Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

22/11/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Andrew R.T. Davies AC
Gareth Bennett AC
Jayne Bryant AC
John Griffiths AC
Joyce Watson AC
Llyr Gruffydd AC
Mike Hedges AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr David Joffe Arweinydd Tîm yr Ysgrifenyddiaeth: Dadansoddi ar draws yr Economi, Pwyllgor y DU ar y Newid yn yr Hinsawdd
Secretariat Team Leader: Economy-wide Analysis, UK Committee on Climate Change
Dr Rebecca Heaton Aelod Pwyllgor,Pwyllgor y DU ar y Newid yn yr Hinsawdd
Committee Member, UK Committee on Climate Change
Ken Skates AC Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth
Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
Prys Davies Pennaeth Datgarboneiddio ac Ynni, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Decarbonisation and Energy, Welsh Government
Simon Jones Cyfarwyddwr Seilwaith Economaidd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director Economic Infrastructure, Welsh Government

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Andrew Minnis Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Chloe Corbyn Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Lowri Jones Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

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

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

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:01.

The meeting began at 09:01.

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

Good morning. Can I welcome Members to the meeting? Helen Mary Jones has now become a permanent member of the committee and I welcome her. Can Members set their mobile phones to silent and turn off any other electronic equipment that may interfere with the broadcasting equipment? If there are any interests to declare, can they be declared now or later on in the meeting? We've had apologies from Helen Mary Jones. 

2. Cynnig o dan Reolau Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 3, 4 ac 8 y cyfarfod heddiw a'r cyfarfod ar 28 Tachwedd 2018
2. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from items 3, 4 and 8 of today's meeting and for the meeting on 28 November 2018

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 3, 4 ac 8 y cyfarfod heddiw a'r cyfarfod ar 28 Tachwedd 2018 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 3, 4 and 8 of today's meeting and for the meeting on 28 November 2018 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Now can I move the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from items 3, 4 and 8 of today's meeting and for the meeting on 28 November 2018? 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:02.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:02.

09:35

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 09:36.

The committee reconvened in public at 09:36.

5. Craffu ar Gyllideb Ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2019-20: sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth
5. Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Draft Budget 2019-20: evidence session with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport

Can we go into open session? Can I welcome the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport? Can I ask him to introduce himself and for either him or his officials to introduce each other? 

I'll let my officials introduce themselves. Thank you, Chair. 

Good morning, everyone. My name is Simon Jones. I'm director of economic infrastructure in the Welsh Government. 

Bore da. Good morning. I'm Prys Davies, responsible for decarbonisation and energy policy. 

Thank you very much. Are you okay for us to go straight to questions? 

Can you outline the impact on your portfolio of decarbonisation being added as a sixth priority in 'Prosperity for All', and how is this reflected in the budget allocations?  

I was delighted that decarbonisation became a sixth priority. As you'll see in the economic action plan, decarbonisation runs right through our policy interventions and many of the new initiatives that we're introducing, through, for example, the economic contract, the calls to action. It features very, very prominently in our plans for public transport in Wales, and so I'm delighted that that's become a sixth priority.

In terms of budgets, well, you'll be aware that there's been a consolidation of many of our budget lines into the economy futures fund, which is, if you like, the new consolidated fund that will be accessed through one or more of the calls to action, and decarbonisation is one of those calls. The economic contract—in order to get to the point of securing Welsh Government funding, the economic contract is, if you like, the gateway, and one of the four points of the economic contract concerns decarbonisation. I could talk at length about transport and how reforms to public local bus services, how reforms to private hire and taxi services, how reform to train services, the modernisation of the train fleet, can contribute to decarbonisation as well. 

Okay, thank you. Under the new economic contract, businesses will need to commit to reducing their carbon footprint. 

Now, I know in some places that one company in England reduced their carbon footprint by a third by actually going to two shifts rather than three. So, sometimes you can have artificial ways of achieving this. How will this be monitored and assessed, and will somebody who goes from three shifts to two show that they've actually been very good because they've reduced their carbon footprint by a third, whereas their carbon footprint is exactly the same per hour worked? 

Well, I think there may be a bit of confusion about monitoring of the economic contract. The contract is designed as a process of conversation in order to ensure that businesses are complying with four key features that drive social inclusion, inclusive growth and to futureproof economic growth. The calls to action are those components of our interventions that are monitored. So, if decarbonisation is one of the calls that a business accesses funding through, then that will be fully monitored, there'll be performance indicators applied to the grant that we offer and, of course, if there are any shortcomings, we would seek to recoup part or all of that grant. 

How many of the 34 projects awarded support from the economy futures fund so far fall under the decarbonisation call for action? 

Well, two awards of funding, very recently as well, apply to decarbonisation. You might say two of the 34 is not huge, but, actually, a significant number of the calls and the applications relate to one another. For example, we gave, or we awarded, about £0.5 million to Transcend Packaging earlier this year. Now, the call that that applied to was high-quality employment, but as a consequence of what was proposed, they were able to clearly demonstrate that that award would also contribute towards decarbonising their workplace endeavours.

Now, in addition, if you look at the two projects that we've awarded with the view of decarbonising their footprint, the significant sums amount to more than half of what has been awarded to date under the economy futures fund. So, the actual quantum is very significant indeed. 

09:40

Good morning. I just want to ask for your views, really, on stakeholders' concerns. They've told us that the actions proposed in the Welsh Government's consultation 'Achieving our low-carbon pathway to 2030' have not been assessed, in their view, with regard to their possible economic cost, emission reduction potential and the wider impacts. So, it's much the same question, but given from the stakeholders.

I think, in all fairness, the work that's taken place so far is designed to gather as many, if you like, initial ideas as possible. And any ideas that subsequently go forward would, of course, be subject to the impact assessments that we expect to apply to all proposals. Isn't that right, Prys, at the moment?

Absolutely. The consultation covered a whole breadth of activities across a wide range of policy areas. Our intent, specifically in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, was to get an early discussion going about the ideas that we were thinking about, which is something that that particular piece of legislation encourages—so, that early involvement with stakeholders around our initial thoughts about areas of focus. I think we were very clear in the consultation that anything that we would then take forward—so, if it was on the transport side in relation to buses or taxis, for instance—we would do a full impact assessment at that particular point. So, this was about looking across the piece rather than looking at individual policy areas in more detail. It was about getting that broad span of, 'This is the ask needed for Wales as a whole.'

Yes. And an early-stage consultation, yes.

Okay. So, obviously, that's happening and then there will be work that will follow from that, and we would be interested to understand any work that's currently under way within the department to align the carbon and the fiscal budgets. 

Okay. There's a bit of a misalignment in terms of budgets with the comprehensive spending review not due until autumn next year and, of course, the plan is going to be published in March. So, we're taking forward interventions outside of the Wales infrastructure investment plan that are designed to decarbonise Wales's footprint—for example, the £60 million additional support for active travel. We're also increasing the amount of money that's available through the local transport fund—£26 million per year for the next three years. So, you see significant sums contributing towards active travel and decarbonising the transport network.

Okay. That's good. I think we'd like some further information on the environmental protection scheme, or the EPS fund, including amount of funding and types, and some examples of projects that have been supported.

I'm really happy to provide examples of projects that have been supported through the EPS. That's due to end in December this year, when the legacy programmes will taper out. The fund has been committed to the economy futures fund. The EPS has been particularly important in regard to the steel sector. We've been able to support Tata and Celsa with projects designed to cut emissions and improve their efficiency, but there are many other businesses that have benefited from the EPS.

