn nhw ailadrodd neu ailategu’r cynllun hwnnw yn y dyfodol.

Felly, i'n tywys ni drwy'r sesiwn nesaf yma, mae'n bleser gen i groesawu'r Farwnes Brown o Gaergrawnt, sydd, wrth gwrs, yn gadeirydd pwyllgor addasu Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd y Deyrnas Unedig—croeso cynnes i chi, Farwnes Brown. Dwi'n deall eich bod chi'n dymuno gwneud cyflwyniad i ni ar y cychwyn, ac wedyn mi symudwn ni i mewn i gwestiynau ar ôl hynny. Felly, fe wnaf i drosglwyddo'r awenau i chi ar gyfer y cyflwyniad. Diolch.

We'll move on, therefore, to our second item, where we will be considering climate adaptation. As I mentioned, some of us have been in COP26 over the past 10 days or so. I'm one of them and other Senedd Chairs have also been in attendance, as have some other Members, and it was an opportunity for us to share our experiences from Wales and to learn from what is happening elsewhere, and I'm sure that much of that learning will be very valuable to us as we move on to look at this agenda. And we await the outcomes of those discussions with baited breath and to see whether 1.5 degrees has been kept alive. We will know within two or three days, I suppose.

Mitigating climate change is often high on the agenda in these discussions, but we mustn't forget the importance of climate adaptation too. And Members will be aware that the third climate change risk assessment was published back in June this year, and that does make for quite sobering reading. And today, as I suggested, we will have an opportunity to look at some of the key issues arising from that assessment and what they mean for us here in Wales, and for any future iteration of the Welsh Government's climate change adaptation plan, as they develop that for the future.

So, to guide us through this next session, it's my pleasure to welcome Baroness Brown of Cambridge, who is, of course, chair of the UK Climate Change Committee's adaptation committee—a very warm welcome to you, Baroness Brown. I understand that you wish to make a presentation at the outset and then we will move to questions following that. So, I will now transfer to you for your presentation. Thank you.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:04:17

Thank you very much. I understand that everybody has access to a copy of the presentation and that there is a version available also—the same version—for the public, who may be following the meeting. So, I hope that that will work for everyone. 

I want to talk to you about the outcome of the technical report—the evidence report—for the third climate change risk assessment, which is what was published in June. Alongside that was published the committee's advice to the UK Government on developing its third climate change risk assessment for the UK, which will be published early next year, I understand.

Let me start with what is the second slide, the first slide after the front page, which says, 'Our changing climate: Global temperature changes since 1860'. If you look up to 2020, this shows the actual data of how global temperature has changed, and then, from 2020 to the end of the century, it shows a Met Office projection of the kind of temperature variation we might see if we are on a par to no more than 2 degrees of global warming. And, at the moment, if people meet their upgraded nationally determined contributions and the other commitments they have made, there is a chance that we might be on that sort of path. The other commitment at Paris, which was to aim for as close as possible to 1.5, you will also see marked on that chart, but, unfortunately, the COP doesn't at the moment look as if that's going to be the outcome of these negotiations, at present anyway.

But what you will see is that, from 2020 to 2050, even if we are on this path to no more than 2 degrees of warming, you will see that we see the same kind of intense rate of warming that we've seen in the last 10 years, the hottest 10 years on record globally. You'll see that sort of rate of warming continues to 2050. So, we are, even on this path, going to see considerable further climate change occurring.

And then you'll see above that there is a purple dotted triangle. That shows the range of outcomes we could expect from 2 degrees, or just above, to absolutely worst cases of, potentially, 5 degrees, depending on the outcome, essentially, of the COP, and hopefully future negotiations as well. But, at the moment, if we continue, not with the commitments countries have made, but with what they are actually doing, we could well be nearer that top path, perhaps expecting some 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century, with devastating consequences. So, that triangle kind of indicates the range of outcomes that might be possible. 

If we move on to the next slide, headed 'Further climate change is inevitable', there's a column with a yellow heading that says 'Inevitable change by mid-century'. That's just to remind us that, currently, we are probably expecting 1.8 degrees or so of warming by the 2050s. We will see a lot of hot summers, so summers like the 2018 heatwave summer will become a typical summer by the mid century. We will see rainfall reducing in the summer, so more likelihood of drought, and rainfall increasing in the winter, so increasing the likelihood of flooding. Overall, we'll see an increase in rainfall and we will see more rainfall coming as short bursts of particularly heavy rain, leading to things like river flooding and surface water flooding, and we'll see a continuing rise in sea level, increasing coastal erosion and, of course, coastal flooding. 

So, as these two slides I think indicate, there's quite a lot of climate change still to come even if we're on a 2 degree path, and, actually, even if we're on a 1.5 degree path, as we all hope might be the outcome.

