Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee15/06/2022
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|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alice Teague||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Ceri Witchard||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Dr Jess Pearce||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Emma Williams||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Julie James MS||Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Minister for Climate Change|
|Lee Waters MS||Y Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Deputy Minister for Climate Change|
|Steve Vincent||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
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 09:31.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:31.
Croeso, bawb, i'r Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Dŷn ni yn cynnal y cyfarfod yma ar ffurf hybrid y bore yma, ac mae Delyth Jewell a Joyce Watson yn ddau aelod o'r pwyllgor sy'n ymuno â ni drwy gynhadledd fideo. Ar wahân i'r addasiadau sy'n ymwneud â chynnal y trafodion ar ffurf hybrid, mae'r holl ofynion eraill o ran y Rheolau Sefydlog yn aros yn eu lle. Mae eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod yma yn cael eu darlledu yn fyw ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd Cofnod o'r Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn ôl yr arfer. Mae'r cyfarfod yn ddwyieithog ac felly mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Os bydd larwm tân yn canu, yna mi ddylai'r Aelodau a'r tystion adael yr ystafell drwy'r allanfeydd tân a dilyn cyfarwyddiadau gan y tywyswyr a'r staff. Dŷn ni ddim yn disgwyl ymarferiad, felly mi ddylem ni ei gymryd e o ddifri, fel y byddem ni beth bynnag, dwi'n siŵr. Gaf i ofyn i'r holl Aelodau sicrhau bod unrhyw ddyfeisiadau symudol wedi cael eu distewi? A chyn cychwyn y sesiwn gyntaf yma o dystiolaeth, gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Na, dim byd. Ocê, diolch yn fawr iawn.
Welcome, all, to the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. We are holding this meeting in a hybrid format this morning, and Delyth Jewell and Joyce Watson are two members of the committee who are joining us through video-conference. Aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all the other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and there is simultaneous translation from Welsh to English available. In the event of a fire alarm, Members and witnesses should leave the room by the marked fire exits and follow instructions from the ushers and staff. We're not expecting a test today, so we'll have to take it seriously, as I'm sure we would anyway. May I ask Members to ensure that all mobile devices are switched to silent mode? And before the first session begins, may I ask if there are any declarations of interest? No, nothing. Thank you very much.
Ymlaen â ni at yr ail eitem, sef craffu ar waith y Gweinidog a'r Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd. Rŷn ni yn mynd i edrych ar feysydd polisi mae'r pwyllgor wedi canolbwyntio arnyn nhw dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf. Mae'n anodd meddwl bod yna dros flwyddyn wedi mynd erbyn hyn ers i'r Senedd yma ddod i fodolaeth. Mi fydd ambell i fater amserol arall hefyd, dwi'n siŵr, yn codi yng nghwrs y drafodaeth. Mae'r sesiwn mewn dwy ran. Mi fyddwn ni'n torri'n fyr hanner ffordd drwyddi am egwyl.
Felly, a gaf i groesawu'r Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd, Julie James, y Dirprwy Weinidog, Lee Waters, a'r swyddogion? Mae Steve Vincent, cyfarwyddwr seilwaith economaidd, yn ymuno â ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell, ac ar y we yn ymuno â ni hefyd mae Emma Williams, cyfarwyddwr tai ac adfywio; Jess Pearce, dirprwy gyfarwyddwr diogelwch, rheoleiddio a gwelliannau tai; Alice Teague, dirprwy gyfarwyddwr marine; a Ceri Witchard, dirprwy gyfarwyddwr tirweddau, natur a choedwigaeth. Tipyn o dîm, a lot o arbenigedd, a dwi'n siŵr y byddwn ni'n tynnu ar yr arbenigedd yna yn helaeth yn ystod y sesiwn sydd i ddod. Felly, mi symudwn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, os ydy hynny'n iawn, ac mi gychwynnwn ni gyda Janet Finch-Saunders.
On we go to the second item, scrutiny of the Minister and Deputy Minister for Climate Change. We're going to look at policy areas that the committee has focused on in the last year. It's difficult to realise that we have been doing this for a year, since the Senedd came into existence. There will be some other topical issues that will be discussed, of course. The session will be held in two parts. We'll have a short break halfway through.
May I welcome the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, and Lee Waters, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, and officials? We have Steve Vincent, director of economic infrastructure, who's joining us here in the room, and on the internet we have Emma Williams, director of housing and regeneration; Jess Pearce, deputy director of housing safety, regulation and improvement; Alice Teague, deputy director of marine; and Ceri Witchard, deputy director of landscapes, nature and forestry. Quite a team, and a lot of expertise, and I'm sure we'll be drawing on that expertise during this session. So, we'll move straight to questions, if that's acceptable, and we'll start with Janet Finch-Saunders.
Diolch. Good morning, Minister and Deputy Minister and officials. Marine planning stakeholders have informed the Welsh Government that the Welsh national marine plan—we all know it as WNMP—is not currently fit for purpose, but have explained it would be an extremely useful recourse if harnessed properly. Do you agree that specific marine planning frameworks for Wales could improve the Welsh Government's ability to achieve net zero by 2050?
Yes, Janet, I do absolutely think that marine planning helps us achieve net zero. We put the marine plan in place back in November 2019, obviously just before COVID, which is a bit unfortunate, really, but, you know, that's happened to a lot of things that we did back then. We've focused on implementing the plan now, which provides a strategic framework for issuing further spatial planning directions on the back of the plan. We've put the first iteration of the sectional locational guidance out, which I think probably the committee's aware of, which starts the process of mapping strategic resource areas for our marine seas, to identify and safeguard specific areas of resources and specific areas for particular types of development and so on. They all apply to all proposed development at the moment; we'll need to work on it. And as part of the biodiversity deep dive that I'm currently conducting, one of the things we're looking at is how to protect 30 per cent of our marine environment, as well as 30 per cent of the land—at least 30 per cent of those. And we'll obviously be developing the plan as we get the advice of the expert panel on the various stakeholder groups on the biodiversity deep dive. So, yes, it's just unfortunate that it was put in place just before COVID in that way, but we're beginning the implementation work now and we'll be using the expert panel to develop it further.
What I would eventually like to do, and I do emphasise the word 'eventually' because we've got quite a lot of work to do, is to have a very similar set-up to the one we've got on land, with a good spatial overview plan, like 'Future Wales', for our marine environment, and then all of the individual plans that come after it. But the deep dive has been specifically tasked with answering the question, 'What is the best way to get to that 30x30 goal?', so we'll be being informed by them as we go forward.
Thank you. Just to follow on from that, I know when I've spoken to those in the marine conservation field, and then also with renewable energy developers, both sides say to me, if this spatial plan was in place, it might actually help stop some of the delays to these vital renewable energy plans. You've got renewable energy companies desperate to invest in Wales, but they feel the lack of having a spatial plan is actually causing them longer times to get their licences and what have you. So, what do you predict the timescales around this to be, Minister?
So, we've got the first iteration out now. We're just getting to grips with the issues around the Crown Estate and the UK Government. So, I've had a really good meeting with Vaughan Gething—my time sense is absolutely terrible—quite recently—[Laughter.]—last week, I think, but quite recently, with Vaughan and with the Crown Estate. That was a really useful meeting, in which we explored a number of things that we want to see. In particular, getting very early confidential information on the pipeline for their auctions in particular. We had a robust, but useful discussion about how to speak to the relevant renewable energy developers, the big ones that are interested in FLOW in particular, so floating offshore wind, in the Celtic seas, because it would clearly be useful to understand from the developers what their ambitions were. But they're all commercially confidential, so you're sort of slightly playing chess a little bit, or, I don't know what you'd call it, 'Ring-a-ring o' roses' a bit with—.
So, we had a good conversation with the Crown Estate, though, for them to understand it. I'm very shortly going to be speaking with Ofgem because there are some real issues about the way the grid pricing structure works. And also we have renewable companies, for absolutely understandable reasons, and I intend no criticism of this whatsoever, pre-empting the market by buying out some of the strategic resources in advance of winning any of the rounds. So, you could have the ridiculous situation where somebody's won a round to develop it, but, actually, all the resources are already in the possession of a different commercial interest. So, that clearly is not sensible.
So, we're in the process of trying to get the various players to come together on that. I made the case to them and to the UK Government on a number of occasions about the reasons we'd like the Crown Estate to be devolved to Wales. Everybody always emphasises the issue about the revenue, and of course the revenue would be good, but, actually, it's much more about being able to plan it out and have the right environmental structures in place, and the right ambition, and to have the right leverage with the grid about the connections and so on than it is about the revenue, although, of course, we would not be refusing the revenue; that would be a very welcome addition too.
So, we've got quite a lot of things in the pipeline, Janet, but we are relying on the biodiversity deep dive for some of the very specific things. And we are looking at spatial guidance, but I want to develop it correctly rather than just arbitrarily say, 'Here for renewables and here not for.'
Huw would like to come in.
Yes. Minister, you just mentioned the biodiversity deep dive on two occasions, and I know it's important to you to see the outcomes of that. Can I just ask on a point of overarching principle: are you seeking, in your marine planning, and the biodiversity approach, to establish a baseline of what the mapping of the sea bed currently looks like in the marine environment, or are you looking to establish what 'good' looks like? Because what 'good' looks like—and I know you're familiar with this—there's a clear argument that what 'good' looks like is not what we currently have in many areas of the marine environment. So, are you seeking, with the 30x30 approach, with the biodiversity deep dive, to return them to what 'good' looks like, or to just say, 'Well, here's what we've got now'?
So, the whole point of the 30x30 is to have 30 per cent—. And as I said to Janet, and yesterday in Plenary, 30 per cent is this lovely, nice 30x30, isn't it? What does it mean? So, 30 per cent of each community council, 30 per cent of the landmass of Wales—what does it mean? So, part of what we're doing with the biodiversity expert panel—and we've got a load of stakeholder panels as well going on, and I chair the expert panel—is getting the experts to tell us what they think we should mean by that. And then I'm saying, at least 30 per cent, because there's a whole issue about, even if you could get 30 per cent of the landmass of Wales on a, 'Here's 100 per cent, here's a map, here's 30 per cent'—even if you could get that into 'good' conservation status, there's quite a debate amongst the experts about what that means. So, we need to get these baselines in place to be able to get the targets to be meaningful. So, we know we don't have 30 per cent of land in good conservational status. We do have 30 per cent of land in designated landscapes, however—it's just that it's not in good conservation status. So, a lot of—. I'm sorry to have to say this, but I want to write 'It depends' in the margin, like all good legal students, because I can't tell you the answer to that until I know what consensus those experts can come to.
I absolutely get that. This Government hasn't been afraid of taking some quite radical decisions in terms of environmental matters, sometimes controversially. If that deep dive of experts would come forward and say, 'Well, actually, we consider the baseline should be actually quite ambitious in terms of restoration to what it should look like', would you in principle be minded to follow that advice?