Now, what we've done in combining the EPS with other funds in the economy futures fund is provide a bigger pot of money to enable us to act more flexibly and to support businesses that are applying for Government support for potentially more than one call to action. I think that that demonstrates that we see supporting businesses as being more than just buying jobs now. The economic action plan wants to go beyond the traditional economic development policy that's been applied across many western countries of attracting inward investment and calculating whether to support a project on the basis of cost per job. We realise that, actually, with record low unemployment, what we have to do now is drive a more inclusive economy—protect as many jobs as possible, of course, but make sure that businesses are more competitive, more productive, and that we're ironing out inequality across the economy. That means that we have to focus on those five calls, because they are the calls that will improve our competitiveness and improve our productivity levels.

The economic contract is designed to reduce inequalities. So, the two big interventions that we've applied now are designed to drive a fairer economy, but one that is more sustainable at the same time.

09:45

How are we going to monitor that? How would we know what systems are in place that tell us that that investment has delivered?

Well, there's regular monitoring of programmes that have been supported through the EPS, and that will continue with the economy futures fund interventions as well. Account managers will check against delivery whether the conditions that were applied to a grant are being met, and we will recoup any money that is granted to a business if they are not meeting the targets and the objectives associated with their application.

Thank you. I just want to ask a few questions about decarbonisation of transport, particularly the issue you referred to earlier on. In your response to the economy committee's report on the rail franchise last year, I think you said that the new rail contract would include carbon reduction targets, with incentives to improve over the life of the contract. I was just wondering if you could tell us how those targets will work in practical terms—you mentioned incentives; one presumes there might be penalties as well—just to give us an idea.

This is a really exciting area of work, I think. We should also view what we're doing in terms of public transport against what we're doing in terms of economic development, with some potentially huge enabling projects—for example, Project Hornby, which is the train test facility that will be constructed. It will be driven and financed by the private sector. I know the name of the project has already given rise to grins—[Laughter.]—but this particular project could be huge for Wales, because at the moment there are only two similar test facilities in Europe. It means that it comes at huge cost to train manufacturers to ship out their rolling stock to Germany or the Czech Republic. What we could be seeing very soon with that test facility is the testing of hydrogen trains, for example.

Built into the franchise agreement are opportunities at year 5 and year 10 to reset the carbon targets. That could then, if hydrogen trains are mature enough by that stage, enable us to set more stretching targets, which in turn would incentivise the operator and development partners to bring into being hydrogen trains, for example. So, we've designed the contract to be as forward-looking as possible.

I'll let Simon talk about the target monitoring and any penalties. We'd enter into a remedy situation if any performance indicators weren't being met—and they are ambitious. As Members, I'm sure, are aware, with the provision of new rolling stock by 2023 and with many of the core Valleys lines operating on the basis of 100 per cent renewable electricity, 50 per cent sourced from Wales, we'll see significant carbon reductions. I'll just let Simon talk about monitoring and enforcement.

So, the targets that the Cabinet Secretary refers to are contractual obligations. So, the supplier is bound to deliver an all-electric solution for the Valleys lines and is bound to have this 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions across the entire franchise, largely as a result of going to more efficient, more modern engines on a newer fleet of trains, but we will be monitoring that. So, they've got that target that they have to meet, and as the Cabinet Secretary says, we've got these review opportunities, where we could go back to the contractor and say, 'Okay, you're doing well, but we now need to turn the dial up.' There may be an additional cost element there, but we could ask them to swap out the diesel engines for hydrogen engines, for example.

09:50

I just wanted to raise the point about the delivery of the rolling stock, and I appreciate a lot of that is outside your hands, because you're in a multi-nation market, let alone just the UK market, but there have been disappointments in the delivery of rolling stock to the existing franchise, and new rolling stock was announced by you last year—the 769s, I think they were. They were meant to be in service by May of this year. I believe they're still not in service to this date, they aren't. Obviously, new stock will have a significant impact on carbon emissions, as such, just by virtue of them being better in the technology that they operate on. How confident are you, given past experience, that the fine language of delivery of the new rolling stock will stick to the timetable and we will see that delivery in Wales to help these carbon emission targets—let alone the better passenger experience?

The new trains, I think, are less risky for us in some ways than the 769s, because these are—. They're based on production facilities that exist, so there are similar versions of those trains coming out of those factories. So, the time it takes to build those trains is relatively well known—

Yes, quite, it's more assured. The 769s are a completely new concept, in a sense, because these were existing electric trains, which were running in the south-east of England, which are being converted to operate with a diesel engine on them. So, it's that leap of technology of trying to put a generator onto an existing train, and I think that's where the manufacturer has had trouble. So, they have started testing these trains for Northern Rail at the moment, and some of these trains are running around at the moment under test circumstances. It has certainly been delayed. We are told we will see the 769s appearing in the springtime. 

Can I just—sorry—take up that point? It is important that we do have confidence in that delivery time, because this technology was known about on the 769s, and a date was set for May. We're now talking that these 769s are going to be 12 months late coming into the fleet, they are—at least 12 months late. So, if we can't have confidence in your deliveries, the evidence you give today really does fall flat on its face, doesn't it?

So, I think that is a particular challenge for the entire rail industry in the UK. If you think about where the history of all this lot was, essentially, as a result of the ambitious plans that were set out for electrification across the UK, the whole railway industry was told, 'You don't need to produce any more new diesel trains, because we're going to be an all-electric railway in the UK.' That electrification programme has stalled, so it's had to be restarted, essentially, and I think the 769s are just an answer to a very short-term question. The message that we had from the Department for Transport, back at the beginning of the decade, was, 'Don't worry about diesel trains in future, because they'll all be cascaded from locations where people will have migrated to electric trains, so you don't need to worry about this.' So, the 769s weren't ever foreseen until very recently, until the whole electrification programme stumbled.

Thank you. So, back to the contract—the 15-year contract. Is it a target to be achieved—? Is the ambition that over 15 years a certain level of decarbonisation is achieved, or have you set an initial five-year target and then you'll look at setting another target, then, for the second five years?

It's within the first five years, the 25 per cent reduction, so on the back of the new fleet. And then that gives us the opportunity, then, to pause and reflect and say, 'Okay, this is a 15-year contract'; we can't just say what we achieve at year five is sufficient. We have got the opportunity, then, to be more ambitious in future.

And technology is moving on so fast that 15 years in today's world is equivalent to 200 years—

One of the things that we found through the competitive dialogue process that we did was that the market wasn't quite ready to be able to put its weight behind all-hydrogen trains. So, although these things exist, nobody really wanted to say, 'I tell you what; we'll put all of our reputation on the line, and we're prepared to pay the penalty payments if these things turn out to be unreliable.' So, there's a balance between having a really clean service and having a reliable service with the capacity. That balance is really fine. I think, in five years' time, the technology should have matured enough for us to be able to look again at it.

Indeed. Okay, good, thank you for that. I want to move on to buses, because clearly you say that reducing carbon emissions is a key objective for bus services in Wales, but, in practice, of course, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership tell us that just 2.1 per cent of all Welsh buses are low-carbon emission buses. That compares to over 11 per cent in Scotland and nearly 15 per cent—or 14 per cent—in England, so it's a big ask, isn't it?

09:55

Yes, it is a big ask. Historically, we haven't performed too well in terms of drawing down UK Government funding for modern vehicles. However, we do have proposals to reduce the carbon footprint of buses down to zero in 10 years. I'll be publishing proposals for reform of bus services and legislation before the end of this term, which will highlight how we intend to do just that. Are we able to give any more details on this? Because it applies as well to taxis.