The next chart shows observed changes in temperature and rainfall in Wales, just to highlight some of the sort of local data that we can now derive from the Met Office's latest projections. But this is actually historic data—apologies—and the historic data shows you that, in Wales, temperature from the pre-industrial period has risen perhaps by as much as 1.5 degrees, although I think that's exaggerated because it looks as if you were having a cold spell in the early 1880s. But, certainly, that 1.2 degrees or so that's characteristic of the rest of the UK is very much indicated there. And the chart below shows that you have been seeing a very gradual increase in overall rainfall already in Wales, and we will expect that to become more marked in the next 30 years.

If we move to the next slide, that is a diagram that indicates all of the components that have been published in June this year, in relation to the independent assessment of UK climate risk, which forms part of CCRA3, the third climate change risk assessment. The really fat document that's been published is called the CCRA3 technical report. That's been produced by over 400 experts, co-ordinated by the adaptation committee, but not produced by the adaptation committee. It's an independent expert report, taking on board all of the latest research on climate impacts on the UK, and using the Met Office's latest UKCP team climate predictions. There have been a lot of other things that have fed into that technical report—a whole range of reports commissioned by the Climate Change Committee, for example our first report on UK wildfires, which shows that we are seeing a significant increase in wildfires in the UK, as well as the horrendous wildfires we've been seeing in places like Greece and California. The outputs from all of this work are our advice report to Government, so that's the CCRA3 advice report, and things like the national summaries, for which there is, of course, one for Wales. The CCRA3 advice report, because that's a report from the committee, is published on the Climate Change Committee website. The rest of this material is published on a new website, which is called Climate Risk. 

If we come to the next slide, which says, 'The level of urgency of adaptation has increased since 2017', this is one of the outcomes of the new detailed technical analysis for CCRA3. It shows that the proportion of risks and opportunities that are now classified as 'more action needed'—so, the ones that are seen as being most urgent—has significantly increased since the second climate change risk assessment five years ago. So, there's a very strong message from the report that adaptation action across the UK is not keeping up with the rate at which climate risk to the UK is increasing. 

The next slide moves on to the committee's independent advice to Government. It's headed, 'Highest priorities for further adaptation in the next two years'. The technical report produced a list of some 62 risks and opportunities that the Government should look at, and one of the things that the committee has done is, using a number of criteria, including what kind of current legislation was in progress and what key national priorities there are, looked at what are the absolute critical areas for the Government to focus on for the next couple of years. So, we have eight very high priorities for action in the next couple of years. 

The first four of those I will group as being risks to the natural environment—so, risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from a whole range of climate hazards; risks to soil health, particularly from flooding and drought; risks to natural carbon stores, so risks to our ability to sequester carbon, again from a whole range of climate hazards; and risks to the production of crops and livestock, again from multiple climate hazards. All of those are particularly critical in the context of the net-zero strategy. The UK's net-zero strategy relies on a significant planting of trees, getting up to some 50,000 hectares of new tree planting per annum by 2050, to sequester carbon, and, also, the restoration of peatlands and wetlands as well to sequester carbon, in order to help us to meet our net-zero target. If our land and our soils are suffering from climate change and are not in excellent condition, we are not going to be able to achieve those goals. If our trees are suffering from drought and flooding and new pests and diseases, they're not going to be growing in a healthy way to sequester carbon. In order to make the space for planting all of those trees, the CCC's analysis suggests that we will need to increase the productivity of our agricultural land by something like 10 per cent per decade out to 2050—so, 30 per cent in total. That will require our soils to be in really excellent condition to enable that to happen. So, we think it's really crucial that these risks to aspects of the natural environment are addressed. And also, we, of course, have things like the Environment Act 2021, which has just come through Parliament in Westminster, and we have other types of legislation on nature and environment in process in Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.

The fifth risk is about risks to the supply of food, goods and other vital services and the security of our supply chains. And, of course, that's become of heightened interest to us because we've seen the impacts of COVID on supply chain security.

The sixth risk is risks to people and the economy from failure in the power system. We know that failures in the power system create cascading risks because so many things currently rely on electricity, but, by the time we get to 2050, we will be even more reliant on electricity. At the moment, about 15 per cent of our energy comes from electricity. By 2050, it'll be something like 60 per cent to 70 per cent of our energy that will come in the form of electricity. So, any failure in any part of the power system will set off a whole range of really critical cascading risks. So, we need to be looking very hard at the resilience of that system.

The seventh one is risks to human health and well-being from exposure to increased temperatures. We've experienced some very hot summers recently. We're going to be experiencing some even hotter summers on our way to 2050. And the right time to address that is as we're looking at building regulations, as we are in England at the moment, and also as we're planning to build large numbers of new homes across the country every year from now until 2050. So, it's really crucial that we look at building regulations and make sure that homes are built to withstand the higher temperatures.