Yes. There's no point in having the biodiversity deep dive if we're not going to do what it recommends. So, obviously, we'll go through the process of responding to it and so on, as we have with my colleague Lee, who's already conducted two deep dives on very similar lines, as you know. So, we've got a process going in the Government. They'll make the initial recommendations at a conference just after summer recess, and I anticipate that we will have a continuing task and finish group to hold our feet to the fire, in exactly the same way as we have with the other two deep dives, to start us down that road. What I also said yesterday in Plenary is we clearly can't afford to do that by ourselves. So, one of the things I was doing in my statement on the Gwent levels yesterday was starting the process of looking for a sustainable management model for a number of our protected areas across Wales, so that, in the future, we can harness the might of the third sector, the non-governmental organisations, various other people, charities, et cetera, and ourselves, and our local authority colleagues, and our national parks, and everybody else, into a model that works as a sustainable future model. Because far too often, as every member of this committee will know, these things arise because you have a determined, driven individual doing it, and then if that individual moves on or whatever, the thing collapses back around them. So, we can't have that, we must be able to support those individuals to get these sustainable models in place. So, I've also asked the deep-dive panel to look at whether they think it's a good idea to have those kinds of exemplar areas, and if so, what they should look like. So, again, we'll await the outcome of their recommendations.
Okay, thank you for that. Jenny, did you want to come in?
And then we'll move on to Joyce.
I'm sorry, I should say, just before Jenny comes in, that that applies to marine as well as land, so we're doing them both at the same time.
Okay. I just wanted to come back on what you were saying about commercial interests already buying up sections of our oceans on a speculative basis. These are people with deep pockets. What, if anything, can the Welsh Government do to prevent global interests from simply taking all the resources and then any company that's got the concession having to negotiate insurmountable barriers in terms of the price that they will demand to let them get on with it?
So, just to be clear, they're not buying up the seas, they're actually buying up the connections on land and the port facilities and various other things that mean that you can exploit the renewable opportunities. This is obviously of great concern to the UK Government and the Crown Estate, as well as to us and so on, hence the conversation with Ofgem about the way that the pricing mechanisms work. And you'll know that the UK Government is proposing a marine renewables Bill, which we'll have to watch very carefully, because, whilst it's absolutely welcomed to speed up the process to get the renewables in place, I want to be absolutely certain that that's not at the expense of environmental catastrophe, so we'll have to watch that very, very carefully. So far, so good, but it's quite a high-level framework Bill at the moment, so we'll be watching that carefully. But it'll be very important to not have it much more difficult to develop renewables in Wales than it is elsewhere in the UK, but, at the same time, I'm not prepared to sacrifice the environment on the altar of that. So, we'll be watching that very carefully indeed to see what we need to do, whether to become part of the Bill, whether not to—we'll have to watch that very, very carefully. So, I'm happy to keep the committee informed about where we are with that as well.
That's one thing, but the other is our ambition to ensure that more Welsh interests are developing the resources—
So, part of the conversation with the Crown Estate, because we have no power, as it's not devolved and we have no power over it at all, is to encourage them as much as we can—and I can't emphasise enough that it was a good meeting with the Crown Estate—to put as part of their auction system using local supply chains, community control of some sort, and all that sort of stuff. So, we're trying to use a soft influence, really, with them to put all of those in because obviously the more that the Crown Estate puts in its auction that kind of thing, the more likely it is to happen, and then we are also changing the way that we do infrastructure development. We will be bringing a Bill forward to the Senedd shortly to encourage that kind of thing in the supply chain once it comes on to land.
And then the other worry I should say that the committee ought to be aware of is the whole issue of the grid—I know that the committee is aware of that—and so making sure that the grid is fit for purpose in south Wales in particular for this and that we don't have a situation where the Celtic sea energy is being taken in through the Republic of Ireland or one of the Devon ports is a big issue for us as well. So, making sure that we can encourage upfront investments so that—. Because you can imagine what will happen otherwise: they'll announce the outcome of the bidding rounds and that is too late to get the infrastructure in place. So, we need the upfront heads-up to be able to get the infrastructure in place as well. So, it's quite a complicated mosaic of things that have to happen, many of which are not in our direct power.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. Janet, you just wanted one more question and then we'll come on to Joyce then.
On to No. 2, yes, thank you, Chair. The Welsh Government published its marine energy plan in 2016, but we know now, don't we, especially following Ukraine, that things have changed in terms of the pressure to really get on with us finding our own renewable energy. Will you be updating your marine energy plan? Also, particular concerns have been raised with me by the tidal range sector that they feel that that kind of technology is being overlooked in Wales. So, I just wondered, Minister, if you could clarify what steps you're going to take, because, as you know—I won't use the word 'cocktail'; I won't use that again—there are different renewable marine energies that we could be using, and the tidal wave sector is one, from what I understand, that could be running 365, 24/7. So, I just wondered how you're working with that industry.
Yes, so we're not going to renew the marine energy plan. It was published back in 2015, I think. What we've done is roll it into the net-zero planning, effectively. It's not about how many pieces of paper you've got on the table; it's about what you can actually deliver. So, rather than divert resources into redoing a plan, and we would have to do that to do it, we've got the resources focused on the delivery. So, we fund Marine Energy Wales to support the industry to establish here in Wales and we provide some funding to get wave and tidal technology. I know you're all very familiar with the Menter Môn tidal stream demonstration zone that we funded up in Ynys Môn there.
As I said, we've been discussing with the Crown Estate and the UK Government, making sure that processes to allow bidding rounds for non-wind marine technologies are included, and I was very pleased to see that some of them were included in the last round. It's very important to do that because otherwise we can't get the benefit of those rounds. And, this year, we will publish the first three-year report on the effectiveness of the marine plan, which will encompass the energy plan as well, Janet, so we're basically rolling them together into a single whole. I don't really see the benefit of having them separated out in that way.
Okay, thank you. Joyce.
Good morning, everybody. In terms of marine environment, you said you're not renewing but you're reviewing the marine energy plan, and we need some timescales. I'd like you to allay my concerns, and concerns that have been given to me, about the obvious need to invest in green energy, and also the situation we're in where energy prices are ever rising—fossil fuel energy, that is—and so that we don't then be rushed in any decisions that might have a negative everlasting impact on the marine environment. I was very pleased to hear you say that you're going to do an overview of land and sea, and I think that these are of critical importance when we're talking about the ability to bring that energy to shore.
Yes, so, as I said, Joyce, it's really important for us to get the infrastructure in place as much as possible. So, we've got a range of officials, particularly in Vaughan Gething's area, actually, working on the supply chain opportunities for that, and to make sure that we have as much community interest in that, and, as I said, and I'll just emphasise it again, we absolutely want those renewables but we want the benefit of the renewables to come to the people of Wales. There's no real point in just producing energy if the whole thing is exported and we're still paying global prices for it when we're a net exporter of energy. So, we've absolutely got to make sure we get the benefit, and we also need to get the real benefit of a global supply chain and industry that goes with that, so that people get both of those benefits. And absolutely—I cannot emphasise enough—we're not prepared to sacrifice the environment off the back of that.
So, it's about getting that sweet spot, isn't it, where we get the right level of development, that we're at the forefront of that, that we've got the right amount of community interest, state interest and Welsh interest tied up in that, and that we get the transition to green skills and a green economy off the back of many of those jobs. And I mean much more than just the end supply chain. We know that, up in north Wales, for example, a lot of the contracts for things like the lifejackets that the engineers wear, and the toolkits and all the rest of it, are in local companies and that is to be applauded. But what we want are the design and engineering jobs that come with them—the high-end jobs that are currently very largely absent from Wales. So, it's really important to get in at the ground level of some of these global industries like tidal stream and tidal wave and so on, in order to attract that kind of manufacturing to Wales.
Okay, thank you. There we are. Happy? Okay, thank you very much. We'll move on, then, to the next area, which is decarbonisation of housing, and Jenny will lead on this.
Thank you. The First Minister told us in Plenary yesterday that the Government has no capital, no people with the right skills and too complex a landscape to be able to deliver any sort of emergency insulation programme for those who are the most vulnerable. So, I wondered if you could provide us with some clarity on how, then, we're going to come up with a comprehensive, detailed and timely delivery plan for decarbonising all our housing, given that all those things apply across the piece, not just this winter.
Yes, absolutely. So, the First Minister was very clear that what he was saying was that we couldn't do it as an emergency. So, we can't do it now, and that's absolutely right; we absolutely cannot. We do not have any of the supply chains, equipment, the skills or anything else to do it immediately. However, we've been working for the last several years through the innovative housing programme and the optimised retrofit programme to develop both the technologies and the fit for the houses, because we cannot emphasise enough—and you'll have heard me until you're all sick of hearing me say it—that each house requires to be retrofitted in the right way for that house and you cannot have a 'one-size-fits-all, shove air-source heat pumps into everything', for example; it doesn't work.
So, the optimised retrofit programme, which is being done on social housing because it's easier for us to work with people who have large numbers of houses to trial it on, will tell us, for each type of house in Wales, what works, and off the back of that we'll be able to develop the grant-assisted programmes and the skills in the private market to be able to allow people to access advice and guidance on how to do it. Because, at the moment, if you are an interested private sector owner-occupier, if you're lucky enough to be an owner-occupier, it is very difficult to get advice about how to decarbonise your house without being given very unsuitable, 'Just spray the outside with something or other', or whatever, and I know many people in this committee and others will have tried, and I know myself that it is very hard to access that. So, we are hoping to get those skills out into the market, to get businesses that go with those skills so people can start offering those services, and we will have Government-sponsored advice and so on to help people do that. But in order to do that, Jenny, we have to get to the point where we know what to advise people, and we don't know that for large numbers of houses yet. We've got tech being tried in a range of houses. We're testing that tech to make sure that it actually does what people claim for it, and I've seen some very exciting technology. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen me going on and on about heated wallpaper the other day, which I was very excited by. But we need to trial that in real-life situations, and we need to test it, make sure it works, make sure it does what it's claiming to do and all that kind of thing. And once we know that, we can encourage the commercial manufacture of such things, and I would hope then to see it in your local DIY superstore. But we need to get there, and we need to learn the lessons. So, we did very well with the Welsh housing quality standard. We were told we couldn't do it; we have got the vast majority of houses in Wales up to EPC D from absolutely nowhere. We're now going to come out with the next programme. That will be informed by the tech trials that we've been doing through ORP. So, we'll be able to negotiate with our social landlords what they can do to their housing to bring it up to as close to EPC A as we can conceivably get it. There are some difficult decisions to make about housing that can't be brought up to standard and what do we do—the carbon footprint of demolition and so on, which have all got to be factored into these things. And then, off the back of that, we can start to roll it out.
There are other sectors that we will need to assist. I know, in your constituency, Jenny, and in my own, the private rented sector is a big player. We will need to make sure that there's the right incentives for landlords to be able to invest in their properties and so on to bring them up to standard without coming out of the market or disadvantaging the tenants. So, there's a lot of work to be done, and that's why we can't do it quickly. But we will be doing it. And the ORP results from the first two years are now starting to roll out, and we are beginning to see that. I also work very closely with both the education Minister and the economy Minister to get the skills programmes and the supply chain programmes in place to do that, so that we can do what we call a supply chain analysis to make sure that as much of that supply chain comes from Welsh companies as we possibly can make it, or, anyway, UK companies, and bring the carbon footprint of that down.
One of the things we're asked all the time is, 'Why not put photovoltaics on all the roofs in Wales?' Well, photovoltaics currently mostly come from China. I'm very interested in our global footprint. That's not what we measure. Net zero is about our own domestically consumed one. But what's the point of that if all you've done is export it elsewhere? So, we need to make sure we're doing this in a globally responsible way as well. And there have been exciting new developments in photovoltaics in our universities to produce them here, screen printed onto domestically produced steel and so on, which I'm sure all of you have been offered visits to. There's one down—to give a plug to my own home town—at Swansea University, where you can go and see the in-situ panels working. But can they be commercially produced? Can they be scaled up? Do they work over the long term, and all those kind of things? We need to test that out before we roll it out into people's actual homes, to learn those lessons. By the end of next year, we will have started rolling the tech out, because we will have two years of tech trial results coming out, and we can start to be reliant on, 'It really does do what it says on the tin', or, 'It doesn't'.