So, it's a comprehensive reform package for the whole industry, and it will give us the opportunity to be able to think differently about the way that we engage with the bus industry and about the outcomes that we want to achieve. So, some of those outcomes might be around emissions. They might also be around other aspects, so payment techniques, timetables—all those kinds of things that are important to people. Emissions are clearly part of the set of outcomes that we want to achieve, and the set of tools that we're working on at the moment will give us the ability to be able to be much clearer with the industry about what it is we want to achieve.

I think it's also worth saying that we're working with the development bank on this as well in terms of how we might be able to fund some of these ideas to be able to allow the industry to be able to more rapidly adopt these technologies. And I suppose the other point is, here, that we recognise that transport is a major contributor to the whole of carbon emissions, but we've got very limited levers in that the kind of tailpipe emissions aren't within our gift; they're non-devolved areas. But I think we also recognise that we need to show some real leadership here, and public transport is the place where we can show that leadership, so we've talked about the railway. Buses and taxis are the other component of public transport, alongside active travel, and those are the areas, I think, where the Government is best placed to show leadership, set some direction, because the mass of private car ownership is not really in our gift to be able to resolve.

Is the committee aware of what's happening in Caerphilly and the Caerphilly bid to become—? Okay. Perhaps we could provide some information on that, because it's very ambitious. It's applying for UK Government funding to become the first community in Britain, I believe, to become public transport—or for all public transport driven by electric—. Quite exciting proposals that they have.

Well, that takes us on to where I wanted to go next in terms of electric vehicle charging and the initial £2 million, of course, that was agreed between the Government and Plaid Cymru. I'm just wondering, really, whether you've made any assessment of the total cost of creating a truly national network of charging points and, potentially, how that would be funded.

I'll let Simon talk about this as well because this is something that we consider very, very regularly. Of course, the key question that we should ask is: what will the role of the market be in developing the infrastructure to support electric vehicles? The landscape will shift very quickly. It's only just begun—the move to electric vehicles.

That budget agreement and the money that came as a consequence of it we have applied in the same way as we developed the procurement exercise for the Wales and borders franchise, and we will be rolling out the development of charging points next year. But I think what's important is that we recognise that, as a matter of social inclusion, we shouldn't just push a huge amount of public resource into areas where there may not be market failure very soon—where the market itself would invest—and ignore huge swathes of Wales, rural Wales, for example, where the market won't intervene.

And we also need to consider the condition and the capacity of the grid, which—I know Members are probably aware—is creaking at the moment. It would struggle to service a significant increase in electric vehicles in Wales. Alongside these questions, we need to consider the likely move over time to autonomous vehicles and the trend that will, in all probability, accompany that towards non-ownership of vehicles. So, we're likely to see—if predictions are correct, we're likely to see fewer vehicles parked on people's drives, parked on streets, and more vehicles parked— overnight in particular—in huge car parks. Now, does that mean, therefore, that we can turn our backs on, for example, fuel stations and plans or proposals or suggestions that we should introduce more charging points at fuel stations? So, there is a huge number of factors that we need to consider. And, indeed, there are many spinning plates at the moment because the technology is moving so quickly, because the market is still looking at what its role should be, because the manufacturers themselves are producing vehicles that are progressively more efficient and have greater range. Simon?

10:00

Yes. I think, as the Cabinet Secretary said, there is a whole load of policy issues for us here around social inclusion. If you want to charge a vehicle up at home and you don't have access to off-street parking, how is that going to be provided for? These things are quite expensive at the moment, so are we just going to be targeting our resources at those people who can afford to buy an electric car? As the Cabinet Secretary said, the market hasn't really got going yet, so saying that we've got to intervene to deal with the market failure is perhaps a bit premature. It might be more about market stimulation. But the market is already beginning to get traction where it can identify customers for this.

There are revenue opportunities for the private sector in charging points as well. They can charge not only for vehicles to be charged up, but they can also generate revenue from using the vehicles as storage. So, since somebody can make some money out of this, what is the role of the state in this? Should we really be using limited public resources to be putting something in place that somebody else could be providing with their own money? I think all of these questions are difficult for us to answer and they haven't really been answered anywhere else.

I think it's worth saying as well that, for most people in Wales, the cost of a new electric vehicle is prohibitively expensive. And so, if we were to intervene now with huge sums of money to provide charging points for people who are buying electric vehicles, essentially, what we would be doing is widening the gap between—widening the gap in opportunity between the richest and the poorest to actually decarbonise. So, we need to take account, I think, of what the market is going to be doing.

Just very briefly, if I may, one thing we learnt from the mobile phone market was that, obviously, rural areas in particular struggle to get connection and were the last pieces, and still are the last pieces, to get the grid filled. Wales isn't unique in having vast tracks of rural areas that, hopefully will, at some point, be serviced by electric charging points. I hear the sentiment from officials and the Cabinet Secretary as well, but how far down the road are we from learning—or should I say the Government learning—the lessons from the mobile phone roll-out, which did give us the indication that rural areas are the last to be covered because the rural incentive—sorry, the financial incentive—isn't as great? Are we learning lessons from other parts of the United Kingdom where they have exactly the same problems?

It's interesting, I was watching—. Talking about mobile phones, I was watching an old Top Gear the other night in which Jeremy Clarkson predicted that mobile phones would end in the 1990s, so we'd see mobile phones becoming something of the 1980s. [Laughter.] Sometimes, predictions don't go quite right. 

Yes, that's right. That's right. Next to a Porsche.

I think there's a great role for renewable energy to play in ensuring that we apply the lessons that we learnt from mobile phone advances and the shortcomings of the network in rural areas. Prys, do you want to talk about renewables and how this can support electric charging points in rural areas?

Absolutely. We've talked about grid constraints, and I think the committee will be familiar that there are some parts of Wales, particularly mid Wales, Powys, Ceredigion, where the grid will struggle to accommodate either new electricity generation, or, if we're talking about complete transition over to EVs, the amount of pressure, additional pressure, that that would put on the grid. So, some of the thinking currently is that plugging in a car at home will double your electricity demand as a consumer. So, the cumulative impact of that on the grid at a local level is significant.

So, we have to start thinking, then, not simply about charging, but what does that mean in terms of the wider grid infrastructure, and whether there are opportunities, which might evolve around renewable generation locally connected into the grid, and to work with developers and the distribution network operators to think, 'Are there other ways, within the current regulatory regime for the grid, to overcome some of the constraints in those parts of Wales that otherwise might be notspots for EVs, just as, maybe, historically they've been challenging to develop broadband in those areas. 

Now, I know that the mid Wales growth deal in particular is very aware of this issue and is thinking about this as part of its proposals to us and the UK Government around how to think about the package as a whole, so not just thinking about transport, but thinking about transport, energy and heat together, because some of the challenges around decarbonising parts of Powys in terms of their heating supply—where they are not on the gas grid—will also add pressure to the electricity grid, in turn. So, we almost have to think about these different energy vectors coming together now in a radically different way to how it's been operating for the last decades. 

10:05

But we should be thinking beyond the grid as well, shouldn't we, because the grid is a constraint, yes, but there are local answers that we should be pursuing and not just thinking, 'We need to plug it into the National Grid'. 

So, I was lucky enough last week to meet with some colleagues from Scotland who've done some really interesting work in this area. They've created a network of recharging stations across rural Scotland. But there are still some really interesting issues here. Do people really want to take their car to a charging station and leave it there for two or three hours if all it is is a charging station in the middle of nowhere? People might prefer to be able to charge their car at home, or at their place of work or the shop. We go back to that issue about how we provide charging points in people's homes, particularly if they don't have on-street parking. But then there's a role for employers and for the state as well in terms of the places where people gather together, for charging provision. Scotland have done some really interesting work as well in terms of these charging places coming from renewable energy—so, solar panels and wind turbines, and what have you. But it's still quite a complex issue just putting in a load of charging stations. So, it doesn't actually answer all of the problems, I don't think.   