And then the final one is the multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas, and that of course also links to the food and supply chain risks. Because we all want to get up in the morning and have our tea and coffee, but we need to be aware that countries like Colombia are struggling to grow the kind of coffee they've historically grown because of the changes in temperature and the problems with drought. So, we need to be aware of climate risk overseas—climate impact overseas—and we also need to be supporting some of these countries in ensuring that our food supplies and our supply chains will continue to operate.

If we move to the next slide, we've highlighted the fact that some of these priorities have particular relevance to the situation in Wales—so, the risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought. The risks from intense rainfall are higher on soils made of unconsolidated materials from contaminated land and spoil tips in former mining areas, so that could be a particular issue in the Welsh context.

The risks to the natural carbon stores—. Wales is relying, I think, on somewhere between 4 and 7 megatonnes of nature-based removals in 2050, as part of achieving its net-zero pathway. The risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees—well, the evidence shows that, without adaptation, and if we're on a high climate path, then something like 57 per cent of the best and the most versatile agricultural land in Wales could be at risk of river flooding by the 2050s. So, a very significant proportion of Welsh agricultural land potentially at risk of flooding. And then, the risks to human health and well-being from heat: the evidence suggests that heat-related death rates in Wales could more than double by the middle of the century without further adaptation. And perhaps I should flag that overheating doesn't appear to be much of a focus in the Welsh 2019 adaptation plan. So, that may be an area that you want to look at in more detail.

The next slide shows further examples of some of the key risks to Wales. The first one being highlighted is the risks of coastal erosion and the risks to viability of coastal communities. Around the UK, Wales is particularly susceptible to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, and so this risk is probably significantly higher in Wales than in other parts of the UK. And then, because of Wales's history with mining and with spoil heaps, the risks to infrastructure and building from ground subsidence from things like the excess rainfall and, of course, that combination of rainfall and then potentially dry summers that can cause instability.

The next slide is really a summary of the types of actions that can be taken in order to adapt to the future climate. I won't go through it. I think it's just a useful summary of the range of interventions that can be made, ranging from the engineered solutions like the flood barriers that we're so used to, through, of course, behavioural issues and making sure people have warnings and communication and understand what to do in the case of, for example, flooding, through to the continuing need for data and further research and development.

If we move on to the next slide, which is again headed, 'What can be done?', it's actually, in many ways, the good-news slide in this slide pack. It shows the benefit-to-cost ratio of taking adaptation action for the areas where we can find that information. One of the challenges we have in adaptation is that we don't yet have enough financial and economic information about the benefits of taking adaptation action. But where we do have it—so, for example, water efficiency measures, heatwave planning, many of the areas of taking action against flooding—we tend to find that the benefit-cost ratios are high, many of them falling in the range of 5:1 to more than 10:1. We need more of this kind of information, because, of course, it helps in arguments with treasuries and finance organisations in terms of persuading them to make the money available, to take the critical adaptation action that's needed. But this is an area where we, across the UK, we need to do more work and collect more information, so that we have a more comprehensive view of the value of taking adaptation action.

The next slide is again part of our advice report to Government, saying that we really do need to be thinking about effective adaptation in everything we do. We offer the Government these 10 principles, which, sadly, we think are generally still missing from UK policy. The first is that we really do need a vision for a well-adapted UK, or, of course, a well-adapted Wales, or an objective, an adaptation objective, which is the way they approach this in the Netherlands, so that we know what it is we're aiming at and so that we really can assess whether we're making progress towards achieving that in a very clear way that people can understand.

The second thing that we certainly are not yet seeing in England is that we need to integrate adaptation into almost all other policies. So, when the Government launched the green homes grant, it was for putting heat pumps into buildings, but if we're insulating buildings and putting in heat pumps, we also need to be thinking about the ventilation and how those buildings are going to perform in very hot weather. That wasn't taken into account in that policy. The net-zero strategy itself also barely, for example, makes mention of adaptation. Adaptation really does need to be integrated into policy making. As I intimated at the beginning, we need to be planning and we have to adapt to 2 degrees of warming, and we should have on our risk register that the warming could be as high as 4 degrees.

We should also be thinking all the time about avoiding lock-in. So, for example, not continuing to build homes in floodplains, where we can avoid it, and not continuing to build homes that will overheat in the summers that we will regularly get in the 2050s. We need to be preparing for unpredictable extremes, things like the events in Belgium and Germany—the terrible flooding they had there in July where over 200 people died. We need to make sure, for unpredictable events like that, that our emergency planning and our information and communication with people is absolutely up to scratch.

We need to be considering interdependencies. The electricity system is the most obvious example of that, and the kind of cascade of failures that will occur when there's an interruption to electricity supply caused, for example, by flooding, or a tree falling on some overhead wires, or something like that. We need to understand where there may be threshold effects. We usually assume things change linear with time or with temperature, but, actually, there are some processes that change abruptly, and therefore effects can be much more extreme than we expect them to be if we've assumed a linear behaviour. Where they exist, we need to consider what opportunities climate change will bring. They are, in our assessment and in the independent assessment, far fewer than the risks, but where we're going to get them, we need to take advantage of them. 