I accept absolutely that it takes time to evaluate and get the learning from the ORP, but, in the meantime, why is it not possible to insulate, because everything comes back to insulation? You cannot put in air-source heat pumps unless you are not heating the birds, and, at the moment, we are heating the birds, so why—? You don't need specialist supply chains to do insulation, do you?
Yes. So, you can insulate lofts and so on—unused lofts. Lofts used as offices are way more complicated. Many of you will have had constituents who've been given spray foam insulation that hasn't worked, it's inappropriate and so on. There's a lot of bad tech out there. I personally live in a brick house. It requires the walls to be insulated. There's no obvious answer to that without putting stuff on the outside that—I'm very lucky to live in an old house—you wouldn't want to do. So, there are lots of issues around insulation. It's not just about putting a loft—. In some houses, you just put a big, thick loft layer in and you've done quite a good job. There are issues about the kind of windows and chimneys—all sorts of issues, Jenny—around insulation. So, it's not just, 'Put a big, thick layer in your attic'. Although I would say you should do that if you're not using your attic. There's a load of stuff about cavity wall insulation, making sure houses can still breath. We've had condensation problems in Wales with various things and so on. So, I'm afraid it isn't just as simple as that, and that's part of the tech that we're trialling. And the other thing to say is that if you completely insulate a house and it doesn't breathe you have all kinds of health problems. So, there's actually a thing about ventilation as well.
Right. But you accept that we are between a rock and a hard place—
—because of the rise and rise of gas prices.
I would dearly love to be able to say, 'Absolutely, let's push the button and go now', but we would be doing things that came back to bite us if we did that. And we've already—. We want to learn the lessons. So, I just want to say this: we always concentrate on the things that have gone wrong on these programmes. So, a lot of the cavity wall insulation stuff worked beautifully, you know, lots of people—. Thousands of houses across Wales are better insulated, but some houses weren't suitable, and those people have had a nightmare after it. So, what we want to make sure is that we learn those lessons so that we aren't putting inappropriate tech into the wrong houses. I know that Huw has had a problem—many, many people across Wales will have had constituents with that problem. So, we're trying to learn those lessons as we go and make sure that we put that right tech into the right house.
Huw first, then we'll go to Janet and then we'll come back to Jenny.
It's a really short one. It's not to do with the insulation, or the right technology being applied in a particular circumstance, it's to do with the quality of the assessment and the training, or lack of, that we're giving to that. Because there are many good installers out there who want to create green jobs and do the right thing, but sometimes they're tied to a particular product, a particular company, and what I think we all want for all our constituents right across Wales is the knowledge that, when that person steps through the door, they're giving the right assessment across the piece. Where are we on this at the moment, because your roll-out, I would argue, cannot happen until we have that robust assessment in place?
I completely agree with that, Huw. So, one of the skills that we're needing to upskill is the assessors; one of the things that we need to consider very carefully is that something that you could run as a business yourself or would the Government have to sponsor that through its energy efficiency programmes, or what. So, we're in the process of looking to see should that be a public service provided by local authorities, should we be upskilling individuals across Wales to do it as a private business, you know, what is the model for that—a mixed economy, perhaps; I don't know. So, part of the issue with the skills programme is to figure out how to do that, and I couldn't agree more; it's a little bit like trying to find somebody who can give you advice on your pension who isn't tied to a pension fund, isn't it? You need to understand what you're being advised to do and whether it's independent or not.
I think I've probably thrown this at you before in some setting, but are you tempted by the Scottish model, where they're setting in place strict qualifications around the assessment and that anybody who goes into the home—? So, that doesn't mean that an individual down the bottom of my road who installs a certain type of product can't be part of the installation, but, prior to that, either him or her or somebody else needs to come in and do the proper assessment.
So, we're obviously looking at the Scottish model, but we want to make sure that we have that right; it'll be interesting to see how it rolls out there. There are often unintended consequences with these things, so things like: can you get professional indemnity insurance for people who are doing that, what happens when they go bankrupt, what happens when—? There are all kinds of—. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens in Scotland; we will learn from them. If it all is tickety-boo, we'll do it; if there are errors and issues, we'll pick those up. And in the meantime, we're developing our own programme with our own skills people.
Just very briefly, in terms of the Scottish model, we are also looking at the home advice service that the Scottish model has, which was one of the recommendations of the deep dive we did on renewables. So, we're currently looking at that now.
Okay, thank you. Janet.
Thank you. At this point, just a question too. I'll declare an interest, because I'm going to be talking about the private sector. So, one of the recommendations—and it's probably what Lee has just mentioned about the advice—from the 'Better Homes, Better Wales, Better World' report stated that:
'The Welsh Government should fund the creation of...a "Home LogBook" for every home to guide energy efficiency decisions and investments.'
I think that's a pretty good idea; I wish I had a home log book, because I haven't got a clue where we would go about making our home more insulated. What other solutions do you see as being a viable option for home owners in Wales?
So, at the moment, we're just starting to bring together an expert group on how to get some of the financing models for this together, and the advisory models together, so that we can tap into the resource that's out there to do that. The UK Government is currently reviewing its minimum energy efficiency standards that private landlords are expected to meet. And we've had conversations in this committee before about making sure that you don't disincentivise people to the point where they just come out of the market, and so on. I'm particularly worried about the bigger houses in inner cities that would be expensive to retrofit. So, we need to make sure that there are incentive schemes in place for that as well.
We also need to make sure that we have the right—. You know, it's not just about the advice, is it? It is about having the skills, then, to tap into a resource to produce the goods that do it and install it correctly and so on. So, it's part of what we're doing to make sure that we've got that supply chain in place, so that, once we've got the results of the tech trials coming out, and we've got the fitters who can do that, and we've got the skills base in Wales, we can start to look at incentivising people to actually do the right thing with their houses.
And then, just controversially—and this is a personal opinion, I emphasise again—. At the moment—and you've heard me say this about broadband, when I was in charge of that; my colleague is now struggling with it himself—it's a matter of mystery to me why the housing market hasn't reacted to this. So, if you do bring your house up to energy performance certificate A or Building Research Establishment environmental assessment method excellent, you don't really get a premium for it in the market. So, I think we might need to have a look at some incentives to do that—tax incentives and so on—to make sure that people do get rewarded for having done the right thing, not just in lowering bills but in increased value for their homes. So, that is something we will definitely have to explore as a carrot, not just the sticks that we normally talk about. But I emphasise that's a very personal view at the moment, but we will definitely have to look across the piece at how to intervene in that.
Similarly, with broadband, it's a mystery to me why houses that are fully connected don't have a premium in the market when—. But they don't, so it's an interesting thing that hasn't really factored in to what's a pretty volatile housing market, really.
A final part: in terms of retrofitting, there are no Welsh Government targets for the private sector, private rented or owner-occupied sector at present. Now, they are a vast—I would say the largest—commodity, when it comes to the ownership of homes and things, so, how or what plans do you have to include those in this roll-out?
So, what we're going to do is, in the 'able to pay for it' sector, we're going to bring this expert group together, and we're going to have something called a housing net-zero carbon performance hub—we might have to find a slightly snappier title—but, basically, a hub that comes together where you can access advice and a similar thing to the better builder scheme or whatever, where you can be sure that the person's accredited and skilled to a level that means that you can have some reliance on their ability to do the work, and we'll have people who are assessors and so on who can do that as well. So, the idea is that we'll have a hub that offers services to private landlords and homeowners across Wales, to get into that market, and then we'll be able to put incentives alongside that. But I can't emphasise enough that we need to learn the lessons of the past and not just do a one size fits all.
I think, in a nutshell, our approach is that we're innovating and experimenting on the social housing sector, and we are at the vanguard in this. I think the Welsh Government deserve some credit for the work we've been doing on this. Once the evidence is in place of what is effective, we're then looking at how we can cascade that and roll that out, and those are the steps we're taking. I think that's the responsible way to do it.
Yes. Okay, thank you. Back to Jenny.
And, Chair, I can't resist a plug for my leasing scheme. I plug it every time I go into public, so I'll plug it again: so, we currently offer landlords in Wales, who want to give their houses over to us for at least five years, incentives, then, to bring their house up to standard for them. So, I like to plug the scheme wherever possible.
Well worth plugging, yes. Okay. Thank you. Jenny.
Okay. So, I just want to go back onto how we raise the game of the sectors. There has been a lot of emphasis on improving the social housing sector, and all that's excellent, but the biggest area of problems is the private rented sector and, of course, the privately owned sector. So, how are we going to use what one of the expert witnesses to the Equality and Social Justice Committee's inquiry said was—? How are we going to get the carrot, the stick and the tambourine operating to ensure that private sector landlords know about your leasing scheme and have real drive to improve their houses?
So, that will be a mixture, won't it, of carrots, sticks, tambourines et cetera. So, we use Rent Smart Wales to get information out to the private landlords. I meet with the Residential Landlords Association a couple of times a year, generally speaking; I addressed their conference last year, for example. We try to get the information out. We also provide advice to tenants, so the tenants can tell their landlords that that can be done. And we fund a variety of organisations, like Shelter and so on, to give out advice, both to landlords and tenants, on a range of things. But we need the other incentives as well. At the moment, we have the leasing scheme, so you can give it across to us. We need to develop something that is a tie-in between the ORP scheme and the leasing scheme that allows more people to take advantage who don't necessarily want to give us their house for long periods of time, and incentivise it, Jenny. And that will be part of this whole piece that we're talking about.
I absolutely get that the private rented sector is one of the most fragile sectors for this, because you have to get the incentives right. Owner-occupiers have obvious incentives, although we'll be looking at the whole building passport thing. At the moment, if you're in a first-time buyer's house and you're looking to develop your family, you're not likely to want to stay in that house for 20 years, so we want to give an incentive to you to upgrade the house anyway when you sell it on and so on. So, there are lots of things to look at around the way that the housing market works, and, with the PRS in particular, we want to make sure that we don't pass on expensive compulsory retrofit options to tenants and price them out of the market, for example. So, there's a lot of work to be done about how to get these schemes in place, which we are working on, as I say, with a series of expert groups.
And then, as Lee said, we're very much using the social sector to experiment and innovate, because we have willing partners and tenants who already have capped affordable rents in order to do that. So, the heated wallpaper trial that I was looking at the other day, for example, had been installed in a void home with Melin Homes, the registered social landlord, who's sponsoring that so that they can see it in a live situation in a real home that would otherwise be occupied. They have to have our permission to do that, because I'm very keen that voids are turned around and re-tenanted as fast as possible, but, obviously, we have to have some homes that are used as tech experiments and so on. So, we've got quite an elaborate system for doing—
Sorry, Jenny, before we go on, Joyce would like to just come in briefly on this.
Yes, thank you. You did—[Inaudible.]—Minister, people investing in their property, private landlords—[Inaudible.]—seeing a gain, but the obvious gain for landlords investing in their property that they understand is increasing their rent. So, how are you going to protect tenants from finding themselves in a sudden divide situation, where those landlords who have invested put their prices up significantly so that people can no longer afford them, they become out of reach? So, whilst the intention of giving them a nice, insulated home has been achieved, they're denied that opportunity, because the affordability doesn't match their income?
