Skip to main Content

The Welsh Government

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


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

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

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

Wales is rich in tradition and culture with dramatic scenery, more castles per square mile than any other country in the world and a passion for sport, particularly rugby and football.

Wales has two official languages, English and Welsh - the Welsh language being one of the oldest living languages in Europe, which is still spoken fluently by about a fifth of the population.

Our natural resources fuelled the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries with Wales becoming one of the world’s very first industrialized nations. The legacy of that industrialization also means that we are fully aware of the long lasting social and environmental implications that unsustainable development can have.

Today we have a mixed economy including finance, construction, agriculture, wholesale, retail and tourism and going forward our focus on green growth is supporting the significant increases already seen in the low carbon and environmental sectors of our economy.  As a nation, the food produced from our land remains an important part of our identity, with Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef’s unique heritage, character and reputation having been recognized by the European Commission with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

In tackling climate change, our approach in Wales is to take action which has sustainable development at its heart.  In other words, our action to tackle the problem of climate change has looked to also address key issues such as health, poverty and to create jobs, whilst also benefitting the environment.

In 2014 we conducted a national conversation on “The Wales We Want” for our future generations. In a survey of young people across Wales, the top two issues highlighted after jobs were flooding and climate change.

Our Active Travel Act is a world first for Wales and provides us with an opportunity to transform Wales into an active travel nation, making walking and cycling the normal way of getting around, which helps to incorporate exercise into people’s everyday lives and helps our environment by reducing air pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and congestion.

The Sustainable Development Scheme aims to measure and reduce Wales’ ecological footprint and to promote fair and responsible consumption of resources. In doing this, it will help build a sustainable economy, foster innovation and technology, and enhance both human wellbeing and biodiversity.

Sustainability lies at the heart of our agenda as a Government and therefore lies at the heart of our legislative programme with 3 landmark pieces of legislation that seek to enshrine Wales’ commitment to sustainable development and support our efforts to tackle key intergenerational challenges like climate change. Broadly, the Bills will enable this by: 

  • Setting out clearly the goals we are aiming for and the key principles to apply in order to develop sustainably. This is being done through the Well-being of Future Generations Bill.
  • Ensuring there is a clear evidence base in relation to the natural resources we have, the key risks they face and the opportunities they bring. This is being done through the Environment Bill.
  • Having an efficient process to ensure the right development is located in the right place. This is being done through the Planning Bill.

The Well-being of Future Generations Bill sets ambitious, long-term goals to reflect the Wales we want to see, both now and in the future. The goals encompass a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales with cohesive communities and a vibrant and thriving culture and Welsh language. In putting these goals into law, it will also set the role of public services in Wales in working to achieving the goals as its overarching purpose.  

The Commissioner for Sustainable Futures provides advice to the Welsh Government and leadership for sustainable development across Wales and also chairs the Climate Change Commission for Wales, an independent body providing leadership and advice to Welsh Government, which brings together the main political parties, sector interests, delivery bodies, academics and climate change experts to support delivery of climate change work in Wales.

The Environment Bill will put in place a modern legislative approach that recognizes that our water, land, air and sea are all interlinked and our economy, society and environment are all interdependent. It sets out the requirements to manage, use and enhance Wales’ natural resources to deliver lasting, sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits.

A key theme of the Environment Bill is integrated Natural Resource Management, which applies the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ecosystem Approach and puts in place processes to plan and manage our natural resources in a more joined-up way to improve ecosystem resilience and the ability of our ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

The planning system is central to sustainable development and in Wales planning policy provides for a presumption in favour of sustainable development to ensure that decision-makers look at social, economic and environmental issues at the same time when taking decisions. The Planning Bill will improve the planning system by emphasising a positive approach that facilitates appropriate development that delivers both now and in the long term.

Key Targets / Successes

Climate policy and GHG emissions reduction targets:

  • Reduce emissions within areas of devolved competence by 3% each year from 2011.
  • Reduce all Welsh emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Build resilience and respond to the consequences of climate change.

Most innovative climate actions and emissions reduction successes

With the Climate Change Act 2008 the UK became the first national government to make a legal commitment to cut carbon emissions. Wales is operating alongside this framework with its own ambitious policies and targets.

Wales has its own Government and a democratically elected National Assembly for Wales, which has devolved responsibility for areas including health, education, economic development, housing, planning and the environment.  When they were created in 1998, Wales became one of the first nations in the world to have a legal duty in relation to sustainable development at the heart of its constitution.

As a small and industrialized nation, Wales can play an important role in demonstrating leadership on climate change. Our commitment to tackling climate change includes measures to increase energy savings and efficiency, low carbon energy generation and the maximization of opportunities for practical skills and green jobs. 