Very crucially, we need to address inequalities, because climate change disproportionately impacts the vulnerable. There's an example of that: low-income families affected by flooding report eight times as high a rate of mental illness and stress as a result of that flooding as affluent families. And it's not surprising, is it? They're probably less likely to have their homes and contents insured; it's going to be much more disruptive to their lives. So, you get a downward spiral or an increasing spiral of vulnerability caused by climate impacts on the poor or the already vulnerable. And then, finally, of course, all of this needs to be supported by the appropriate funds and resources, and the appropriate metrics, so that we can see how we are progressing. In many areas, we still need further research.

Just to quickly say a few words in summary, the final slide is just to say that we, I think, all now recognise that we are seeing climate change. It's not something that's going to happen in the future, it's with us now. What happened in Germany could have happened here. We were lucky that weather system didn't linger over us rather than lingering over mainland Europe. The technical assessment and the evidence report for the CCRA3 shows us that the gap between the risk and the actions we are taking is getting bigger, and that that has happened over the last five years. So, we are not moving fast enough to address the changing climate. And if we don't address the changing climate, then it really does mean we will find it more and more difficult to reach some of these critical societal goals that include net zero. And so, we do need some bold leadership at all levels of Government to make sure we are prepared for future climate change, but also, as part of, in a way, our just transition, we need to make sure we are looking out for the most vulnerable, because they will be the most impacted by climate change. We really need to make sure we are focusing our support in helping them to become more resilient. Thank you very much. I'll stop talking to my slides there. 

14:30

Thank you very much, Baroness Brown. It made for some grim listening at times, I have to say. I'm so glad there was a cost-benefit ratio slide in there just to remind us that, as you say, there are opportunities when it comes to addressing some of those risks. I'm sure Members will have a number of questions stemming from the presentation, and there are some areas obviously that we're keen to pursue as well. Could I just ask, for clarity—? Not that we maybe need reminding very much, but you mentioned the increasing gap between the risk and adaptation action. It's been said the longer we leave it the more costly it'll be and the harder it'll be to achieve what we need to achieve. The increase that we've seen in that gap over the last five years, presumably, proportionately, that'll get even bigger over the coming five years unless we take action now. 

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:31:20

It is very likely to unless we take action now, I think, yes. 

Because the Office for Budget Responsibility I think have said that if we leave it a decade then the cost will double. So, that probably is another sobering thought, really, isn't it? Do Members wish to pick up on any particular points in the presentation? Delyth first of all, then.

Sorry to the sound engineer; I always do that. I always unmute myself and then we have to do the dance of muting and unmuting. Sorry. 

I was actually going to ask you, Baroness Brown, if—. Thank you very much for that presentation. I was going to ask you whether there is any data that you can pinpoint that make you least likely to despair. Like Llyr has just been saying, that one slide actually provides if not hope then at least a cause for least despair. In terms of how the Welsh Government itself is faring in relation to adaptation cost, with cost-benefit ratios, do you have any cause for optimism on that? Is there something in particular, a message in particular, you'd like us to convey to the Welsh Government in relation to how this is the opportunity, that this is the only data that we can see that actually shouldn't mean that we are all despairing?

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:32:48

Well, I can't say anything I'm afraid specifically about the Welsh Government, but I presented that slide actually at COP on adaptation this week, and the response from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK was to say, 'Gosh, we hadn't noticed that one. That really is quite encouraging.' And clearly, we do need more data on the economic benefits of adaptation action. But I think certainly some in the UK Government have been very much encouraged to see that and were thinking about how they would use that in their future bids for funding. 

Our position on the Climate Change Committee is that the requirement in the legislation is that we review England's actions on adaptation but not Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. The Scottish Government request us to review theirs, so we formally review progress on the Scottish adaptation plans, but we have no remit in relation to the Welsh adaptation plans. So, although I know a little about it, it's not something I'm very familiar with. 

No, that's fair enough, and you had intimated as much in the presentation. Thank you very much. 

Thank you, Delyth. Huw, and then we'll come to Joyce. So, Huw first. 

Thank you, Chair. It's interesting, in that response there, that you don't have any role. I just wonder whether you think that we should be encouraging the Welsh Government to engage further with you in terms of the monitoring and evaluation of progress.