Exactly right, Joyce; that's exactly the problem that we have and that we need to be able to mitigate. So, this is the whole purpose of putting a range of schemes that are interim schemes in between the leasing scheme and the roll-out of ORP, to make sure that we don't do that.
Obviously, I write very regularly to the UK Government bemoaning the freeze in the local housing allowance. A recent piece of work showed that only 3 per cent of properties in Cardiff were fully paid for by the local housing allowance. It's supposed to be 30 per cent on the current Government's assessment. It clearly should be 50 per cent, in any reasonable Government's assessment; 3 per cent clearly doesn't cut it. So, we already have a situation where rent is out of reach for people who are on minimum wage jobs and so on, so it's a completely unsustainable system, isn't it? So, we absolutely have to make sure that we're not making that situation worse and that we incentivise our private sector landlords.
I will say, again, that most private sector landlords in Wales are very good. We have a very good relationship with them; we do a really good job with them through Rent Smart Wales. We have very few rogue landlords. Most of them happily comply, they happily register, they happily do all the things that they need to do. So, I don't think we should over-egg the 'dreadful landlord chucks out tenant' problem. But, at the same time, we do need to make an incentive for those landlords to do work that will take a long time for them to recover back in return on the investment. So, we need to incentivise that, there's no doubt about it, and that's part of what this panel is doing.
So, where are we at on low-cost loans for private sector landlords? There's low risk for the lender, because you can put a charge on the property so that the public sector gets back its money if they sell the property. Isn't that one of the ways—
Certainly we'd be looking at that. We've had conversations with the Development Bank of Wales on what they can do in that space. But, again, we have to know what we're telling the private sector landlord to do before we want to give them loans to do it. So, it's back round the same loop, Jenny. When we're sure what that property requires to be upgraded, then we'll be able to put a financial incentive system in place to assist the landlords, owner occupiers and other people other than social landlords to do it.
Having said that, just to go back to the social sector for a minute, we will be announcing the next iteration of the Welsh housing quality standard, and that itself is drawing on all of the learning from this, so you'll be able to see in action in the social sector what it looks like when you've got particular specifications for particular types of housing. That will overskill the workforce, as it did for the previous iteration to be able to do that. Then, towards the end of next year, we'll be looking at announcing the replacement for what was the Arbed programme, because you know we've stopped the Arbed programme now. We were putting more efficient gas boilers in for people with very inefficient ones. Clearly, we don't want to do that anymore. So, we need to retrain our workforce and then start to retrofit using the Warm Homes programme for some of that tech, when we know what that tech should look like.
Huw would like to come in briefly, and we will come back to you then, Jenny, just to conclude on this section.
It's very short. In terms of the leaseback programme that you've talked about, which I think is a great initiative, are you able to give us anything that shows how that is going? I'm thinking particularly in terms of mapping it by local authority uptake, but also against any comparator, on the proportion within that area of substandard private rental accommodation, so we can see what impact it's having. That would be really helpful. I know you can't do it today—
I haven't got it now, that's for sure.
I'm wondering whether you could ask your team—
I'm sure we can write to committee and give you that information.
—to give us some of that real data.
I don't have that to hand, but I'm sure we can give you that data.
Thank you. Okay. We'll go back to Jenny.
Just briefly, what role does the minimum energy efficiency standard play in this drive to decarbonisation? How does it link in with what the UK Government is thinking about this?
I think I've mentioned already that we've been looking at the minimum energy efficiency standard. That's about the calibration, isn't it, because we were very concerned that the UK Government was saying, 'Just bring your properties up to EPC E' in the first iteration, and that the result of that would be a large number of landlords would just pull out of the system because it wasn't worth them investing. Those would be some of the biggest, multigenerational homes that we have in the cities that are really difficult to replace with social housing and so on. We've been working with Rent Smart Wales to try and identify those.
One of the big benefits of Wales is that we know where our landlords are and where the houses are. I can't emphasis enough how much of a benefit that is. Through COVID, for example, we knew exactly where the properties were, which is not the case across the border. We've actually got a march on being able to identify those. We've also been doing quite a bit of work with the regional energy efficiency advisory services and so on. So, again, Jenny, it's the same answer—we're keeping an eye on it. We clearly do need sticks of that sort, but we need the carrots to go with them to make sure we don't lose those houses to the PRS. So, we're working very hard to make sure we have the right carrots in place as well, one of which is the leasing scheme.
But there will clearly need to be a product in between we haven't developed yet for landlords who don't want to hand their house over to us for long periods of time, but nevertheless want to do the right thing and perhaps can't access the capital. I began a conversation with the Development Bank of Wales about that very recently, and will continue to do that as we roll the programmes out.
Okay. Just lastly, in light of all the complexities that you've outlined, when do you expect to publish the net-zero skills plan?
End of next year. End of this year for the skills plan, sorry—let me get my plans in order. End of this year for the skills plan. By the end of next year, you should be able to see clearly the roll-out of the ORP tech trials on a wider basis. So, skills plan, end of this year; roll-out, the end of next year.
Diolch yn fawr. We'll move on, then. Huw next.
Thank you, Chair. I want to turn to public transport. There are some exciting things coming down the pipeline, we understand, from Welsh Government and so on, but let's try and unpack these a little bit. First of all, everything we've heard suggests we need quite a wide range of things—I've now heard 'carrot, stick and tambourine'; I'm not sure what the tambourine is—for bus and rail recovery post pandemic, but also that longer term aim of meeting the modal shift targets. So, can you give us your thoughts on where we are on this, whether we're going to achieve the level of ambition we need about modal shift to help us with climate change, to help us with the drive towards net zero, but also, quite frankly, to provide some more liveable and workable cites, towns and so on?
I'll answer this, if I may. This is the big challenge, and one of the reasons for creating the portfolio—to put transport alongside the other main emissions drivers. Transport accounts for something like 17 per cent of our carbon emissions, and has been the slowest to bring emissions down since 1990—something like only a 6 per cent reduction in emissions since 1990, compared to more than 50 per cent in other areas. So, transport is a real challenge, and we are setting about it in a number of ways. We set our Wales transport strategy over a year ago now, when we put modal shift at the heart of our strategy for the first time, along with demand reduction. We have a target, which we're maintaining, of 30 per cent of people to continue to work from home, for example, on a flexible basis, ongoing, and that's an important contributor to modal shift. But there are a number of different points we have to go through here, and they are complex, and they fly in the face of 70 years of British transport policy. So, this is not easy.
This is a rich area to discuss, and I'm happy to go into detail on any one of a number of those areas, but as a broad-brush answer, we have an overall strategy, we are now working on proposals for bus, for rail, for active travel and for roads, and on top of that, as part of our net-zero plan, we're looking at a behaviour change programme, which is still in its fairly early days because we've not done this before, but it is an important part of the mix that we have both incentive and disincentive, hard and soft measures, working together, and have the capacity and capability across central and local government to deliver that in a coherent way. Frankly, none of those pieces have been in place, so we're having to create it.
Everything you're doing at the moment, Minister, everything Government is doing on this issue, is pushing against the grain, as you say, of decades of established thinking, and taking the public with us, as well as changing officials within every public-private partnership, within local government, is a real challenge in doing that. Can I just ask you a very direct question? How much of this can be achieved, do you think, to reset the whole mindset around this, by the end of this Government?
Well, it's like the line 'How do you eat an elephant?' isn't it? In pieces. We have plans for all of those things, and let's remember what our carbon budgets tell us. We need to cut emissions as much in the next 10 years as we have done over the course of the last 30 years. So, the challenge is enormous and transport has to play its part, so we need to break that down. Where do we need to get to by the end of this Senedd term and the end of this carbon budget period? Well, we've published a plan for that. That includes a 10 per cent reduction in car mileage, for example. That's unprecedented. Scotland has set a target of 20 per cent, by the way, which I'm not sure is achievable. Ours is going to be a stretch. So, none of us are naive about the scale of the challenge, but we are setting out plans incrementally to do that. Our great frustration, as Julie James has said many times and in many areas, is the pace and scale of the change to deliver is out of kilter with where the science tells us we need to get to, and that's our major challenge. So, for example, we're introducing a bus Bill. That's going to take years to properly put in place the legislation and the systems and the investment, and then the behaviour change. But that's the system we have to deal with. Rail investment, similarly, takes a very long time. So, that, I think, is the reality of what we're up against, and we are putting everything we have into pushing this forward.
There can be no doubting that you've got the plans, you're working with the evidence, to make these changes. The question is, can we absolutely drive this at the pace you want to see, and that we need to do? Let's deal with some practical things. There's no way we do this without actually tackling some real difficult shibboleths such as moving away from individual private car use, and not just talking about it, but actually making practical interventions on the roadscape to make that happen. So, at what point do we get to some real hard decisions within electoral cycles that Cardiff and Newport and rural areas as well make dramatic interventions that seek to not only deal with the supply side of things, making public transport more attractive, and so on, and the issue of what we can do now, prior to waiting to legislate, but we actually do some of that harder stuff that is to do with shifting people towards other modes of travel? Are we going to see that within the next two years?
Well, with respect, you're seeing it. You've already seen it. We cancelled the M4. We've set up a roads review that has already seen two road schemes cancelled—the Llanbedr bypass and the A55 junctions. We are expecting the full report imminently and we'll announce the results later in the year once we've gone through each scheme. So, we are already tackling the shibboleths. But, as well as saying 'no', we need to also say 'yes'. So, we've set up, in south-east Wales, the Burns commission, which has been endorsed significantly by the UK union connectivity review, led by Sir Peter Hendy. He was asked by Boris Johnson to look again at the M4. He looked at the M4, he looked at the Burns alternative, and he endorsed the Burns alternative—the UK Government's own tsar on this. So, we've had the rubber stamp there. Conservatives in the UK Government may not like that, but their own review showed that. We're trying to put that same approach in place in the north. And the great thing about the Burns commission work was not just making those broad-brush analyses, but also putting in place the delivery mechanisms to deliver them. Frankly, this is one of our challenges: co-ordinating local authorities, Welsh Government and TfW. So, you now have, in south-east Wales, a Burns delivery unit, a tripartite arrangement, Cardiff and Newport council, TfW, Welsh Government, overseen by an independent panel, independently chaired by people we've deliberately recruited to be difficult and challenging, and that has produced a pipeline of schemes. This team, working together, are coming up with the WelTAG studies, the active travel studies, the funding bids for UK funding for rail schemes. We have an engine there to deliver that vision, and I hope we'll have the same in the north.
Tell us where the remaining political challenges are within making this happen. I agree with you; with the things you're putting in place already, you're driving this agenda. Are people coming with you? Are politicians throughout the land coming with you? Are they willing to make these difficult decisions? Have we crossed that part where people are going, 'Yes, Minister, we agree with you. This is just what we have do'?
I think we're on the nursery slopes of it all, but we're putting in place the conditions to get there. What Julie and I have said throughout is, across the climate change portfolio, we need to make the right thing to do the easiest thing to do. If you make it easy, people will do it. In Copenhagen, for example, a third of journeys to work are by bike. Are people in Copenhagen any more virtuous than we are? I don't think they are, it's just easy to do in Copenhagen. Is it easy to do in Maesteg or Llanelli or Swansea? No, it's not.
Not unless you're an alpine cyclist.