Well, actually, people would like to charge the car when they're moving, and that's a technological advance. If you actually had off-the-grid electricity generation, you could then store it and you could use it to charge the car while you were moving. That's a couple of stages, technologically, going forward, but that's really when people are going to like electric cars.  

So, in the same session I was in, there were some really interesting presentations about how that technology is developing around the world. And, again, what's the role of the state in terms of putting in charging points onto the networks that we manage? There's a whole load of other policy issues that that opens up. 

And it's not cheap—induction charging—either on highways. 

I think that's something we're going to come back to. We're looking for technological changes to help us. Just before I call Jayne in, just remember that, if you look back 50 years, we were all meant to be travelling around in hovercrafts. Jayne. 

I'm still looking forward to that day.

Just moving on to air quality, we know that Wales has some of the worst air quality nationally. How are you working with your Cabinet colleagues to address air quality issues, particularly in relation to clean air zones? 

As you're aware, I'm a member of the ministerial taskforce for decarbonisation, so we're working very closely indeed. Cardiff has been identified as an area where a clean air zone could potentially be implemented, but this doesn't, of course, preclude other local authorities from considering clean air zones either. We're working very closely across Government, recognising that if we are to reduce or to improve air quality in communities, we have to have interventions at many levels across many departments as well.  

Okay. Is the Welsh Government on track to publish its final plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations by the end of November? 

Yes. We'll be publishing the final proposals by the end of this month. 

Next Friday. This process has been very interesting. Many members of the public perhaps don't yet fully appreciate that we have a legal duty to comply with the ambient air quality directive, and taking no action was simply not an option. And we've consulted extensively, I know, in parts of Wales. There have been quite strong campaigns not to implement certain proposals that we're consulting on. We've considered all of the responses, and that final set of actions will be published next Friday. By next Friday.

10:10

By next Friday. Can you confirm whether the committee's previous recommendation that the updated Wales transport strategy should include air quality targets with specific reference to locations such as schools and hospitals, and if they've been taken forward?

Well, we do recognise that certain areas in our communities are particularly significant in regard to air pollution, and the individuals are far more susceptible to poorer air quality and the health impacts that that can have. The problem though is that many of the levers that enable us to improve air quality are outside our control. For example, what comes out of the back of a vehicle, we have no control over. We don't have control over the taxes on fuel. We don't have control over the taxing of vehicles. We don't have control in terms of being able to move the entire fleet to electric. And, so, actually, when it comes to the big interventions, we are passive. We have no control over it. 

What we can do is invest in behavioural change through further investment in public transport and active travel, but we, as I say, have no control over what is emitted from the exhaust system. 

I've just got one question before John comes in. Sorry, Chair. I was going to ask about the 50 mph speed limits, and if you've had time to look at how effective they've been. 

I believe that we're due to report on this in the new year, the effectiveness. It does take time to gather the data, and you have to also make sure that you're crossing a number of seasons in order to sufficiently check the outcome. 

And I was just wondering, you're monitoring those and I think some people would like to go 50 mph on some of the roads, but they can't even get up to 50 mph. [Laughter.] I'm just wondering if you're monitoring the air quality on the roads at the time that people can't get up to 50 mph and how damaging that is.

It's throughout the day and the night, and we are—. Again, questions have been asked about where the monitors, where the units are placed. We are bound by rules that govern how far from the highway those units can be placed. 

Can I ask you, Cabinet Secretary, about 20 mph zones and the review that's under way? I think there is significant evidence that emissions are reduced by those 20 mph zones because there's less acceleration and braking, and a more constant speed, at that lower speed. Also, if you create those more friendly environments for cycling and walking, which I believe will result, you do get modal shift as well. I think, Bristol, for example, has had quite a lot of success with that. So, I just wondered about the review and the progress that's being made, and whether there might be an all-Wales 20 mph strategy, which would make it the default speed limit, and then enable local authorities to opt out certain roads by taking through traffic orders, so effectively turning on its head the current situation. 

And just one other thing. Electric vehicles I'm told will not solve the air quality issues either, in terms of, obviously, brakes and tyres, and the very small pieces of particulate matter that work their way deep into people's lungs. So, I think we need to make this shift regardless of technological change. 

In principle, my gut instinct as well is that we should support 20 mph zones wherever and whenever possible and we should have a consistent approach. I want to make sure that we reach any conclusions and base any decisions on evidence, and that evidence-gathering work is due to be completed shortly. Alongside that the Department for Transport, as you're aware, has been working in this area, gathering new evidence. There is already a huge amount of evidence out there, but much of it conflicts. For example, in terms of the benefits or the consequences for air quality, some of the evidence, as you rightly say, suggests that because there'd be less braking, less stop-start, then that would reduce what comes from the exhaust. But, we also know that 20 mph is less optimum than 30 mph in terms of vehicle efficiency, and therefore, if you're driving consistently at 30 mph, you're polluting less than at 20 mph. And that's why there's that conflicting evidence. So, what we're doing is gathering it all to inform our decision as best as we can.

I think John raises a really interesting point about whether we could apply this on a national basis, and whether that would be more desirable than allowing and encouraging local authorities to make decisions. It’s really interesting because I’m looking at economic development increasingly through a regional lens, so I’d welcome committee’s view on whether this is something that could perhaps be taken forward on a regional basis. We’re looking at further regional work in regards to transport. Arguably, this would be a perfect opportunity, therefore, for local government, operating on a regional basis, to be able to take forward some big decisions and implement them as well. So, we’ll be looking at three regions. It could be that they could take forward this sort of work. Simon.

10:15

The evidence is really important for us to be able to put into traffic models as well, because the other thing that we need to give consideration to is the economic impact or the potential economic impact of this. You've talked about a whole load of positives there, but we need to just make sure that those positives aren't outweighed by any negatives—by perceptions that people are travelling more slowly and the impact that that might have on the economy. That's just one lens to look at this through, but I think part of this is about giving a comprehensive picture so that the Cabinet Secretary can make an informed decision on the basis of the full suite of evidence.

Just as a question running alongside: if you chose to move to 20 mph and there's lots of evidence on the safety grounds for it, should you also then think about removing speed bumps? Would not one consistent travel speed at 20 mph, as you say, reduce emissions, potentially? If that's the case, would not the speed bumps within those negate those gains? So, it's about comprehensive thinking. Some streets have speed bumps down them every few yards, so you're constantly braking and starting. So, it's about thinking about all the things together.

It's an important point about enforcement as well. If you're going to introduce 20 mph as the new speed limit, then how are you going to enforce it? Speed bumps are being used extensively to reduce speed to 20 mph or less. I think you raise a very valid question: should they then be removed? Well, if they were removed, how would you then enforce the limit? Would it be through speed cameras and what would the impact be in terms of perceptions then? So, there are very difficult questions that we need to answer before we implement a national response or a regional response, if we are going to do that.

There are different types of speed ramps as well. Some are designed to pretty much halt you in your tracks and go over them at 5 mph; others are designed just to reduce you down to 20 mph. But there's a good question about street furniture as well. At the moment, it's costly for a local authority to implement a 20 mph scheme because of the street furniture that might be associated with doing that—the implementation of a 20 mph speed limit might require additional speed ramps and signage and so forth. And then you compare that to a national response, which, per local authority, would be lower because there would be a consistent approach. So, there are huge issues that we need to consider and they are also very big financial questions as well. Do you have anything to add?

No, I was just going to agree on your point about compliance, because that's the big issue here. We don't necessarily have fantastic compliance with 30 mph limits and certainly in the earlier years of a 20 mph limit, if that were to be imposed, compliance would probably be the No. 1 challenge.