But, the question I wanted to ask as well is: the stark thing that stands out from the very good presentation you've just given us is the fact of the widening between adaptation plans and the reality of what we need to do as each year has gone by, and yet we have clearly known of these challenges for a decade, two decades; there's been great recent analysis of the so-called lost decade that we've had because of some of the dispute over climate change science and some of the black ops that were deployed to actually muddy the waters around it. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are from a UK perspective on why we have not gone ahead at the speed that we have. Whether it's on SuDS, whether it's on energy efficiency measures, whether it's on land use planning, whether it's on water catchment management plans; these things have been in place for over a decade, I know, because some of them I introduced in Westminster. Why are we not in a situation where we've advanced more speedily than we needed to?

14:35
Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:35:57

I absolutely agree with you, it's hugely frustrating, and, absolutely, my views are in line with yours—the frustration that we haven't advanced. It has been clear, certainly in England, that DEFRA have struggled to get funding—other than for the Environment Agency—have struggled to get funding and have struggled to influence other Government departments, like what was our Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which I gather is now called our Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Local Government—have struggled to influence them to do something about building standards and things like that. So, it's been a very frustrating situation, and I fear now that actually net zero has become such an exciting kind of challenge for everyone that there is a bit of a perception that, if we can do net zero, it solves the problem, which is why I started with that Met Office projection of how the temperature will rise to 2050 even if we're on a path to net zero.

And I think, of course, historically, we haven't seen very major effects of climate change yet in the UK. I would hate it to take us having to have another disaster like the one in Germany for people to really sit up and take notice. But it is quite difficult to get people to take adaptation really seriously in this country and to recognise the value of it. And again, that's why the more data we can accumulate, the more economic data we can accumulate of the benefits, the better chance we have of making our case for the need for this.

Could I just do a short follow-up on that, Llyr, because I know other people have got questions as well? I think your analysis is right on a UK perspective, that DEFRA is such an important department, but, often, in the pecking order of Whitehall, it comes way down the line; it doesn't have the clout in No. 10 that it should have. One of the innovations here in Wales, following the last Senedd election, is to actually produce a—in effect, it's a ministry for climate change. But I'm taking from what you say that, curiously, that on its own is not sufficient. That ministry for—and the Minister and Deputy Minister for—climate change, and this scope right across Government, need to focus not simply on climate mitigation, but very, very firmly on climate adaptation in Wales as well. And I go back to my opening point, Chair: some of the policies we are now implementing in Wales, and it's good that we're doing it, it's taken us a decade to get on with doing, and it's the same at a UK level. But that point, Baroness Brown, on the need for the Welsh Ministers for climate change to focus on adaptation is as important as having the ministry.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:39:09

I think you're absolutely right, and I think perhaps the other part of the challenge to why we have found this so difficult is because we now have this really simple objective on mitigation, which is net zero, that everybody can understand—you can align your plans with it—we don't have a simple objective on adaptation. In fact, as far as I can see, we have no objective on adaptation except to make things a bit better than they might be. We don't have a commitment, for example, to the population of the country to say, 'We will make sure things are no worse than they are today' or—. There is nothing against which we can actually properly measure progress.

Thank you. Before I bring Joyce in, you mentioned an objective, and you mentioned that in your presentation—you referred to the Netherlands. Could you just give us a flavour of what that—

14:40
Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:40:05

Yes, certainly. The Delta Commission, which works to—it sits somewhere between the Climate Change Committee and the Environment Agency in the Netherlands—which is there to prevent, in a country much of which is below sea level—which is there to ensure that they are protected from flooding.

First of all, I have to apologise, but I had to be somewhere. I had to take my husband to an appointment, and that was out of my control, so that's why I wasn't here, because I wouldn't be so rude as not to be here if I could have been. I did catch quite a bit of your presentation before my camera would work and what have you. So, my—. And I thank you for your time and coming to speak to us, of course. But I'm particularly keen to probe down on the nature-based solutions that you outline. One of the things that caught my eye—well, they all caught my eye—was increasing plant diversity, and whether that would mean having the plant diversity that currently exists here within Wales, or whether we needed to look at, more widely, plant diversity from maybe elsewhere, particularly the EU, given that we've left the EU, and any barriers, if that is the case, that might be in our way, if that is what you're saying. That would be my first question, if I could come back.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:41:56

Well, I think you make a very interesting point there about wildlife and plant diversity, because I think we do have to think about diversity in the context of the changing climate, and some of the things that we grow today will not be suitable in the climate we have in the 2040s or the 2050s. So, certainly already in the south-east of England, we're recognising that we shouldn't be planting beech trees, because they will not grow to maturity in the hotter, drier conditions. We're having to think about whether, in some areas in the south-east, we need to be introducing some Mediterranean species in order to maintain or improve diversity. So, sadly, we can't think, I think, of just conserving what we've got, although we do need to give the wildlife and the plants we have the very best chance of surviving. But we do need to be thinking about what will be—. Particularly for tree planting and for things that have long lifetimes, where we want the carbon sequestration, we've got to be thinking about what will be healthy and survive in the environment in the 2040s or the 2050s. So, as you say, that may well mean thinking about what species we want to introduce to supplement what we already have.