So, unless we change the reality and make it easy for people to make the choices that contribute to our climate targets, as well as our health targets, as well as our clean air targets, as well as our town centre regeneration targets, then it's not going to happen. And this is a collective effort. It's no good for everybody in this committee or the Senedd signing up to net zero by 2050, and then running away every time a decision is made that actually gets us closer to that goal. So, there's a collective challenge for all politicians to put their money where their mouth is. I think we are doing so. But I am absolutely under no illusion about the scale of the challenge and the pace with which we have to operate.
Okay. Thanks. I appreciate your honesty. I'm pushing you hard, and you're pushing back hard, because of the scale of the challenge that we absolutely have to meet here.
Can I turn to the issue of bus franchising, the legislation that might be coming forward and that we're anticipating there? One of the arguments that we've heard consistently is that, regardless of legislative changes, franchising models, structural changes and the way that we manage and co-ordinate one ticket et cetera, et cetera—all of that—the economics doesn't change. We've got to find a way as well to shift investment into mass modal transport, and away from other parts, because there's not a magic money tree. So, would that be a right call from people who are saying, 'The legislation might be good, but it's not going to change the economics of this'?
This isn't a tablet handed down by Moses from the mount about the economics of this. This deliberate political decision was taken in 1985 to privatise the bus industry. That has led us to the situation we have now where we've had a dramatic fall in bus patronage and a dramatic increase in car use; a dramatic increase in the cost of using the bus and the train, and a fall in the living standards of those who work in the industry. So, this is not an accident; this is a political act of design taken in the pursuit of a particular ideology in the mid 1980s, and it has failed. We are seeing market failure, and what we are trying to do is to build a new and better system. So, the economics are what we decide it to be, frankly. We have created a highly fragmented commercialised system where bus and rail do not connect, and where local authorities are being expected to mop up the difference with subsidy.
There's nothing profoundly fundamental about the economics of that. That's the way we've set out the system to work, where the economics favours private commercial companies to pursue a profit and expects the state to pick up the difference. Well, we're saying not only is that not effective, but it is profoundly economically inefficient. So, we want to rewire the system to create a system that works for passengers, reaches our climate goal and tackles social injustice. We now have a situation where 50 per cent of people never get on a bus, and according to a Transport for Wales survey, 80 per cent of bus passengers don't have a car. So, we have a deeply unequal situation that is not only unfair, but doesn't work. So, I don't accept this argument by those embedded in the current system that it's somehow economically inefficient or impossible to shift it; where there's a will, there's a way.
Yes, but from everything you're saying in powerfully arguing that case then, any restructuring, any legislation that comes forward, has to go hand-in-hand with realigning the economics that underpin this. We have to invest significantly more in allowing people to make those easier choices of really good, affordable, easy-to-use, convenient, nice-to-use, attractive stuff, so that people want to be on public transport and other forms of mass-mode transport and not choose the car. Now, that's a massive mind shift for members of the public. How do you argue that? This is the climate change and infrastructure committee, your portfolio is vast. How do you argue that, at the same time as we have a cost-of-living crisis, while people in rural Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire or wherever will say, 'I need my car to get to my job. You can do all this stuff in Newport and Cardiff or wherever, but don't ask me, though, to give up my car.' How do you square this issue of having a massive reset of what we do with transport and the way we travel, with people who say, 'Well, I can't exist without my car'?
Well, I'm not sure that I accept the premise, really, because we've created a system where we've embedded car dependency. We've put the car at the centre of our planning system and our transport system, so, now, lots of people in those communities feel that they have no option other than to have a car, even though they can't really afford to run a car, because there isn't a public transport alternative. And that's created a system where those inequalities are locked in, and we need to shift that and that requires a shift of investment and that's one of the reasons we're doing the roads review, to release money from road building, which deepens car dependency, to a more equitable public transport system that is available for all, which lessens car dependency. And if we do it along with prices—and that's an important part of the ingredients, to make this more affordable—we make it easier for people to be able to get around without having to invest in a car. And even accounting for the current trends, people who do have a car are still better off than those who don't have a car. So, I'm not sure that I accept the framing of the question.
Okay. Well, I'm—
Also, actually, Huw, can I add there as well? So, as part of the planning system, 'Future Wales' and so on, we are requiring local authorities to redo their local development plans and to put their strategic regional development plans in place. And those plans are designed to shift away from the, 'You must have a car parking space outside your home.' Do you remember that development we went to see in your constituency?
We've had the conversation, yes.
So, to shift them away from the car-dependent culture to, 'You're not having planning consent there, unless there's a public sector transport node, there's a decent five-minute neighbourhood plan, and so on.' So, we've got a large number of other levers across the Government also heading in that direction deliberately, in order to try and design out some of the car dependency.
That brings me really neatly to my next question, and I'm deliberately pushing you hard on this because I want to know. These massive changes that we're talking about, do we have the capacity, the expertise, the willpower within our public sector to deliver this? Because it cannot be done on high here in Welsh Government and the Senedd alone; it has to be done at that local level. And as you were saying, Minister, we've got decades of highways and local planning and other expertise, which is built on a very different model, so what are we doing about that so that we can really turn this around and transform the Ceredigions and the Pembrokeshires, as well as the Bridgends, to a very different way of planning and thinking and travel?
Well, we used to have it, but we dismantled it. Again, this was a deliberate act of the Transport Act 1985 to get rid of the old plan system and bring in a privatised one. So, we need to recreate it. At the moment, there is resource inefficiently used: you have 22 different local authorities having their own contracting functions, their own network planning functions. That is both inefficient and ineffective. And what our plan is, through the bus Bill, is to create what we're calling a 'guiding mind', based on the European model of a supervisory board of Transport for Wales as that expert source of network planning.
I was really encouraged recently: I went to Rhyl bus depot to meet with Arriva Bus North West and they told me, the professional in the function of timetable planning, that their interaction with TfW recently on network planning was significantly better than the equivalent with local authorities. So, TfW are building up that capacity in real time, and I think there are signs for encouragement. But you are right: this is an enormous challenge; it's not going to be without its bumps. It's certainly not without its vested interests who are being challenged, who will come up with all sorts of arguments for why what we're trying to do is not advantageous, and we need to work through this.
And I think, to finish, one of the things we've done well to this point is co-production. I don't particularly like these jazzy labels, but that's what we're doing. So, the reason why the White Paper was delayed in coming out is because we paused work, we sat down in confidence with local authorities, and with the bus-operating umbrella body, and worked on how we make this work in practice, so that it's got every chance of succeeding. And we've done that to get to this point; we'll continue to do it.
And on that co-production, just one final question—we could go at this for ages, and it's a fascinating area, but the scale of this is immense there. The delayed taxi and private hire legislation, I assume you'll say that's been delayed as well, so, possibly, we can build it within this Bill, or is that separate now? No.
I think that's too big to do in one Bill.
Okay. So, that's not coming forward as part of this Bill?
There won't be one Bill that covers both, no.
Okay, thank you. Before we move on to metro and rail, I think it's probably best we take our break now. So, we'll adjourn the meeting for 15 minutes and reconvene, ready to go back into public session at 10:50. So, we'll just pause a moment for the broadcast to cease.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:36 a 10:50.
The meeting adjourned between 10:36 and 10:50.
Croeso nôl i'r pwyllgor. Rŷn ni'n derbyn tystiolaeth gan y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd, y Dirprwy Weinidog Newid Hinsawdd a'u swyddogion, ac fe barhawn ni nawr â chwestiynu ac fe wnaf i wahodd Delyth Jewell i arwain y drafodaeth.
Welcome back to the committee, where we're taking evidence from the Minister for Climate Change and the Deputy Minister for Climate Change and their officials. We will continue now with our questioning and I will invite Delyth Jewell to ask the next question.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Bore da ichi i gyd. Turning to talking about the metro and rail, some stakeholders—well, actually, a number of stakeholders have said to us that there's been confusion about the development of the metro systems because of how many bodies are involved, particularly if you look at the south-east. Could you talk us through whether you think there's any issue about governance being unclear with regard to that, please?
We are developing it iteratively and it's being developed quite rapidly. It's a massive infrastructure project, it's circa £1 billion, and we're now seeing the physical infrastructure starting to take place on street level and we'll see a lot more of it in the next 18 months to two years. So, I guess the governance arrangements have developed incrementally alongside that. There's a reason why we've created the corporate joint committees and given them the responsibility to develop regional travel plans, and we'd wanted to give them more of a delivery role as well, but, for corporate reasons, we weren't able to get that into the Bill at the end of the last Senedd term.
Nonetheless, we think there's a very strong argument, as we are doing with the bus Bill now, for getting those regional arrangements in place. I think it makes sense for metro development to sit alongside that, along with active travel. So, certainly, our policy intent is that as we move along, we'll consolidate those to create a more strategic regional footprint, but we're doing that step by step.
Thank you for that, Minister. I was going to ask you why no multimodal delivery plan has been published for the schemes. I'm guessing that your answer may be similar to that, but do you think that—? Are there any—? Well, not just in terms of official scrutiny of Government policy, but also in terms of gaining more public understanding of how it's going to work, do you see that there are any challenges with that in terms of doing this incrementally? It's always going to be a balance, it's always going to be that some things need to be prioritised, of course, but do you think that that does add some challenges and what do you think are the best ways of overcoming them, if so?
You're right to point out the challenges. They exist, for sure. I think it's significant and encouraging that TfW themselves have just reorganised their management structure along a multimodal approach. I think that is the right thing to do. I think the join up is something that we're all struggling with, because, as I mentioned in relation to bus reform earlier, we've been living with a fragmented, dysfunctional system for so long, it's almost become normalised. Wanting to put us on to a more strategic, coherent approach, which, after all, is commonplace across the continent, is a culture shift for us. There are behavioural, organisational and financial boundaries and rules we've created and put in place that act against that, and we're going through the process of trying to work through that.
As I say, the regional transport plans the CJCs are developing will necessarily need to be multimodal, and I think that process gives us a good chance to put them side by side. But it is hard. So, for example, to give you an example in active travel, where we're spending an awful lot of money, but the delivery isn't there yet. I see Huw Irranca-Davies in the room and I'm expecting a report by the cross-party group on active travel that he's chaired, and we've asked them to help us do the mid-term review of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. I know from the conversations that I've had with them that there are a series of criticisms, well-made criticisms, of where we are not getting it right and where we need to get better. Part of that is around that disconnect, that disjoint between delivery authorities—central and local government, I might say—of knowing how to do this, having the capacity and capability in the right place, treating it on a par with other modes. So, there's a massive culture shift in place here, and, for sure, it's a bumpy ride.
Thank you for that. I appreciate the transport metaphor when we're talking about transport matters.
I do my best.
Talking about the cultural shifts, though, that you've just been mentioning—I don't know if 'cultural shift' would be the right term for it; no, I think it probably would be—and a change to people's mindsets and a change to the way which we've all been taught to think about the way in which we travel, when we talk about a metro system, across the continent, possibly across the world as well, when we talk about metros, they tend to be about—. By their very nature, they're about trying to make it easier to get to and from the city, and in terms of how our community is thinking, in the south Wales Valleys particularly, in terms of how our communities—. People's work patterns, although they're now changing, traditionally they've always been about getting to and from the city, and the danger of that then becomes that you get more and more commuter towns. There will be less of a sense of community in the Valleys. Do you think that that is going to—? Is that another cultural shift that you're hoping to overcome, in terms of the infrastructure of the metro, so it's easier to go east to west and west to east, not just north to south in that way, and similarly with other metro systems, of course? So, how is that challenge going to be overcome in terms of infrastructure, but also in terms of changing people's understanding, behavioural patterns, and how people think that a metro system would operate?