There's a lot of evidence to show as well that the more you roll out signs—and you've probably seen the angry face and happy face signs—the more you roll those out, people become familiar with them and then people are more likely to ignore them, so they lose their impact. Again, it's about how we can ensure that there is compliance if the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph.

Thank you, Chair. I have some questions to do with the green corridors on the Welsh trunk road network initiative. How does the draft budget support this? What objectives have been set for this initiative and how will it be monitored and evaluated?

This is something that I'm personally very passionate about. When I was a backbencher, I regularly used to ask my predecessor about interventions by Welsh Government to create more green corridors. I want Wales to become an exemplar in this field, and although we're at early stages, focusing primarily on the gateways and the trunk roads, I would like local government to come with us in this regard.

My primary objective when we set out on the green corridor initiative was actually to create more aesthetically pleasing road networks and corridors, particularly into towns and cities. We know that there are economic benefits to improving the impression that people have as they enter a town or a city for the first time. We know that in terms of providing a sense of place, in terms of providing corridors that articulate what a community's strengths or what a community's history might be, they also induce a greater degree of pride in the citizens that inhabit a town or a city. So, we're looking, for example—I think it's the A470, possibly, where we're looking at using slate, I think it is, as an alternative to the traditional slow barrier that we have, in order to tell a story, in order to create a better impression whilst you're driving down that particular route.

Also, whilst everybody recognises that trees have a great role to play in decarbonising the atmosphere, trees are also proven to—, by merely looking at a tree, you improve your well-being. Therefore, I'm keen to make sure that the green corridor initiative, which is in its infancy, that is initially just focused on gateways into Wales and the trunk road network, will be extended out.

I talk a lot about the aesthetic improvements that we'll see delivered by this, but it's also about improving biodiversity and wildlife as well. So, we'll see planted different species of trees, wild flowers, grasses, but also more opportunities for wildlife to inhabit roadside environments.

10:20

It sounds like the aim is gradually to go away from particular routes to a more standard policy throughout the trunk road network.

That is my hope. My hope is that, right across trunk roads—the trunk road network, and local roads, we'll see a far greater focus on the creation of green corridors. I'd like to see this extended down to the community level as well. When I was a community councillor on Gwernaffield community council, we embarked on a multi-year programme of creating green corridors into the two villages that were in that particular community council. So, we planted a huge number of daffodils to create a daffodil corridor, for example.

It might sound a little bit twee, but actually it does a huge amount to a community's well-being when, in spring, you see a corridor of daffodils springing up. These are intangible benefits. How can you quantify how people feel? Yes, we'll be getting stakeholder, customer and driver feedback, but sometimes it's really difficult to quantify improvements in well-being and pride. You've just got to sometimes do something because you know it's the right thing to do.

Yes. Just the obvious question, and I'm with you all the way in principle, is the resources required for local authorities to achieve some of that.

I'm in no doubt that if we were to deliver on what I would like to see happen then it would require a not insignificant resource and it would take time as well. But, there's already a maintenance programme that's operated by Welsh Government, the trunk road network and local authorities. It doesn't take much to bake into that the green corridor initiative. In terms of planting trees, in terms of planting wild flowers, it's not hugely expensive. On local roads, we often see roads closed for vegetation clearance. It doesn't cost much more in order to just enhance those corridors. 

You've described the use of highway interventions that are designed to minimise construction carbon. What does that mean in practice? Can you quantify the anticipated reductions in emissions from the innovative and best practice construction methods that you've described?

Some of this is about embedded carbon. So, how much carbon do you release, for instance, by digging through the soils? Because carbon in released as part of that, and obviously there's a vegetation element to that as well. But, there's also the materials that are used in the construction of highways—things like concrete are incredibly carbon intensive. So, it's about understanding the amount of carbon that gets embedded during a highway construction scheme, but also looking at how that is going to potentially be offset by the savings in carbon emissions that might be made by the scheme itself. So, the M4 corridor around Newport, the evidence that we presented to the inquiry was—and it was our position—that the amount of carbon embedded in the construction of the scheme will be offset by the amount of carbon that will be saved by the new route as a result of, (a) the journeys being shorter, (b) the journeys being more reliable and carried out at a consistent speed so the engines are working more efficiently. Our evidence was that over the life of the scheme, it would be carbon neutral. 

10:25

Of course, one thing you can do is reuse the black top that you've got as part of the base and then put new black top on top of it, which does reduce, one, waste, and secondly reduces the amount of energy. 

Yes. Well, you having mentioned the M4 relief road, I have some questions—

—on the topic. Cabinet Secretary, I just wonder what your response is to the future generations commissioner's report, 'Transport Fit for Future Generations', and specifically the conclusion that

'a comprehensive alternative transport package would significantly outscore the Black Route'  

on both the Welsh transport appraisal guidance 2017 and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 criteria. 

Yes, I've said many times we welcome the conversation that we've had with the commissioner. We've held a public inquiry that was open for a year for as many people as possible to have their say and to submit their evidence. It was a huge response, the commissioner submitted evidence, and the report from the inspector is due to be published very soon. Now, I've not seen the report yet, but I think it will answer those questions and I don't want to pre-empt what the inspector's report might say. What I would say, though, is that, based on the modelling that's been carried out, if you were to increase by about 100 per cent the amount of people who use public transport around the Newport area, you'd be reducing the number of vehicles on the M4 by about 5 per cent—just 5 per cent. Actually, a large proportion of the traffic on the M4 is not commuter traffic, it's heavy goods vehicles. It's the likes of Amazon—I'm sure many people around this room probably get Amazon deliveries—delivering to your homes, and they're not going to go by rail—they won't be going by rail—and there are no alternatives but to use HGVs for many companies such as Amazon. So, the idea that public transport is the silver bullet—based on the modelling, based on the evidence—I'm afraid it's not true.  

Thank you. But Amazon, of course, used to use Royal Mail. Back to you, John. 

So, I think it's fair to say you were at odds with the conclusion of the commissioner, as I described it then, Cabinet Secretary. 

Okay. Just in terms of to what extent we're moving on from some of the models of the past in terms of road building, which many people have described as 'predict and provide', and what happens is you build new roads and they fill up with more and more vehicle journeys and you're forever chasing your tail in effect—WelTAG 2017 has been put forward as a new approach to transport appraisal compared to its predecessor. So, are you able to point to any clear examples from the last year that WelTAG 2017 has been in place, Cabinet Secretary, in terms of that new system and whether the early signs are that it is achieving that step change to a more sustainable model?  

Well, that's certainly what it's designed to do, and I was pleased that it was so warmly welcomed by the future generations commissioner—the commissioner indeed provided a foreword to WelTAG 2017. There's a review group that will be assessing the impact and the outcomes of WelTAG 2017. Simon, are there any projects that you're able to point to? 

We're in the very early stages of this, and these transport projects take a long time to deliver. So, we are forming these review groups around particular projects at the moment in order to be able to assess it, but we don't have any schemes that have gone all the way through that process yet. 

I see. I just wonder if we could deal, as well, Cabinet Secretary, with the process from here on in terms of the draft Orders and the debate in Plenary here in the Assembly that's set to take place. We've heard that if Ministers decide that the scheme should proceed and the draft Orders should be made, then they may be made before the debate, and, if so, there's a question in terms of what happens to those Orders if the Assembly, subsequently, rejects the proposal in the debate. And the nature of that debate, whether it's binding, and if so, in what way. So, I just wondered whether you can clarify the nature of the process from here, in those terms.

10:30

Absolutely, yes. There are three stages to the process. The first concerns the making of the Orders. If they are made, the submission will be made to the First Minister. He will get to see the report, he will make the decision on the Orders.