Thank you. I only have to look out the back garden to see that I've got cosmos in full bloom, and they should have bloomed at least six weeks ago. So, in those terms, the soil, conservation, will also come into play, because the soil will have changed if it's dehydrated, if it's warmer, and you did talk a little—I heard you talk a little—about soil degradation subject to flooding, and the impact on farming, which we rely very heavily on. So, what would be your message now for us to give to Government beyond those things that are listed there?

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:44:19

I think it's hugely important that farmers are supported to farm in ways that work to support nature, to support carbon sequestration, and to improve the quality of our soils so that they can deal with these more, if you like, aggressive climatic conditions—in terms of protecting soils through the winter, for example, the growing of cover crops and things like that to reduce the erosion of topsoil—but really to make sure that the incentives for farmers that replace the common agriculture policy make sure that we incentivise them to do things that will support adaptation, but also to do things that will support mitigation and carbon sequestration, and one of those we think is a strong focus on soil health.

14:45

My other interest is the marine plant life and how you balance that with your fishing policies, particularly, because, clearly, if you're trawling the ground—the sea bed—you're going to also damage anything that grows within that sea bed and all the habitat that depends on that. So, I just wonder—. Obviously, we know that the ocean and the grasses that grow at the bottom of the ocean are very significant carbon capturers, and support a huge balance for habitat. So, have you—I'm sure you do—any comments to make about not only expanding it, but not destroying it in the way that we fish?

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:46:40

I think one of the things that's going to become increasingly important all around the UK is that we take a really thoughtful approach to sea bed spatial planning, because we have more and more demands on our sea bed, whether that's for offshore windfarms, whether it's for fishing, whether it's for carbon sequestration. And, as you say, things like kelp we know are very good ways of—. Blue carbon is very important in terms of carbon sequestration. So, it's not, I think, perhaps specifically an adaptation issue, but I think sea bed planning in order to make sure that we can enable these activities to coexist without, as somebody described it to me, urbanising the sea bed, is hugely important.

Thank you very much. Okay. Janet, I know, is being very patient, in fairness, wanting to come in. Huw, did you want to pick up on anything in particular, or can I go to Janet and come back to you? 

Thank you, and thank you, Baroness Brown. I found your presentation and your slides—. Whilst we believe that these things, you know, it's there in black and white—and, you know, excellent presentation. Now, the CCRA3 report found that climate change is likely to increase heat-related mortality, and you've touched on this yourself today—heat stroke and heat exhaustion indoors. Now, it also advocated for passive cooling measures to be prioritised. Given a recent study has found that shade can be caused by large and leafy trees, and that they too can have a profound cooling effect of up to 12 degrees, what planting adaptation does the UK CCC wish to see in urban Wales? And in terms of building infrastructure, what steps do we need to be taking to adapt to passive cooling measures?

And I find this question really relevant, because I've been looking at new housing developments recently, and whilst they've got it right in terms of keeping the cold out, I'm aware of some recent developments whereby they've then had a problem in the summer where they're going to have to start looking at introducing cooling systems. And then you start to think, 'Well, that uses energy'. And I just wondered where the balance is going to be right on that, or whether you could just respond to that and about the trees. Thank you.  

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:49:27

First of all, I couldn't agree with you more; I think we've had a good focus on insulating homes and reducing people's heating costs, but also reducing the emissions associated with that heating, but we should all throughout have had a focus, alongside that, on ventilation and cooling, because we need to emit less carbon dioxide, but we also are going to need to live in homes that are going to get hotter in the summer. And, of course, trees as a nature-based solution to keeping our cities cooler, I think, are a fantastic solution. We need more urban green space. We need more urban green space because it can provide shading, and we can provide shading along pavements. You can keep pavements several degrees cooler if they have trees along them, but we need more urban green space because it also acts as a sponge, so when you get these short, sharp, or, in some cases, longish sharp showers, which are going to become more common in the future and are going to cause, if we're not careful, surface water flooding, then urban green space is part of your armoury to make sure your cities or your towns can absorb water. We also need to be linking them into sustainable urban drainage systems, and of course trees also help with the urban heat island effect, which can take temperatures to 10 or more degrees above those in open countryside during hot weather.

So, I'm very much with you that we should be using trees for shading where we can. Actually, I know lots of people don't like climbing plants on walls, but there is research that shows that climbing plants such as ivy grown on a wall that faces hot sun can reduce the temperature by 5 or 6 degrees, because of the shading and protection provided by the growing plants. So, I think all of these nature-based solutions are very important. One of the challenges we have in the UK is that our building regulations don't actually link insulation and heating with ventilation and shading and cooling. We're hoping that the revision of the building regulations that's going on in England at the moment will start to really address that. So, we start to build new homes for the future, which are fit for the future, and not just net zero but net zero and also cool and pleasant to live in when it's hot outside. And with so many of us working from home, that's something that our employers should start to be interested in, because there's also data, you will probably have seen, in the CCRA3 technical report, that goes into the drop in productivity from people working in hot, uncomfortable environments.