Well, I think there's a really rich area for challenge here. I think you've hit on a real area that we need to do more work on. So, I think there are two elements to this, to me. The first is the behavioural change. So, the founder of Sustrans, John Grimshaw, always used to talk about people having a mental map. So, when they left their front door, in their mental map, they make a decision about how they get from A to B, and our mental map has been wired to jump in a car and go a particular route. And, actually, there other ways to make that journey, and often, if they are local journeys, on foot or by bike, which may be more direct but don't follow the route of the road. But that requires a different mental map, and we need to rewire people's mental maps. One of the reasons why, again, in active travel, we are doing mapping is because people don't know the way to get around their local area very often because they've been conditioned to travel in a certain way. So, this behavioural issue of getting into people's mental maps and changing them and making the right thing to do the easy thing to do, as we mentioned earlier, is critical, and I would really welcome any scrutiny and work the committee might do to help us on this. Through our net-zero plan, we've got a commitment to look at a cross-Government behavioural change strategy, and if I can be perfectly honest with you, we're struggling with it. It is not easy, and we're working with academic experts and behaviouralists. We had sessions with the UK Government's former Cabinet Office, the 'nudge unit', on this as well. So, this is work in progress, but it's critical. So, I think that's the first part of your question.
The second part, then, is the way we think about commuting journeys as exclusively the focus of transport schemes. And that's the focus—. One of my discomforts with the Burns work in south-east Wales was it primarily looked at commuting journeys into and out of Cardiff and Newport. And, actually, we know that people's journeys are more complex than that. Most journeys are not for work. Most journeys are for shopping and leisure and just getting around. And the pattern you describe of Valleys communities is exactly that. I think there's a danger, and I want to avoid it, of creating a public transport system that's just for work, particularly because we now know that commuting patterns have been disrupted and probably may not form again in the same way. We don't just want a transport system that gets people from their house to their office—we want people to replace the car for all everyday journeys, and that requires a different approach. Some of that is behavioural—hearts and minds. Some of that is making sure the services are there for all modes to be able to make those journeys easily.
Can I just add as well to that? I absolutely agree with all of that, Delyth. I think there are two other things to add to it that are absolutely essential. The first is that there's a gender lens on this. So, if you analyse the journeys that women take to work, they look very different from the commuter journey that we traditionally think of, because lots and lots of women have caring responsibilities, they drop off or pick up or do various things on the way to work, they use buses much more often, they use side streets much more often, and all that kind of stuff. And there's a class or poverty lens to it as well. We're talking about the small percentage of people who actually own cars. Very large numbers of people don't own cars and are absolutely reliant on a network that is designed for the car owners. So, there are other lenses to look at this as well. It's essential for net zero, but it's actually essential for the alleviation of poverty and the equality and inclusion agendas, all of which we also want to make sure we're looking at.
Thank you very much for adding that, because so often I think people will assume, 'Oh, if you build it, they will come', but, no, because how are they going to get not just physically from their home to this place, but also, as you were saying, Minister, people's lives are complicated, and then there will be lots of reasons that will compound the complications, depending on someone's class, on their—. There are so many different reasons. So, yes, unpicking all of that is something that is so important. I think that's something that I'm sure, as a committee—I know I'm not in the room, so I'm not able to see the Chair's eyes on this—we'll be interested in. Thank you for that.
In terms of your long-term plans for rail, then, what do you think the implications of the UK Government's rail reform plans for Wales are? What are the implications of that on your long-term plans for rail, and how will they interconnect?
So, I think we've got a problem here. Rail is an important part of the mix. I think there's a danger we focus too much on rail, because—this is back to the gender point—decision makers like rail, men of a certain age like playing with train sets, and there is a danger that the transport debate focuses too much on rail, whereas we know that the bus is the workhorse of the public transport system, and too little attention and funding has been focused on bus for a long time. So, insofar as rail has a role, which is a significant one, particularly for inter-urban journeys, and for dense urban areas light rail in particular has a real role, the join-up is critical, and the join-up currently is not joined up.
I don't want to repeat the arguments we've rehearsed in the Senedd Chamber, but rail infrastructure is not devolved. There is a structural problem with our funding system, one that the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee has identified, and that is a Conservative-dominated committee, so this is not making a partisan point here, but there is a problem with the way that the UK Treasury and the Department for Transport categorise rail spend, so we don't get our consequential of UK Government spend on new schemes, and there's a historic problem of underinvestment in Wales given the amount of the network that we have. So, both those two things are not new problems, but nor are they showing any signs of being addressed by the UK Government.
There's then the issue of the new Great British Railways that the UK Government have set up as a result of the Williams review, and, so far, that is not showing much sign of being a co-operative arrangement. Now, we've said that we are happy in principle for this body to be created. We think it should be a body of equals, and we think that different parts of the UK should sit on that as partners and make the Great British railway work for the whole of Great Britain. There's not much sign of movement on that in the Department for Transport, but I'm afraid there's a pattern here, in all of our relationships with this UK Government, and, as the First Minister often says, this wasn't the case in previous iterations of Conservative Governments in recent years, but this one in particular seems pretty hardline in not being willing to co-operate with the devolution nature of our settlement.
So, we are worried about the fact that the new GBR will be solely answerable to the UK Government, including over the operation and performance of all rail services into and out of Wales. We don't think that's right and we don't think that's likely to work. One good thing did come of that UK Welsh Affairs Select Committee report, which was the creation of a rail board for Wales, which was their recommendation, and that puts Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the Welsh Government around the table looking at joint planning. I think that's a sensible and healthy development, and is showing signs of success. But that principle needs to be applied to Great British Railways as well, and so far the UK Government aren't showing any signs of being willing to co-operate.
Thank you for that. Llyr, do I have time for the two questions left, or should I just make it one?
No, it's up to you. Go on.
Okay. Can I quickly come back on something about buses and, again, people's public perception? In some of our stakeholder evidence, there have been suggestions that people's perceptions of bus travel may be more negative than their perceptions of train travel. I was thinking about it, Minister, because of what you were saying—that there shouldn't be too much focus on trains, but we should be thinking about buses as well. That isn't the case—in terms of people's perceptions and how they break down—it's not the case in London. Speaking from personal experience from when I lived in London, people wouldn't think differently at all if you travelled by bus, by tube or by overground. Do you think, again, in terms in people's behaviour and people's perceptions, whether there is something that can be learned from that? I don't know about other cities and other parts of the world. I don't know whether this is a UK phenomenon, because of policies in the 1980s, or whether London is the outlier in this.
I think there's a very clear reason for it: the bus system in London was not privatised in the 1980s; everywhere outside of London it was. And if you look at passenger levels between London and the rest of the UK, there's a very clear relationship that can be shown about the number of people using the bus. As I said, 50 per cent of people in Wales never use the bus. So, as a result, we are creating a service for older people and for poorer people, so no wonder people have negative perceptions, because it's often not based on fact, so they're basing it on perception not on reality, because half of people never use the buses. So, they think it's worse than it is. And the bus is a very good experience for lots of people and lots of people use it very happily. They all want it to be better, but they use it successfully.
I think there is a real social justice issue, in that public transport should be a meeting place for the public. And we've created, ideologically, the car as a private domain zone, where you sit there in your own box of steel that gives you social status, you choose your own music, you put your own heated seat on, you don't have to bother with anybody else, and you exist atomised in society. And, for me, public transport, when you get it right, is a place of equality, where everybody can use it and everybody can interact, and you're there as citizens, not simply as consumers. And so, for me, there is a values lens on this whole debate as well as a practical one. And we've got the big job of shifting perceptions to make buses a place where people—all people—feel they belong and want to go on to get around instead and a better experience than getting in their car. And, as I said, unless we make the right thing to do the easy thing to do and the attractive thing to do, we'll never make the shift. So, that's what we're working on.
Thank you for that. Thank you. And then my final question is on local highway maintenance. Could you tell us please how the backlog in highway maintenance is going to be addressed, specifically whether there will be any further support for this in future financial years, please?
Well, obviously, local highway maintenance is the responsibility of local highway authorities. So, local government has a responsibility for local roads, and that is expected to be funded from the revenue support grant as anything else is, and we have given a generous revenue support grant uplift the last few years. So, it's for local politicians to decide where it sits in their order of priorities.
Now, we do recognise that overall road maintenance has not—. Committees of the Senedd have done reports about the backlog of highway maintenance, and there's definitely an issue there. What we've said in setting up the roads review is that we want to shift funding away from building simply new roads into both funding modal shift but also into better maintaining the roads we have. But, and I make a very important distinction here, it's not simply replacing like for like—because I can see the Asphalt Industry Alliance rubbing their hands with glee here; we have got to create conditions for modal shift in the way we maintain. So, when we maintain, we need to look at road space reallocation, and by that I mean creating bus lanes, widening pavements, creating segregated cycleways. So, we don't simply maintain and replace like for like. We need to do more to maintain, for sure. I'll ask Steve—as he's taken the trouble to come with us this morning and to put his suit on, he should at least get the chance to say something—about the review that I've asked to be carried out into road maintenance more generally.
As the Minister said, there's the roads review itself, but, on top of that, what we've actually put together is the draft major asset renewal programme for our strategic road network. And we've looked at that over a 10-year period. That has now gone to an independent panel to actually look at that. And, to address the point that the Minister has just made, it's looking at a major asset renewal programme and what are the opportunities for the reallocation of road space and active travel. That report came in a few days ago. We'll digest that and then provide advice to Ministers on that.
Very, very briefly, Huw, and then we'll need to move on.
Very briefly—my apologies, Delyth. Will this be applicable not just in the big city regions and towns in urban environments, but also in terms of what this highway development might do in terms of some of our Valleys communities and rural areas?
Okay. One-word answers—we like those. There we are. Thank you very much. We'll move on now, then, to our next area of questioning, and I'll ask Janet to lead on this.
Thank you. The bus sector in Wales has said that the metro projects in Wales are too rail-focused. What steps are you taking to address this—
Sorry. We're moving on from transport now; I think we've spent enough time on transport. We're moving on to our next area of—
Oh, sorry, I beg your pardon. Tree planting.
Yes, the next area of questioning. Thank you. Sorry, Janet.
No, it's all right. The war in Ukraine has inevitably caused huge food security issues, leading nations to develop and evolve domestic production more carefully and in line with the need of public consumption. While it is vital that we do see a Wales-led tree-planting programme to reduce carbon emissions, would you agree that by the actions of the Welsh Government in buying up farmland to achieve this goal is, now, more than ever, ill judged, given the ongoing situation that we do have in Europe?
So, I profoundly disagree, and this is an argument used by people who don't want to change as the latest reason why they shouldn't have to change. It's a false choice to say we have to choose between food security and protecting biodiversity and tackling the climate emergency. The UK Climate Change Committee made it very clear the only way we can meet a balanced pathway to net zero in the next 10 years is to look at a 10 per cent change in land use towards tree planting. Now, that sits alongside food production. What we're talking about is each farmer setting aside a small amount of land, as used to be the case in the farming tapestry, where forestry sat alongside food production quite happily. Those skills have been lost. I met with the National Farmers Union on Friday to discuss this on a farm in my own constituency, where they happily admitted that many of their farmers have lost the ability to do this.