The second stage then, should the Orders be made, will be to have a debate in Government time in the Assembly Chamber. We've set 4 December as the date that that is due to take place on. And then that decision, we've said, will be binding. I think it would be unimaginable for the Government to ignore what the Assembly says.

And then, subject to that outcome, we would move to a third stage that would concern, if you like, the final decision based on the availability of the financial resource. Then, and only then, will the project be in a position to proceed. Now, that third stage will be reached by the new Government, early in the new year. I think it's worth saying about the Orders, because there have been questions about whether the Assembly could vote on the Orders. Well, that is a legal process, and the Assembly cannot legally have any role in that specific process. But, as I said, I think it would be unimaginable for the Government to ignore a vote in the Assembly Chamber.

Okay. Well, thank you very much for that. Just one further question on this. If, ultimately, the decision is not to proceed with the M4 relief road, would you then envisage the comprehensive alternative transport package suggested by the future generations commissioner being implemented to deal with the remaining issues?

Well, there was a year of an inquiry, during which any alternative proposals could be put forward and scrutinised—a year of a public inquiry. And I don't want to set a precedent whereby you can have a public inquiry and all stakeholders have an opportunity to submit all alternatives, and then, once it's been closed, an alternative is presented that could be seen as, if you like, frustrating the process. I think it's absolutely essential that any proposal is scrutinised by an independent expert and also that any alternative proposal carries with it robust evidence. Now, there are many, many, many proposals that have been put forward during the process of public inquiry. The inspector, I believe, will have considered all of them very carefully. I think it's really important to wait for the outcome of the inspector's work, and that report will be published very, very soon.

Just briefly, Chair, and I can't resist coming in on the M4 with my colleague John Griffiths. I think there are a couple of points. I'm quite pleased that you've mentioned that the issues around the M4 are not just around commuter traffic, because I think that's something that's quite frustrating for many of us who live in the city and understand that it isn't just a commuter problem when you see traffic at a standstill, seven days a week often.

And just following on from John as well on the last point, I think we'd all say that, seeing as Newport's been waiting for the train to start from Ebbw Vale for over 20 years, you can understand that it's a bit frustrating for people just to think that a new public transport system would come in overnight and solve all our problems. And I think that just to have a train that we've been waiting to stop from Ebbw Vale when the line already exists and the amount of work that would have to go into such a plan—.

I'd also just like to clarify that the future generations commissioner's report—. That wasn't put before the independent public inquiry, was it? 

So, nobody was able to challenge on that at that public inquiry.

No, I don't believe it was, and so, there wasn't the scrutiny of that. I think many of the suggestions and recommendations within it were submitted to the inspector.

10:35

Okay. I was just wondering—whatever happens and whatever the decision, I think people have been waiting for a long time to see a solution to this. If the decision is to go ahead with the M4 relief road, obviously that's going to be a long time in the making as well. Are there things that you'd be looking at to try to alleviate some of the problems in the short term, really, for people?

You're absolutely right that doing nothing—I think everybody would agree that doing nothing is simply not an option. But, the proposal that we've put forward—the black route—we believe is the optimal intervention. So, if it didn't proceed, anything that would be done as an alternative would not reach the benefits that would be incurred through the introduction or through the development of that black route.

Cabinet Secretary, many Members' inboxes will be chock-a-block with e-mails at the moment this week about the M4 decision—

Predominantly against—at the moment, anyway. You've indicated that there's going to be a debate on 4 December. The forward look for the Assembly doesn't show a debate on 4 December. The Leader of the House and Chief Whip confirmed at the moment that there is nothing slated for this term. The First Minister's indicated that he'll be in possession—in a tv interview that he did last week—of the report by the end of November, and he'll be able to make a decision by the end of November. There seems to be a big dislocate between this process, to be honest with you.

Obviously, you've said that the vote in the Assembly will be binding. You've confirmed that it would be very foolish for any Government not to take note of that. Speaking from the opposition party's point of view, as I understand it the inquiry report runs to 500 pages plus. If we did accept your timetable—as I said, that's contrary to what the leader of the house has told us—opposition parties haven't even had a chance to look at this report to inform their decision making. Can we have an up-to-date position? This is the biggest infrastructure project that the Welsh Government has been charged with delivering and it comes with a hefty price tag as well as having environmental consequences. I have to say that I think you're behind the curve in what you've told us today.

I think, in all fairness, whilst it might not have been slated yet for 4 December it is still the date that we're working to. You're absolutely right: Members have to have sight of the report before voting in any way in the Chamber, in my view. So, the sequence of events that needs to take place before the debate will enable Members to see that report and to be able to fully digest it. But, 4 December is still the date that we're working to. 

Can I, therefore, say that if it is 4 December, which is a week Tuesday—a 500-plus page report sits in the corridors of Cathays Park somewhere—what commitment can you give, as the Cabinet Secretary, of that report being made available and the timeline? If the debate goes on on that Tuesday, when will Members get sight of that report? Will it be on Wednesday or Thursday of next week, so that we can consider the full consequences of that?

It's the moment that the decision is published—the decision that the First Minister will reach. The moment that that is published, so, too, the report will be published. The First Minister will be considering that report with the advice that will come up from officials. So, my intention is to ensure that you have as much time as possible to consider that report. I think it's essential that you do have an opportunity to consider the report before any debate or vote is taken in the Chamber.

So, if we take the First Minister's timeline in his interview last week, where he indicates he will make a decision by the end of next week, by this time next week we should have a report with us.

That would be the intention: by this time next week you'd have the report.

I find it very odd that everybody seems to be saying this debate is happening on 4 December, but the business manager doesn't feel that it's appropriate to put it in the forward work programme, but there we are—people can come to their own conclusions about whether there's any motive to that.

Do you not see the contradiction in the evidence that you gave to me earlier about decarbonising transport and waxing lyrical about what we can do with rail and what we can do with buses, and now we're unashamedly increasing the number of vehicles that are going to be polluting our atmosphere?

You could apply the same argument to the Bontnewydd bypass, which you've been very supportive of.

They're in different leagues in terms of finance, but the principle is the same—it's a bypass.

They're in very different leagues. It's a predominantly rural area. We need that modal shift.

What about the Llandeilo bypass? That's designed to alleviate congestion through a community.

You haven't answered my question, though, about the modal shift, have you?

10:40

No, the modal shift—. Look, we're investing record sums in active travel. We're increasing the amount of resource that's available for the local transport fund, but what you can't escape from is that there is congestion in many parts of Wales, which you have highlighted yourself—Llandeilo, Bontnewydd, Caernarfon—which needs alleviating. And the Menai, as well, with the third crossing there. Are you suggesting that we cancel each of these interventions?

No, but what I'm suggesting is that there are alternatives in relation to the M4 relief road.

There are always alternatives. And there's the option of doing nothing. And there was the option of doing nothing in Caernarfon, Bontnewydd, Llandeilo, the Menai crossing, the Llangefni link road. My point is, you can't pick out one project and say, 'Go with an alternative; ignore all of the evidence,' and yet, in other parts of Wales, ignore all the evidence and say, 'Go with the bypass.' It's absolutely essential that we get a consistent—

Can I be helpful? We're going to have a very long debate on this at some stage, but the key will always be the money. If the money's not available, nothing will happen.

The First Minister can make whatever decisions he likes, but unless the money's made available by the Assembly—not by Government, by the Assembly—then it cannot go forward. So, it will be—. Effectively, whatever sort of debate we have, and whether we vote for or against it, whether the Assembly agrees to a budget including the money for the M4 or not will be the deciding factor.