We have published a clear and accessible Climate Change Strategy to set out its long term aims and targets. Our 2014 Climate Change Annual Report sets out progress made against our headline commitments against emission reduction and adaptation and summarizes some of the key activity that has been taken forward. In once again meeting our 3% target, it shows that positive progress has been made.  That said, with our emissions against the 40% target increasing, it is clear that more must be done.

Wales has a higher proportion of traded emissions covered by the EU Emissions trading Scheme (ETS) than the rest of the UK. This reflects the high share of heavy industry and electricity generation in Wales. Wales has a proportionately high share of the UK’s electricity generation and heavy industry and is a net exporter of energy. ETS emissions accounted for 54% of total emissions in 2012 - a greater proportion of total emissions than in any other UK nation. This means that our 40% target is particularly sensitive to increases in EU-ETS emissions for which the framework is non-devolved.

Current Activities

Flagship initiative:

The eco-schools program has a particularly high profile in Wales with over 90% of schools, representing over 430,000 students in Wales being registered. The program aims to ensure that all students learn about energy, water; transport; waste minimization; biodiversity; healthy living; litter and global citizenship.

Renewable Energy:

In Wales, the percentage of electricity generation from renewables has increased from 3.5% in 2005 to 10.1% in 2013.  We estimate that in 2016 renewables could account for over 15% of our total electricity generation and approaching an equivalent of 30% of our electricity consumption.   

Provisional data from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change shows that the capacity of renewable energy installations in Wales increased by 55% to 1.8GW during 2014, with more than half due to offshore wind particularly the Gwynt y Môr site.  Renewable electricity generation in Wales was 3.4 TWh, an increase of 31 per cent (0.8 TWh); the majority of which was due to increased wind generation.

The transition to a low carbon energy future involves harnessing a range of energy sources at different scales, and while the UK Government holds many of the levers on energy policy the Welsh Government is using the powers available to it to support this transition.

We are accelerating the move to local generation of energy, from renewable sources, and close to where it is used.  We are doing this by:

  • setting a clear direction for local energy;
  • removing barriers to generation;
  • providing support for new projects; and
  • enabling access to capital funds.

Generating energy locally increases energy security and proofs against price fluctuations.  It can secure long term benefits for communities, and provides good jobs in installation and maintenance, at the same time as it tackles climate change.

Clear direction: we are aligning our plans and programmes to meet the aspirations set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill and the Environment (Wales) Bill. 

Barrier removal: NRW has streamlined the process for issuing abstraction licences, speeding up the process particularly for low risk schemes, reducing the amount of evidence needed and therefore the cost.  We are continuing to address barriers in order to accelerate 

Providing support: the Resource Efficient Wales (REW) service provides access to support for all sectors to increase generation, and we are responding to demand by developing additional support for renewables schemes that will be accessible through REW.

Enabling access to capital funds: we are developing the Green Growth Wales investment fund, which will fund the energy generation and efficiency projects that our support has developed.

The launch of Resource Efficient Wales in October 2014 was a significant achievement. Resource Efficient Wales is a Welsh Government service that integrates previously separate provision, and delivers independent advice and support for people and organisations to invest in improvements that save on energy, water and waste.  Alongside this service we are developing a suite of advice and support services to accelerate the uptake of small and medium scale renewable energy and energy efficiency by individuals, communities and organisations.

The Ynni’r Fro programme has provided significant support to 57 community led renewable energy schemes since 2012, with 11 of these scheme on course to be constructed and generating a combined installed capacity of 5.5MW by the end of 2015.  We estimate that a total of £8.72m of private sector investment will be levered into Ynni’r Fro projects by the end of 2015.

Larger scale developments will be required to generate renewable energy alongside the distributed schemes if we are to quickly transition to a low carbon energy system.  Alongside the more established technologies, innovative solutions are being developed to harness our natural resources.  A proposal to construct a 320 MW tidal lagoon between the ports of Swansea and Neath is under consideration in the planning system.  If consented, it will be the first tidal lagoon in the UK, capable of powering over 155,000 homes (equivalent to 90% of Swansea Bay's annual domestic electricity use) for 120 years.

Energy efficiency:

Our area based energy efficiency programs have improved 7900 homes in some of the most deprived areas of Wales, whilst providing jobs and training for local people, with programs such as arbed creating more than 470 new jobs and providing over 40,000 hours of training to new and existing employees. So far the program has saved around 2.48Ktc and energy savings of 9.5 gigawatt hours.

Clean transportation:

The Government invests in a number of Sustainable Travel Centres to encourage public transport use and effective journey planning. The region supports UK and EU policies on emission standards and low carbon fuels. Eco-driving, walking and cycling are promoted heavily and the Government is committed to investing in bus and rail services, and improving traffic management.

