THE WELSH Government will create a new body, Net-Zero Industry Wales, to help Welsh industry decarbonise and create new jobs.
Wales’s Economy Minister Vaughan Gething made the announcement on Monday, March 28.
The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government sets out a commitment to ensuring Wales becomes a Net Zero nation by 2050.
Due in large part to Wales’s industrial heritage within the steel, oil, gas and chemicals sectors in south Wales, Wales-based businesses are responsible for around 20% of the UK’s overall industrial and business carbon emissions.
The majority of Welsh industrial and business carbon emissions can be directly attributed to companies along the M4 corridor.
Net Zero Industry Wales will work with an existing group of 40 business and academic partners operating within a wide range of energy-intensive industries to help them achieve Net-Zero.
Meeting that target will need an average annual reduction in Welsh emissions of 1.3 million tonnes of CO2e (from 2018 levels).
The new body will have a number of short to medium-term priorities, including:
• Enabling industry to explore new economic growth opportunities by becoming a world leader in low-carbon manufacturing – playing to Wales’s existing strengths;
• Support the future development of a Circular Economy in Wales;
• Stimulate and anchor new investments to create and retain high-skilled jobs;
• Engage with stakeholders to support public and private investment.
The Welsh Government claims the creation of Net Zero Industry Wales will help to maximise the potential for stakeholder engagement, industrial participation, the drawdown of relevant UK Government funding, and ensure activities align to Welsh Government policy priorities.
The Welsh Government will support the new body with £150,000 in support each year for the next three financial years.
To further support Wales to achieve Net Zero, later this year the Welsh Government will publish its Net Zero Skills Action Plan, which will set out how Ministers will support businesses to develop a green, skilled workforce.
The Minister announced the creation of Net Zero Industry Wales during a visit to TATA Steel in Port Talbot.
Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething said: “Accelerating the decarbonisation of Welsh businesses and industry is crucial if we are to meet our ambitious net zero targets by 2050.
“The creation of Net Zero Industry Wales is an important step forward to help deliver this transition and underlines our commitment to support industry in south Wales to decarbonise.
“I was with the Aerospace industry last week exploring the transfer of technologies to support decarbonisation in Wales and expect Net Zero Industry Wales to also act as a focus for this transfer across all our high value manufacturers.
“Another important element is working in close collaboration with the UK’s other industrial clusters to ensure Wales has access to best practice.
“Without this action, Wales and the UK will not achieve our net-zero targets by 2050.
“We recognise that we cannot deliver decarbonisation in Wales alone. Our goal is to work in partnership with the UK Government to ensure that Welsh businesses and industry have access to a wide range of support.
“It is therefore critical that the tools available to businesses in Wales are fit-for-purpose and are flexible enough to recognise the complex industrial processes and challenges to be met.”
Dr Chris Williams, Head of Industrial Decarbonisation at Industry Wales, said: “This announcement today is the product of many years of hard work by many Welsh companies, Governments, Universities, and likeminded people who realised that to achieve a restorative and net-zero economy in Wales we would have to work together to map out what is needed from every sector in Wales.
“What we are working on isn’t about changing the industrial makeup of Wales, it’s about innovating it, being ahead of the curve when it comes to decarbonisation to ensure that we keep these industries and jobs in Wales.
“It is also about examining opportunities to create exciting new industries in Wales, as well as revitalising and sustaining existing ones.
“Wales has a long and rich industrial heritage, leading the way in the manufacturing and engineering revolution.
“Now we plan to be a leader of the green revolution and the creation of Net Zero Industry Wales is certainly going to help us achieve that in a more joined up and cohesive way.”
The reference to “likeminded people” in Dr Williams’s response hints at a level of groupthink in the Welsh Government’s approach. Rather like Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters’ announcement of a high-level appointment to a Welsh Government body last week, the Welsh Government has asked for views it finds congenial rather than philosophically challenging or that might sound a cautionary note.
The economic assumptions underpinning the policy might be correct in the long term; however, the cost of the policy’s implementation will be borne by consumers and businesses now.
Rather like the notorious example of health and civil service “efficiencies”, there is an upper limit to the number of photocopiers that can be turned off overnight.
Radical change will be costly to implement and funding it from the Welsh Government budget means cuts to services elsewhere.
Talking about where decarbonisation opportunities could arise will, of course, and ironically, increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
However, as an announcement of an intention to have a document to determine a policy that might be derailed by forces beyond the Welsh Government’s control, Mr Gething’s words are as valid as any plan produced so far.
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