14:50

Thank you, Janet. Huw.

Thank you, Chair. Janet's point is absolutely right, and yet I'm still facing requests from town-centre traders in my constituency to pull up trees, because they're an interference with their shop frontages, their whatever. We really have to actually do more. Maybe, Baroness Brown, we ought to look at some lessons from the past; when the George V playing fields were rolled out, and most of us will have those somewhere in our constituencies, those playing fields with the playgrounds and whatever, they were based on a normative calculation of for every certain number of the population there would be playing fields within walking distance of their homes. Well, maybe we ought to take the same normative approach now with trees in our high streets and in our new estates.

Anyway, what I wanted to ask was, one of the things that wasn't within your presentation—I don't think that was by deliberate omission, but it's something I want to touch on—was the issue of engaging with communities on adaptation, because whether it is on flood adaptation and water catchment management and measures within a water basin, whether it is within spatial approaches to energy efficiency, not just with social landlords but with private landlords, whether it's to do with urban drainage and trees in urban areas and so on, we don't see a lot, now, talked about about this. Now, it does appear in the Wales adaptation plan from a few years ago. But, Chair, I would simply observe that I don't see a lot of evidence of working with communities to try and devise climate adaptation solutions, even if it's not called by that name. Certainly, when I push at things such as flood adaptation plans and say, 'Where are the local groups?' to whatever, the response tends to be, 'We don't do that; we plan our way through it.' So, Baroness Brown, what are your thoughts on engagement with the people who are affected? We talk enough about this in terms of overseas engagement with indigenous communities. Why aren't we doing it extensively in the UK with our own communities?

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:54:57

Well, it's interesting you mention that, because I was talking to parliamentarians from Bangladesh at COP26 yesterday, and we were talking about what we have to learn from them. They were wanting us to help them to do a climate change risk assessment for Bangladesh. And we were discussing what they could teach us, and we very much agreed that what they could teach us was how you do this with engagement with local communities. Because adaptation is, of course, necessarily a very local issue. The actual climate change that you're going to see is local, how it will impact you is local—it depends whether you live on the sea or whether you live near a forest, or what kind of city or town you live in. Therefore, the kinds of solutions that will be suitable in that environment and for those people are themselves also local—what will be effective and satisfactory. So, you're absolutely right that communication and engagement are hugely important.

And, of course, where we have really difficult situations on the coast where communities may even one day have to move, it's crucial that the engagement starts yesterday, starts sort of immediately, so that they can have a really strong voice in what their future is.

14:55

But what is your take on the quality of that engagement in the UK, or, let's say, at the moment, in England? I doubt it'll be much different in Wales. 

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:56:35

It's nothing like good enough, and, as you hinted at, we see in Bangladesh great community engagement around these things. We see, through the way that the Delta Commission is established in the Netherlands, the way that that is actually all based on community engagement about how they're going to deal with living below sea level in this potentially very flood-threatened landscape. And it's not something we do well in this country at all; we need to do much more of it. And we have been recommending every year to DEFRA that they need to be communicating and engaging with people about this much, much more effectively than they are.

We've spoken about engagement with communities. There's another kind of engagement as well, I think, that some people feel is deficient at the moment, and that's enough working together across the UK Government and the devolved administrations. I'm just wondering whether you have any comments in relation to that.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:57:49

I don't, I'm afraid, with my adaptation hat on. I mean, having sat on the European Union select committee and having questioned a number of Ministers about how they had consulted with the devolved administrations and not always getting entirely satisfactory answers, I think I can sympathise with your question. But, with an adaptation hat on, I can't comment, I'm afraid.

Sure. That's fine. Although, I'm sure we'd all want to see it sort of maxed out, as it were, and as much of it happening as possible. Because that is one, of course, practical reality for us as a devolved administration, or as a Senedd, or particularly a frustration I'd imagine the Welsh Government is feeling is that they do have limited powers to achieve maybe the level of change and the level of ambition that we want to realise here in Wales. With that in mind, we've looked at, and you've touched on a number of areas where we know we need to act, but are there any particular areas that you would want us to prioritise? I know it comes as a package, I suppose, but where would you suggest are the most critical areas for Welsh Government to address?