Urban environment/smart cities:

The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, which became law in Wales on 4 November 2013, requires local authorities to continuously improve facilities and routes for pedestrians and cyclists and to prepare maps identifying current and potential future routes for their use. The Act also requires new road schemes (including road improvement schemes) to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists at design stage. The Act is intended to enable more people to walk and cycle and generally travel by non-motorized transport. Making walking and cycling safer and more practical encourages healthier lifestyles, reduces carbon emissions and improves our environment.

We also have plans for a Cardiff Capital Region Metro - an ambitious and transformative long-term project with some radical ideas which, with improved transport connectivity at its core, is seen as integral to achieving wider economic and social outcomes for south east Wales.

Waste management:

In the waste sector, we have the highest recycling rates in the United Kingdom. Local authority collected municipal waste recycling rate in Wales has risen from less than 10% in 2000-01 to 58% for 2014/15 and we are leading the way in the UK.  We have set statutory recycling targets to help us towards our goal - to recycle at least 70 per cent of our waste by 2025 and to be a zero waste (100 per cent recycling) nation by 2050. Our work in the waste sector has not only reduced emissions but also delivered sustainable economic growth.  In taking forward our action on waste, we have also delivered economic and social benefits with the investment having created jobs and supported growth within the sector. We also anticipate savings against futures costs of over £5.5m on the food waste program and over £500m on the residual waste program.

Sustainable land use:

The Agriculture and Land Use sector accounts for 20% of emissions covered by our 3% target.

Climate Change is a cross cutting theme and is incorporated into every element of our Farming Connect Programme, as it recognizes the valuable role that the industry has in the future management of the environment and sustainable use of resources, with an emphasis on the use of natural resources as an essential and integral part of good business management. Activity has not only been focused on improving the profitability and efficiency of businesses, renewable energy generation and diversification, but also climate change adaptation and sustainable management of natural resources and delivery of ecosystems services.

A Sustainable Future: The Welsh Red Meat Roadmap’ , published in August 2012, highlighted how livestock farmers and processors in Wales can act on climate change and adhere to the business essentials of improving their profitability and sustainability. The goals set out include reducing greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency and increased implementation of on farm renewable energy.

Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales has a portfolio of seven research and development projects, focused on supporting the Welsh red meat industry in genetic improvement, climate change/ environmental issues, animal health and welfare, animal and human nutrition, product quality and safety, traceability and socio-economics. In addition, the Welsh Government works closely with the UK government on research and development programs that include Sustainable Farming Systems, Agriculture and Climate Change, Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain and Animal Health and Welfare.

Our Dairy Roadmap for identifies the environmental impacts of milk and dairy products throughout the supply chain and sets targets for reducing the product’s environmental footprint.

Glastir Advanced is a pioneering and widely respected approach to targeting Rural Development Plan money to where it can deliver to best effect, using an integrated approach. Glastir is a break from and an improvement on, the traditional approach to agri-environment schemes, designed to maximize the potential to work in tandem with other measures and to be compatible with plans to lever in more private funding into the delivery of natural resource management. Initial early estimations suggest that the six selected measures could reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a farm by farm basis by up to 24% and are a positive sign of the potential impact.

The continued creation of woodland in Wales supported by Glastir will provide benefits in terms of carbon sequestration and more and better maintained woodland will enhance woodland related ecosystems, improve water quality, reduce run-off and provide wider benefits for people.

Our newly formed Nature Fund is taking forward action to help deliver sustainable land management. The Fund encourages an ecosystem approach to natural resource management which embeds the principles of sustainable management. Through this approach these collaborative projects will achieve landscape scale actions that will help increase the resilience of these landscapes and their local communities to climate change impacts.

International collaboration:

The innovation and leadership being shown by subnational governments is crucial in building momentum and demonstrating what is possible in the global challenge of climate change, as we work towards an ambitious global agreement in Paris in 2015.  Wales continues to play its part internationally, working with partners through both the Climate Group and the Network for Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, where Wales is contributing to key work streams to support the effective exchange of knowledge and information, building support for a global deal in Paris 2015.

As a member of the Climate Group, Wales shares knowledge with other regions and contributes to the UNFCCC and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

As part of our commitment to sustainable development and climate change, we have also taken action on Fair Trade and have set up a Wales for Africa Programme. In 2008, Wales became the 1st ever Fair Trade nation. Wales has been continuing to take action on climate change and poverty reduction internationally. Over the last few years we have been supporting the Size of Wales project, which was created by the Wales’ Millennium Development Goals Task Force as part of Wales’ response to the dual challenges of climate change and international poverty reduction.  The Size of Wales project aims to bring everyone in Wales together to help sustain an area of tropical forest the size of Wales as part of a national response to climate change.  In January this year our First Minister planted the one millionth tree in Mbale, Uganda and launched the ambitious next phase.  We are now looking to plant 10 million Trees.