This is an economic opportunity for farmers. The demand for timber for house production and for building materials is skyrocketing, as is the price. Now, obviously, there is a lag between planting a tree now and being able to have an economic value from that. Carbon credits offer an opportunity to address the biodiversity opportunity of planting trees to create some financial value from it, but also in terms of a long-term investment—and we are creating funds to do this both for planting and for maintaining. This is a sensible thing for farmers to do in their own economic interest, as well as the interest of this country, because you talk about food security, we also need to talk about supply security. We are currently importing 80 per cent of the trees and timber that we use. Now, where is the sense in that? We are leaking money out of our economy, and also at a time of rising global demand for timber as a building material, we are putting ourselves at the mercy of other countries to be able to provide us with a key building material. That makes no sense.
Okay. Well, we'll agree to disagree on that one.
Can I just come in on that, because I agree with much of what you said? So, are you therefore comfortable with the fact that the Welsh Government is buying, or are buying, productive agricultural land and farms, outbidding younger farmers in those communities in order for the stated aim of increasing tree cover?
Okay. I'd like to see the evidence that we're outbidding young farmers in those communities. I've not seen that, and, in fact, Tilhill have made clear that in the transactions they've been involved in, the land they've bought on behalf of investors has been at market value. So, if you have evidence to the contrary, I'd really like to see that, but that's a claim made, I've not often seen it backed up.
Yes, Natural Resources Wales has bought, as it always has done—
And Welsh Government.
—land for commercial forestry. We are committed—as I thought there was cross-party support for—to plant a national forest for Wales. That involves land acquisition, of course it does, both for productive use and for leisure use, and for biodiversity use, all aims this committee has issued reports supporting. This is another example of people signing up to the broad principle, but as soon as you then apply it in practice, people running a mile when there are those who don't like it.
I was just responding to the fact that you said it wasn't an either/or, but, clearly, there are examples of food-producing land being converted into forestry by the Government directly.
Can I come in there? I very recently had a meeting with NRW officials about this, Llyr. So, I think we're in danger of making a binary thing here where, actually, it's a lot more nuanced. So, first of all, there's nothing to stop young farmers accessing land for productive use, whether it's for timber production or land production, that's in the ownership of NRW, Welsh Government or other arms of state ownership. We do that a lot. We want our farmers to get the skills necessary to have that kind of diversification on their land. So, I too would like to see the evidence that NRW are blocking out young farmers from things that would usefully be training grounds and so on for them. So, I had a very good meeting with NRW about that.
NRW also told me a number of things about our forest that I didn't know, which I'd like to share with the committee, not least that we were the first state forest in the world to get the forestry standards and to have maintained them all the way through. We don't sing our own praises very often. We need to understand how well we've actually done. This kind of binary choice-ing has only arisen over the last year, because we've been doing this for decades, but it's only very recently people have started to say, 'Oh, you're—'. We just don't think we are doing that.
So, we have a whole series of schemes across portfolios, with Lesley as well, to assist young farmers onto land where they can't afford to acquire it themselves—we've been doing that for a long time—and we'll be bringing a sustainable farming scheme forward. So, I do think we need to get away from this kind of binary thing: 'This is good. This is bad.' There are a range of uses for land. One of them is to produce trees, one of them is to produce food. Sometimes, you can produce the food on the land that has trees on it—
And on the trees, yes.
It depends. And then the last thing I wanted to say—sorry, Lee, I'll shut up in a minute—is we also have a big drive for renewables. I know onshore wind is controversial and so on, but we have onshore wind farms on the Welsh Government forest estate. I had the great fortune to go up to Pen y Cymoedd the other day. If the committee hasn't done it, do. The increase of biodiversity around the footprint of each of the turbines is phenomenal, and documented over the five years that they've put in, and we also bought additional land to make up for the land lost to forestry. So, these are all combination aims that are necessary, and that the farming community needs to get on board with and take advantage of. This is not about disadvantaging any kind of farmer of any sort—tenant, owner, young, whatever—across Wales. It's about getting us all on board with what we absolutely have to do if we're not going to have a burning planet, frankly.
And just a very brief fact-check to put this in proportion, over the last five years, NRW has purchased 214 hectares of land, and most of that is for compensatory planting. So, it's not a large amount.
No, but I wasn't referring explicitly to NRW. My understanding is there are direct Welsh Government purchases, but I'll provide you with that information and maybe you can respond in due course.
Well, we certainly bought some land for the commemorative woodlands for COVID, and we are looking to buy land for the national forest, but I think the scale of this problem is being magnified by people who are resistant to the policy.
Okay, thank you.
And also, Llyr—I mean, I'd love to see the examples too. We're very happy to look at them. But because we're buying up land for a national forest doesn't mean there won't be access for young farmers to learn the skills necessary to manage forestry, which we absolutely have to recreate in our land communities. So, we need—. You know, we cannot do any of these things without the custodians and stewards of the land coming alongside us. But this isn't a war, this is about us making sure that, together in Wales, we're growing food in the right places, trees in the right places, protected grasslands in the right places. And can I just say, just to put this shibboleth to bed as well, just because we talk about trees does not mean that we want to carpet the whole of Wales with trees.
No, no. Nobody's suggesting that.
Clearly, there are lots of places in Wales—there are peatlands and everything else—that need to be preserved. So, it's a little bit like the panda in the World Wildlife Fund, isn't it? We're not only preserving pandas, we're not only talking about trees. It's the iconic bit of what we're talking about in biodiversity.
The famous Welsh panda—yes, okay. Thank you. Joyce has raised her hand, and then we'll come back to you Janet for the next question. Joyce.
Thank you. Just on the acquisition of land, there's an awful lot of land, of course, farmland, in the hands of local authorities, and I'm just wondering what conversations might have happened between Welsh Government and local authorities about maintaining their designated farmland for community benefits such as tree planting and food production. It just seems a perfect time to ask that question.
As part of the deep dive—just to remind you, the purpose of that was to look at why we've been so colossally bad at hitting our tree-planting targets and what was getting in the way and how you can overcome those barriers—one of the things we looked at is how public land can be used better for tree planting, both at scale and at a local community level—I know Jenny Rathbone, for example, is a great proponent of community orchards and community growing, and there's absolutely a role for that in communities—so the whole spectrum of planting. But we've agreed, as part of the deep-dive recommendations, that we'll work with public bodies to identify what land is in their ownership, and what land might be suitable for tree planting, alongside other uses. This isn't an either/or, as Julie James said, but to take a strategic planned approach to this, just as Belfast is doing with its plan to plant a million trees in the city over the next few years.
So, we are starting that work, and we're working with Ystadau Cymru, which is the umbrella body for the different public bodies and estate management, and we are at early stages, but I think there's a great deal of potential, but we need to get the balance right.
And the last thing I'd like to add on that, and I completely agree with everything that Lee Waters has just said—
That's a relief. [Laughter.]
I thought I'd say it, for the avoidance of doubt. [Laughter.] But just to add that we're also very keen on pushing the tiny forest project for that, particularly for urban areas, and that's very much with a view to reconnecting people who live in our urban places with nature and the biodiversity that comes with that. I'm sure the committee's familiar with the tiny forest concept, but we're very excited about it and we're rolling out a programme of those across Wales as well.
We'll come to Janet, and then we'll come to you, Jenny, if that's okay.
Just going back to the tree planting, it's a fact, isn't it, that the reason that we're having to plant 43,000 hectares of new trees by 2030 is because tree planting in Wales has been poor for decades, with only 450 hectares of new trees planted per year. So, yes, okay, you're addressing that, but do you not agree that some of our best places to start planting trees are within our towns and cities—you know, urban planting? And I see the emphasis is on farmland and things. Why are you not rolling out a really vigorous tree-planting scheme in our urban areas?
Well, in fairness, the Minister's literally just spoken about that.
I've just said that.
Yes, but do you not—
Literally in the last 30 seconds.
I think I can add to it briefly, if you wish me to.
I'm sure you've read the deep-dive recommendations, Janet, and they cover the whole spectrum of these things. So, for example, we're giving every family who wants one a free tree. We started that earlier this year, and we'll be rolling it out further later in the year.
Can I just say on that: it is problematic because, as soon as a place has them, they just go within a day or two. So, a lot of people have felt let down on that.
Well, to be fair, it was a soft launch to begin modestly.
We need a robust launch.
Well, gusto is coming around the corner, Janet. For the winter planting season, we will have 25 regional hubs, and we'll look to scale this where the demand is there. And it's excellent that you're showing that there is more demand than there was supply in the tasters that we introduced, to argue against your own point. We are dealing with a whole spectrum of interventions to encourage tree planting. So, we're doing that at a household level.
It's a fact that 80 per cent of the land in Wales is owned by farmers. So, we absolutely need to have farmers with us, and work with them, and that's why the design of the sustainable farming scheme will have a hedges and edges approach at its heart, looking at the parts of farms that are less productive, that farmers are happy to plant on, on slopes and corners of fields and so on—which is not in opposition to food production; it works alongside it—as well as, as I mentioned in the earlier answer, looking at a whole range of other community initiatives as well. So, we've got big targets to meet here. We've got 86 million trees by the end of this decade, more again in the decade to come. And there are multiple objectives here—there's biodiversity loss reversal, there are productive woodlands and there's carbon sequestration, and each of those require slightly different approaches.
Okay, thank you. Jenny, then, finally on this, and then we'll come on to Huw.
Thank you. I just want to come back to the point made by Joyce: the importance of not allowing local authorities to dispose of their council farms as they're really useful training grounds for people who can't afford to buy a farm. But I just wanted to ask, in terms of land use planning, how will the Government protect peri-urban land, which is a focus of the Sustain report that's just been published, for food production, whether it's market gardens, or community purchase and growing of food, in the context of the disruption to the international markets?
So, that's very much a part of the whole national plan—the five-minute neighbourhood, the access to different sorts of plans. So, we're talking with our—. We've got some serious issues about the way that funding works for some of these things. So, we're talking currently with our local authorities about a whole series of difficult issues here, Jenny, around, when applications come in, what needs to be looked at in terms of commuted sums and ongoing costs for various land uses—that's one of them—landscaping parks, green infrastructure. There's a whole load of them. And we need to look properly, and we've got a piece of work going on, about trying to make a much more universal understanding for both developers and local authorities about what those commuted sums might look like, and what it's acceptable for the local authority to ask for, in terms of what the land looks like when they take it over themselves, or what the situation is for getting community use into it and so on. So, we've got a big piece of work going on that. I can't pretend we've got all the answers to that yet—it's quite complicated to do, and with public money scarce all over the place, local authorities are quite rightly slightly sceptical about taking on more burdens, where it's perceived as a burden. So, we need to make sure that the local authority is able and willing to look after that, or there are community organisations who are able and willing to take it over, and the funding is in place as part of the planning gain, or whatever it is that's going on. So, there are some issues there.
But we've also got a piece of work looking at unused land—it's not necessarily easy to trace the owners of land across Wales. In my own patch, for example, I have a whole pile of people who do guerrilla gardening, on various bits of Swansea, which is great, isn't it, but we'd like to enshrine it, to make sure that they can carry on doing that, they're not doing it at risk. But actually, it's one of those things that looks like a really easy fix and it turns out not to be at all easy, of course, because it's quite hard to trace sometimes the owners of some of that. So, I'm really happy to work with the committee and with other groups to see what we can do to both encourage community ownership or local authority ownership of those kinds of lands.