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 14:59:00

Well, clearly, I've had a quick overview of the 2019 Welsh adaptation plan, and it obviously focuses on CCRA2, so I think there is obviously a need to check what has changed from a Wales perspective between CCRA2 and CCRA3, and I'm afraid I don't have that information to hand. But there seemed to be quite a strong focus on the natural environment, restoring peat lands, managing invasive species and things like soils and new pests and diseases. The significant potential flood impact on farmland in Wales does seem to be a really key area, and also with the replacement of the European farm subsidy scheme. I don't know what opportunities that gives Wales, but I would have thought that is the opportunity to try and ensure that farmers really are being supported to do the right things from an adaptation perspective. The kind of gap that there seemed to be on overheating—but, as I say, this was a very quick look—might be an area that you want to pay more attention to. That was, I'm afraid, a very limited survey at the moment of what your current plans seem to have in them. We're not looking for work at the adaptation committee, but we do, as I say, regularly review the Scottish plans at the request of the Scottish Government, and so we would certainly be happy to respond if you wanted us to do a detailed review at any time. 

15:00

Well, I think a clear message to us from this session is that mitigation is important of course. It's crucial, but adaptation as well is just as important isn't it, and I think that's certainly something that we'll take with us in our deliberations from now on, and certainly in our scrutiny sessions and our oversight of Government actions and plans and strategies. Yes, so there we are. Okay. Any further questions or points Members wish to raise before we conclude? Yes. Joyce. 

Coming back to and finishing or rounding off Huw's question about consultation, we live in a world where if you don't give people the message they want to hear, they express their unhappiness in very different ways, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not so pleasantly. And I think that is going to be a challenge for all Governments and all messengers from Government, that sometimes you're going to have to tell people that, with their property, for example, 'We can't save it.' And I don't know whether you, through that engagement that you spoke about, have come across—I know there are no easy solutions—any advice.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge 15:02:42

The only advice I can give is start the conversation as early as possible, ideally long before it gets to a critical stage, and try to make sure people have the information that they need, the clearest kind of information and understanding of what future scenarios could be, and give them as much say as possible in what then seem to be the appropriate next steps and the things that align with their aspirations. But it's terribly difficult when you're dealing with emotional things to which people are emotionally and historically attached, such as their homes. It's a terribly difficult situation. 

The other thing I would just also like to add, in terms of advice as to what Wales should think about, and it's something that I'm sure Wales is thinking about, is the issue about recognising that the vulnerable are the most impacted by climate change. And there's been some very good work going on in a number of places, with increased data availability, looking at mapping areas of low-income families or elderly people, and overlaying those maps with the projected climate change, and overlaying with other information that is available, and sort of identifying where are the hotspots where particular local government or Government support and assistance may be needed to help make those communities more resilient for the future. 

Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Baroness Brown, for your evidence this afternoon. We've run slightly over time, but I really am grateful to you for being with us and joining us and sharing your knowledge and expertise, and the work that you've done with us. It's certainly food for thought, I have to say, and there's a number of those individual statistics that you quoted in your presentation that will certainly stay with me and no doubt will pop up in future meetings, as we quiz and ask questions of our people who appear before us. So, can I say thank you very much? Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you. 

15:05
Baroness Brown of Cambridge 15:05:14

Thank you, and good luck. 

Well, yes. Thank you very much. Thank you. 

Dyna ddiwedd y cyfarfod cyhoeddus am y prynhawn yma felly. Mae'n cyfarfod nesaf ni, wrth gwrs, ar 25 Tachwedd, pan fyddwn ni yn craffu ar gynllun sero-net Cymru gan Lywodraeth Cymru; bydd y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd o'n blaenau ni'r adeg hynny. Rydyn ni'n symud, felly, oddi ar ar-lein ar gyfer ail hanner y cyfarfod yma pan fyddwn ni yn clywed adborth gan Climate Cymru o gynhadledd COP. Yn anffodus, oherwydd rhesymau technegol, byddwn ni ddim yn gallu darlledu hwnna yn fyw, ond mi fydd e, gobeithio—dyna'n bwriad ni—yn cael ei osod ar-lein fel bod modd i unrhyw fudd-ddeiliaid neu unrhyw un sydd eisiau gwrando yn ôl ar y sesiwn yn gallu gwneud yn nes ymlaen. Felly, gyda hynny, gwnaf ohirio'r cyfarfod am ryw bum munud, tan 15:10, ac, wedyn, gall yr Aelodau ailymgynnull yr adeg hynny. Felly, dyna ddiwedd y cyfarfod cyhoeddus. Diolch. 

So, that concludes the public part of our meeting this afternoon. Our next meeting, of course, is on 25 November, when we will be scrutinising the Welsh Government's net-zero plan; the Minister for Climate Change will be before us. We will move off-line for the second part of this meeting, when we will hear feedback from Climate Cymru from the COP summit. For technical reasons, we won't be able to broadcast that live, but it will be made available online so that any stakeholders or anyone who wishes to listen back to the session will be able to do so later on. So, with that, we will move to private session, and we can reconvene at around 15:10. So, that concludes our public meeting. Thank you. 

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 15:06. 

The meeting ended at 15:06.