The Welsh word for ‘children’ is ‘plant.’  In Wales we believe that our children are our future, so much so, for every child born or adopted in Wales we plant a native Welsh tree in Wales and a tree in Mbale Uganda to create more forests and to raise children's environmental awareness.  The Ugandan trees are grafted fruit trees to be planted outside people’s homes to provide much needed shade and a valuable extra source of food providing additional resilience for Ugandans already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Wales and Lesotho have been linked for almost thirty years, with Welsh charity Dolen Cymru, supported by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa Programme, creating life changing links through education, health and governance.  This year the First Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Lesotho in April 2014 agreeing to strengthen relations and looking at future opportunities to collaborate particularly with regards to climate change and sustainability

Through the clean energy grants scheme, in summer 2014, Wales Africa Community Links worked with communities in Tanzania, Zanzibar and Uganda to bring rural electrification (using sustainable sources such as solar and hydro microgeneration) towards health, education and women’s livelihoods projects.

Innovative financing:

The Welsh Government has announced its intention to take forward the development of a Green Growth fund for Wales. The proposed Green Growth Wales fund aims to increase and accelerate projects to deliver green investment in Wales. It focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on encouraging investment in resource efficiency, renewable energy generation and waste projects.

As a Government we have committed £5 million from our Financial Transactions allocation to the development of Green Growth Wales.  We will be using this initial funding to focus on two aspects - the development of practical and investable projects, particularly in the public sector, and the creation of a funding vehicle to bring new investment in to Wales.

Ministers want Green Growth Wales to send a strong message about the Welsh Government’s commitment to a more sustainable and socially inclusive development path for Wales, and the actions we are taking now to contribute to the well-being goals that we are legislating for in our Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill. In doing so, it makes clear our intention to increase and accelerate our ability to meet our climate change targets, which is a major focus of our climate change policy refresh.

We have the opportunity to build a prosperous Wales with a more sustainable use of our natural resources at its heart. Our natural resources are key to driving the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient society, maximizing and delivering lasting benefits for people and communities across Wales. There will be costs and as the recent IPCC reports have stated, these costs increase the longer we wait to take action. We need to invest now, building on the investment we are already making in areas such as flood prevention, waste management and domestic energy efficiency.


The 2012 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA)15 highlighted that most of the potential risks posed by climate change essentially represent a shift in the duration or frequency of weather conditions that the transport sector already has to deal with (such as heavy rainfall, high temperatures, flooding and high winds, and the associated safety issues, network closures and damage to infrastructure). The CCRA highlights that the flooding of road and rail and the associated disruption is projected to increase. It is estimated that about 22km of motorways, over 2,300km of A-roads and other roads and over 400km of railway lines are at significant likelihood of flooding. It is projected that these figures would gradually rise as flood risk increases, with an overall increase of about 20% by the 2080s.

Our aim is to build resilience to prepare for likely future impacts by reducing the vulnerability of Wales’ transport network, especially to flooding. This will help to reduce the risk of economic impacts associated with such events and help to keep people safer. We are therefore reviewing the resilience of transport infrastructure to the impacts of climate change, as part of a wider asset management improvement program and will develop tools to address the risks.

We have also been developing the agricultural evidence base through the recent review of the original Land Use Climate Change Group report and have been looking at the risks to the sector from a changing climate. As well as looking at the direct risks to the sector, we have also tried to identify some of the wider risks to the economy and rural communities.

We have also been looking at the impacts of climate change on the tourism industry, where we have been looking the threats and opportunities to the sector and developing tools and resources to help the sector build resilience.

Our Sectorial Adaptation Plans are the principal mechanism through which we seek to support climate resilience within sectors, working with the Climate Change Commission to provide workshops, guidance, tools and resources.

More Info

Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy:

Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Climate Change Act 2008. This legislation gives the Welsh Government a broad range of competences in relation to climate change (through its devolved competence to protect the environment). Policy on energy (above 5 megawatts) is not devolved to the Welsh Government.

Most important economic sectors:

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

GHG breakdown by sector (%):


5.77 MtCO2e (19.13%)


7.11 MtCO2e  (23.57%)


9.39 MtCO2e  (31.15%)


5.93 MtCO2e  (19.65%)

Ressource Efficiency and Waste

1.14 MtCO2e (3.77%)

(Devolved) Public Sector

0.82 MtCO2e (2.73%)

Current power sector mix (%):














Latest from Twitter