And, Chair, the decision on that will be taken—. The decision by a Government will be the next Government after Christmas, after the new year.

But the decision of the money for it will be taken by the Assembly—

Yes, thank you very much. Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for your evidence so far, and your officials. The National Infrastructure Commission for Wales began its work, as I understand it, on 1 November, or the commissioners had their first meeting on 1 November. Can you give us a brief outline of what your expectations are for the commission, in particular about the commissioners you've appointed and what impact you expect them to be making?

So, what I want the commission to do—and given that we've just discussed a particularly controversial scheme—is to depoliticise many of the decisions that are taken by Government, to provide the expert, impartial advice on all issues relating to infrastructure. The commission met for the first time on 1 November. I was very pleased to be able to appoint a very strong set of commissioners. The intention of the Chair is to produce a forward work programme early in the new year for 2019. I think, in all fairness to the commissioners, the first piece of work that they need to undertake is a familiarisation programme, a check of all of the infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline. I'm also keen to ensure that the commission, at the earliest opportunity, familiarise themselves with all parts of Wales as well. So, they'll be moving around Wales in the early stages, making sure that they are able to see first-hand what infrastructure is being developed, what infrastructure is required, and there will be an annual report as well. The first annual report will be with us this time next year.

Given this is the environmental committee, obviously we have a specific review role, obviously, in promoting environmental and overseeing environmental initiatives within Government. Can you give us a taste of the environmental obligations, incentives, projects that the commission would be dealing with, and how you believe the formation of the commission will increase the environmental credentials of the work that the Government is undertaking?

Yes, absolutely. There are cross-references to many interventions and policy areas in this regard.

And just to supplement what the Cabinet Secretary said, the duties that Welsh Ministers have under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, particularly around the sustainable management of natural resources, will apply directly to the commission. So, the commission, once it gets going and starts to think about its work, will need to consider the priorities set out in our statement of natural resources, but also the ways of working around that set out in the environment Act. So, the duties on Welsh Ministers will apply immediately to the commission, absolutely. So, they will have to frame their work within that context.

Right. And on the ability to access evidence and support, what role would non-governmental organisations, for example, have in supporting, providing evidence to the commission, and what weight would the commission have to give to those—?

They can call on evidence from any NGO, any authority that they wish. The commission is going to be supported by a secretariat in Cathays Park. The chair believed that that was important, to be able to gain immediate access to other officials, and they'll have the ability to call for evidence from anybody that they want.

10:45

Moving on to Transport for Wales, then, Cabinet Secretary, I wonder whether you could outline your plans for its future development. Is the business case for its future role complete and, if so, when will it be published?

I think we've been able to articulate through the economic action plan our ambitions for Transport for Wales in regard to taking on additional functions and for better integrating all forms of transport in Wales. The business case will be with us in the new year, and then we'll be making a decision about any additional duties and responsibilities that can transfer to Transport for Wales and, indeed, I think it's important to say the sequencing and the timeline for any transfer of functions.

Okay. And in terms of environmental objectives, which ones have been set for Transport for Wales?

Well, they have to comply with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015's well-being objectives—very clear objectives. And this is something that we remit Transport for Wales to do. Simon, is there any detail on it?

Just as Prys was saying about the national infrastructure commission, any duties that are incumbent upon Welsh Ministers will cascade down to Transport for Wales.

Yes, that's the basic model, yes. I know that the remit letter says that the company should be aligned to the well-being objectives. Do you feel that's sufficient—you know, a statement that the organisation should align with the objectives or do we need something stronger?

I think the framework agreement between us and Transport for Wales actually requires them. So, I think that is sufficient.

That meets—yes, okay. Would you then have given any consideration to making both Transport for Wales and, indeed, the national infrastructure commission statutory bodies that are formally subject to the duties of the well-being of future generations Act?

Yes, it's an arm's-length body from Government, but I've already said that there'll be a review of NICW, the national infrastructure commission, before the end of this Assembly term. We established it as a non-statutory body, but there'll be a review of the performance and the outcomes, and it will be a decision, potentially, for a future Government to make. Simon.

But as we've said, because they are, if you like, creatures of the Minister, any responsibilities that sit with the Minister cascade down to both the infrastructure commission and Transport for Wales.

Just finally, Cabinet Secretary, obviously, some of the recent publicity for Transport for Wales hasn't been what Welsh Government would have wanted. Early performance, I think, just like first impressions, is very significant in terms of the perception that's set for a new organisation. So, are you content at this stage that the public statements that Transport for Wales have made and the steps that they've set out are sufficient to get beyond these problems?

Two things—a few things to say about this. In terms of performance, we are in a better place right now than we were at this time last year. The past four weeks, the performance of the franchise operator has been better than it was this time last year. But as I said yesterday, what we inherited from Arriva Trains Wales, the trains were pretty appalling. A terrible lack of investment in trains, a terrible lack of investment in stations and, historically, there's been a terrible lack of investment in the rails the trains run on.

We are taking immediate action in terms of addressing the wheel sets and the flattening issue. It's a fact that the trains weren't equipped with wheel slide protection, which is something that you should expect in this day and age. By this time next year, that will be in place. So, I think it just demonstrates again, I'm afraid, in these early stages of the new franchise, the new contract, the inheritance of the rolling stock demonstrates just how poorly we've been served for 15 years and why the contract that was in place was not fit for purpose. But I can assure people that Transport for Wales, Welsh Government are not the cause of these problems, but my goodness me we are going to solve them, and we're going to solve them at speed.

I've heard that Arriva Wales not only left things in the conditions that you've described that weren't best for us to carry on, but they've also taken away all the stocks of spare parts in terms of maintenance. So, not only is it that you've inherited a stock that wasn't in the condition that you expected it to be, but the parts that you would need to replace, as a consequence of that being the case, have disappeared as well, and that all the shelves are empty. Is that true?

10:50

Well, to use a bit of a metaphor, if you move into a house and the roof is leaking when you move in, it does take time to fix it—you don't fix it overnight, especially if all of the other components, the physical fabric of the building are a mess. Essentially, what we're dealing with—I think the chief executive captured it pretty well recently—we are dealing with rolling stock that's akin to a 30-year-old Ford Escort with the clutch out of order and the brakes not working. So, we are having to make a concerted effort to identify additional capacity to bring it online, and at the same time to fix the problems that were inherited at day one.

But is it true what I've heard about, that the spare parts, the parts that you would expect to maintain—? To use your analogy, if you've got a hole in the roof, you need a tile to put back on it, but if the tile's not there, you can't do it.

I'm getting reports of various issues that Transport for Wales have encountered from day one. I'll look into that particular concern that you have. I've also heard that when they took over the franchise, there were dead rats in water in inspection chambers. Some basic stuff, clearly, had not been done. Health and safety is a pretty basic but fundamental matter that should be at the forefront of any business's considerations, and, clearly, there were issues there.

Can I just, on Joyce's point—it is a very valid point? Did Transport for Wales undertake an audit with Arriva as the exited franchisee? Because Arriva Trains, I presume, purchased those parts, so that was their stock, and one would assume that the incoming party would have had an inventory and purchased the stock off them. That would seem pretty basic. I mean, I appreciate if you haven't got that information to hand. Could you provide us with a note?

I'm happy to do that, but, Simon, I think you've got something.

There was a handover process that ran for the four months into the run-up. We can give you some details of what took place in that run-up. It was prescribed by the contract that was let 15 years ago, so our hands were tied by that old contract.

Yes, but with respect, Joyce's point is well made in the house analogy. But if you're a new purchaser moving into a house, you have agreement with the exiting purchaser of what you will take on and either pay an additional amount or have an allowance considered. It's a very basic principle, and I'd hate to think that that basic principle, in the complicated handover, was overlooked, and hence stores were empty because the exiting party took the stores with them.