And then, as part of the biodiversity deep-dive—just the last thing to say on this—one of the things we're looking at is what happens around the edge of designated landscapes, sites of special scientific interest and so on, because you need buffer zones for a lot of these things. If you're going to put something very dirty indeed as it's used right up to the boundary of a SSSI, you're unlikely to not be impacting it. So, there'll be a big issue about what we do to protect buffer zones—that's probably not the right term for it, but you know what I mean, the edge zones for that, which will come out of the biodiversity deep-dive recommendations, I'm sure.
Thank you. Huw.
Thank you, Chair. We're going to move out of the woodland now and the trees, into broader areas—biodiversity and the Conference of the Parties. We don't have a lot of detail on what your ambitions are for influencing the outcome of COP. I know you've stated that you've been engaged with the UK Government on this, but we haven't seen a lot as a committee. Can you share with us today what your thoughts are and what you're trying to achieve from the COP on biodiversity?
Yes. So, we're working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and UK counterparts to develop a negotiating position in readiness for the fourth meeting of the working groups for COP. They're in Nairobi from 21 to 26 June, with the biodiversity framework scheduled to take place. We've been working—. Obviously, it's the UK Government that's the party to the Conference of the Parties. We've been working, therefore, with the UK Government to make sure that our point of view about what we should be looking to have in those is reflected, and we've been accessing a number of expert advice areas and academics and people and our own officials, to make sure that we have a voice in the UK negotiating team to do that. And what we're obviously hoping for as an outcome is something that we can base our legally binding targets on that makes sense and isn't just a global, fairly easy to jiggle out of thing.
I speak extremely sincerely here. I could easily say right now that Wales has met its 30 per cent target because we've designated 30 per cent of the landmass—'There you go, I've done it.' Now, you'll all know and I know that we have not done it. So, what we want is—what does that mean, what is COP saying that the world should be trying to do that we can then translate properly into what we should do here in Wales. So, that's what we're after, Huw—we're after specifics about what should happen inside these protected areas, what we should be aiming for. It's the conversation we had right at the beginning of this committee session—what is 'good', what does it look like, what are we talking about in terms of both halting decline, reversing decline, and restoration? It's all those kinds of arguments that are going on there. Obviously, this is a global summit, to try and work out a global agreed platform for that. And obviously we hope very much to have a real step forward in that agreement across the world.
I'm pleased to hear you talk about specifics there, and that's what I'm trying to get at a little bit here, because you seem to be suggesting that, beyond the broader ambitions of 30x30, beyond the broader ambitions of halting decline and reversing biodiversity loss, you want something more granular that will hold individual nations—[Inaudible.]—hold their toes to the fire and say, 'When you go back, this is what we're telling you you need to deliver on.' Can you give us some more of those specifics at the moment? Are you able to tell us what's going on in negotiations with the lead UK delegation? What are you arguing for that is causing difficulty at a UK level or elsewhere? What have people agreed on so far? What—
We're not having any difficulty at the UK level, to be fair. We're having a reasonable conversation with DEFRA officials about what the UK position is on this. The UK position is broadly in line with our own about the need to do exactly what I've just said: halt the decline—at least hold it at the halt level—and then restoration. Pace, investment, how? Those are the kinds of nitty-gritty—. So, as they always are with COPs, aren't they—so, you get big global statements, but exactly how are people going to do that? What's going to be the global contribution of developed nations to that, in terms of UN funding and all that kind of stuff, will be coming out of it, exactly as it did for COP26 for the climate change one. So, we'll see what comes.
At what point will you be able to share with the committee and with the Senedd as a whole what your negotiation position is, so that we can see those specifics, so that when you go out there, we can take a view as to whether that's robust enough?
I'm not sure I can do that, Huw, because we're part of the DEFRA negotiating team. I will certainly ask the question, but I'm fairly certain the answer's going to be, 'Well, no, if we tell you what the negotiating stance is, that's going to undermine our negotiating stance, when we go into the—'. So, I'm fairly certain that'll be the outcome, but I'm happy to ask the question.
But I can tell you the broad thrust is around what we need to contribute globally—this whole issue about global footprint. So, I think that's going to be a really big issue. So, at the moment, I'm sure as the committee is aware, the net-zero stuff that we're looking for is domestic net zero. We don't have to count currently any global footprints for climate change or for biodiversity. There is a big move to get people to start looking globally at their footprint. So, there'll be issues around not exporting—. I've said this lots of times and I'll say it again, right: we could go to net zero really quickly, because we could shut down the steel industry in Wales. That would give us a huge boost, but what we would actually have done is export our footprint elsewhere to much less efficient steel, we would have not achieved a just transition because we would've put a large number of people on the dole for no good reason whatsoever, and we would have to import steel from all over the world to build our renewables. So, what you measure matters because it drives behaviour. So, what we're after is a set of measures that drive the behaviours that will get us to good biological biodiversity status in Wales and on a global stage more generally as fast as we're able to get there.
Okay, that's good. I mean, just to clarify, Chair, I know there will be negotiating positions that you will want to use to your advantage with working with like-minded partners out there when you get there to try and advance your cause, but I think what we'd appreciate as a committee, and the Senedd would appreciate, is you will have stated positions when you go out there, you will be signing off on this, and I think we'd appreciate seeing that as soon as you have it signed off, that opening gambit, so that we can have a good look at that and say, well, that feels like—
I'm more than happy to ask the question, Huw, as to when. So, negotiations are happening in Nairobi on 21 and 26 June. I'm more than happy to find out, frankly, what Wales itself will get by way of feedback and then what we can share with the committee. I'm more than happy to do that.
Okay, and then that brings us back to the return. I'm wondering whether you think that coming back from this—. Sorry, whether following COP15, you will be in a position to legislate on domestic biodiversity targets, and if so, what would that look like in Wales?
Yes, we absolutely are going to do that. I'm determined to do that. What I don't know is what they will look like. So, we've got a whole series of pieces of work going on to make sure that we have robust, stretching but achievable targets over the short, medium, long term—all the usual stuff that we do. We've got a whole series of milestones in shaping Wales's future, which I'm sure the committee are aware of. So, we've got indicator 44, as it says here in my briefing pack, 'the status of biological diversity in Wales'—part of wave 2 of the milestone development.
So, we're working on this. But I just can't emphasise this enough: if I set those targets down now, they would say, '30 per cent of the land by 2030', and then I would report to the committee that I've mapped and I've done it—hurrah. So, what use is that to anyone? That's of no use. We need a target that drives us down a particular road, achievable road, stretching road, that actually gets us back into the route to whatever 'good' looks like. Now, you know, I don't know what that looks like at the moment. I can't tell you what those targets are, and as a result of all of the pieces of work that are going on, we will be able to do that, and I'm very happy to have a discussion with the committee very robustly, invite some of the experts on the biodiversity panel to talk to you and stuff, because they don't all agree either, and one of the interesting things about chairing the panel is the conversation that goes on between people with different points of view about what that should look like. I hope we will come to a consensus from the panel in a series of recommendations that allows us to develop robust, binding targets for the Government that are both meaningful and, with a stretch, achievable. I mean, I don't want them to be easy, but nor do we want them to be so off the wall that we just go, 'Oh, we can't do that, so we won't bother.' These have to be things that force us down the road to better biodiversity in Wales, otherwise what's the point?
There we are. Okay, thank you very much. I want to move on now, then, to broadband coverage and connectivity, and I'm just wondering what you can tell us about the barrier-busting taskforce that has been established, and what that's telling you in terms of what the Government can do to increase the deployment of broadband connectivity.
The barrier-busting taskforce was a recommendation of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales, and it's been working diligently—I don't think it's quite as exciting as its title suggests—and its report is imminent to be finalised, I think later this month, and to be delivered to us next month, so I've not seen it yet. My official, Richard Sewell, who is joining us remotely, has been the official chairing and leading the work, so perhaps I can ask him to tell you a little bit more.
There we are. Okay, I'll invite Richard, then, to contribute.
Shwmae. Can you all hear me?
Yes, we can indeed.
Brilliant. Okay, I have to disagree with the Minister: I think it's one of the most exciting things I've been involved in. [Laughter.] Actually, in all seriousness, the taskforce will meet on 7 July. We're expecting them to agree at that point the final report that will then come in to Ministers. The kind of ground that it's covering—and I don't want to kind of, you know, take anything away from the future, but it's covering everything you'd expect around communication between organisations. This is very much focused on the interplay between industry, trying to deploy networks and infrastructures, and then the public services processes that they encounter. A lot of the barriers are focused on that interplay between what you're trying to do, whether it's around street works, or planning, or access to public buildings, and also it factors in regulation. But one of the key things I think you'll see coming out of that report will be, and this plays into a wider sort of digital narrative, is the need for digital champions at various stages within public sector organisations that are able to push through some of the red tape and to try and bring better consistency to the way we interpret the guidance and everything that we have around us. So, I think we'll have to wait for the report itself before we get into that detail, but it's going to be quite wide-ranging across those areas.
Thank you for that. One piece of evidence or some of the evidence that we've received as a committee suggests that—and this is to the Deputy Minister—user representation of the group doesn't exist, and whether an end-user sort of voice should have been part of that discussion.
It depends what you define as a 'user'. It was designed, as I say, as a recommendation of the infrastructure commission, on the structural barriers to gaining better connectivity. I don't think an 'end user' is a particularly useful perspective to include within that discussion. The 'user' in that context are the utilities and the companies and the local authorities who are trying to navigate that complex landscape. We have a digital strategy where the end user is very much at the centre of it, but that's about service design, rather than infrastructure design and provision. So, I don't think that's really a legitimate criticism.
Okay. So, what is your strategy, then, to reach that final 1 per cent of people who can't get decent coverage, and are we looking at use of public money to reach that final 1 per cent?
Well, let me tell you, as Julie James told you a hundred times when she was the Minister responsible, and I think you'd expect me to say it: telecommunications is not a devolved responsibility. And I think that's quite a relevant thing we keep losing sight of. We've just been discussing rail infrastructure, where we have stepped in and diverted devolved funding from areas we are responsible for in order to provide something because the UK Government is failing to provide it, and we've done that in spades in digital infrastructure.
The final 1 per cent is a really knotty problem. It's an area with European funding, and some UK funding, but a lot of our own funding as well. We've put a huge amount of effort in, and Richard Sewell, who you've just heard from, has been leading that for a number of years, with great success in connecting properties, but it's my view that we should now stop being so active in this area. Our budget settlements have shrunk. It is for the UK Government to step in and step up into that space, not for us. Having said that, there are other reasons for doing so. So, there are areas around innovation that we've been involved in. We have a local broadband fund. We've just announced £9 million, another funding round, for local authorities and social enterprises to bid for funding to connect hard-to-reach communities.
We've also just announced a £4 million investment through Bangor University for the digital signal processing centre—I'm very pleased I remembered that—which is a really innovative and very complex scheme to use fibre optic sensing approaches to increase speeds and bring 5G level connectivity into deep rural areas. And as well as incredibly innovative technology, which they're working with a consortium of businesses including Vodafone on at Bangor, and on Ynys Môn in the science park, they're also doing a pilot project to connect more than 400 properties in deep Anglesey who currently are what's classified as white premises, so have no connectivity at all. We think that figure will be much higher in practice, but if that approach proves successful, we will have significantly contributed, both to a 5G roll-out, but also to innovation roll-out, connecting businesses, universities and spin-offs, and connecting people to broadband. So, I think there are areas where it's still legitimate for the Welsh Government to play a role, but I'm very keen that the UK Government does its job.