No, that wasn't overlooked. But what happened was, the operating standards were so low, compliant, clearly, with the law, but they were so low that we inherited trains—we're still looking into the causes—that, it would appear, have been very poorly maintained. There's nothing that Transport for Wales could do in the period leading up to transfer to actually improve the condition of the trains because they were not responsible for them. They couldn't have been allowed to fix trains that they were not responsible for.

In terms of an inventory, it's all very well and good having a load of equipment and parts, but if the condition of the trains is such that, from day one, they are going to be struggling, they're going to be creaking—if you then have to take them all off-line, you're still going to be left with the situation that we're in today.

But Transport for Wales's statement did allude to the fact that they need to do work to replenish stores. The statement they released on Tuesday actually had that specific reference in its statement. So, it would be interesting to know—

Okay, thank you very much. Thank you for coming along, Cabinet Secretary, and your colleagues. Can we now return to private session, because we didn't actually get around to item 4?

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:54.

Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:16.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:54.

The committee reconvened in public at 11:16.

11:15
6. Rheoliadau Newid yn yr Hinsawdd (Cymru) 2018: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Phwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd y DU
6. The Climate Change (Wales) Regulations 2018: evidence session with the UK Climate Change Committee

Can I welcome you to the meeting of the climate change committee? If you would like to give your names for the record, and, then, are you happy to go straight on to questions? Yes, okay.

I'm Rebecca Heaton and I'm a committee member of the Committee on Climate Change and I have responsibility for representing Wales on the committee.

Good morning. I'm David Joffe. I work in the secretariat of the Committee on Climate Change.

Can I thank you both for coming along to see us today? If I can start off with my first question: emissions in Wales increased by 5 per cent between 2015 and 2016. Do you recognise that number and if so, is it a concern to the UK climate change group, given that Wales has only two years left to meet its 27 per cent emission reduction target?

Shall I start? We do realise that it's difficult to set short-term targets. Setting a target to 2020, particularly when we did that when we didn't even have 2016 data, was difficult, but it was what we were asked to do. And we do recognise that number that you have said. Do you want to carry on, David?

Yes. The emissions increase for 2016 relative to 2015—a lot of that increase was in the power sector, from gas-fired power generation, and that tends to vary considerably from year to year. So, just because it went up in 2016, that doesn't necessarily put at risk where emissions can be in 2020 in the power sector. And emissions went down in industry, for example, at Port Talbot. So, it does appear that there's a greater challenge in meeting the 2020 target now than when we provided our advice a year ago, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it cannot be met.

Thank you, Chair. And thank you for your evidence so far. Has the lack of progress in reducing emissions since the publication of the Welsh Government's climate change strategy in 2010 inhibited progress towards the 2050 target?

It is a difficult question—

There are lots of things that need to be done to meet the 2050 target and it's very difficult to say that, just because we haven't done specific things so far, it's impossible to catch up. But on the other hand, the longer we go without sufficient progress, the more difficult it becomes, so the more we can act in the near term, the easier we make it, or the less difficult we make it to meet the very stretching 2050 emissions reductions that are required. And they're more stretching for Wales than they are for the whole of the UK at the moment.

At what point would you say that it becomes—I wouldn't say 'impossible', but that stretch becomes too great and there needs to be a revision? Because in the scheme of it, 2010 to 2050, and we're only on 2018 now, one would say, 'Well, yes, I can get that. There's still plenty of time to catch up and everything', but that frontloading of this is vitally important, is it not? Is there a taste of where you think, at that point where it becomes too much of a stretch and a revision needs to happen, that you would put your line in the sand?

I don't think we've really done that analysis, but we obviously work out the budgets, and if you start missing budgets, then it becomes a concern and a problem. What we've suggested, really, is recommendations for really low-regret actions now, and those are ones particularly linked, say, to the future generations of Wales Act, which we looked at quite carefully when providing this advice. So, specific actions of low regrets might be tree planting, or it might be in buildings and insulation and in building standards. 

11:20

So, that slippage in the first eight years isn't something that is flashing bright red on the dashboard—it's more of an amber at the moment, because there is time to catch up and Government has the ability to catch up. Is that a fair assessment of where we're at? 

I think until we've got the numbers, it would be hard to really say. David, do you want to add—? 

I think portraying it as 'It's all fine because we have time to catch up' is maybe a bit generous. I think it's been made more difficult by the lack of progress over that period. There is no specific point in time where you can say, 'We definitely now cannot meet those targets for 2050', but 'It is fine as long as good progress is made from now on' I think is probably a fair way to describe it.  

It reminds me of an investment strategy for pension funds—don't pay too much attention to the short term, but the long term is made up of a lot of short terms so that, at some stage, you would expect to be making some progress. You said you couldn't say you weren't going to make it at a certain date. Surely, if 2049 was only halfway there, you'd probably come to the conclusion we were going to double it to 2050. The question is: should there be targets in between 2010 and 2050, because very few of us, if any, will be here in the Assembly in 2050?  

So, really, we've got a conclusion, and the question then is: are we sort of saying, or somebody else will be saying, 'They didn't get it right?' 

We do set carbon budgets every five years, and we do report on those. And, obviously, we would assume that we would track Welsh Government's progress towards those. 

Good morning, both. I want to ask whether you feel—that is, the climate change committee feels—that the actions or the potential actions detailed in the Welsh Government's decarbonisation consultation are sufficiently ambitious to achieve its own targets in terms of carbon reduction? 

So, we've looked at a range of opportunities, and I think there is a route there, but action is needed. And as you were saying, action is needed quite soon to start delivering on that. 

I think it's difficult to say definitively whether it's enough. Part of it will be, 'What are the final policies and how are they implemented?', as well as, 'Are they sufficiently ambitious at the consultation stage?' So, it remains to be seen, I think. 

And did you have any input at all into those? Was there any discussion or any input with you? 

We provided advice within our report a year ago on the areas where we thought it was particularly both important and possible for the Welsh Government to put in place policies. We have had some discussions with officials, but I wouldn't say we've had a large input into that policy design. 

In terms, then, of your advice to Welsh Government and the consultation process that helped develop that advice, what would you say about the amount and quality of evidence you received as part of that consultation?  

We ran a range of stakeholder meetings, and we had also a lot of one-to-one meetings as well with interested parties. All the evidence is on the internet as well. I think we felt that we did have conversations with a lot of the main organisations impacted and who were interested in it. 

Okay. And what would you say were the main challenges in working with Welsh Government to develop the interim emissions targets and the approach to carbon budgeting and, indeed, potential areas of policy development? 

11:25

I think it's probably not quite correct to say that we worked with Welsh Government. We, essentially, developed those things ourselves, and, of course, we talk to the Welsh Government periodically, and we talk to stakeholders as well. But, really, the targets, the design of them, the level of them and the advice on the policies to achieve them, that was all the work of the committee and the secretariat, in discussion with a number of stakeholders, of which, of course, the Welsh Government was a key one. 

Yes. So, what would you say were the main challenges around that process and that engagement then?

I think there's always a challenge for us as a committee, in that it's the first time we've provided advice specifically on Wales, and it's difficult always to translate a national picture for the UK as a whole down to a smaller one. So, there are specific challenges around getting the Welsh circumstances right and making sure that we're actually understanding what the dynamics are in Wales, what the particular challenges are in Wales, and so on. So, we tried to do that. I hope we did it well enough, but it's—. And, so, a lot of our conversations with stakeholders, and with the Welsh Government, were to ensure that our analysis was lining up well with their better understanding, from a Welsh perspective, of where the reality is. 

And you're reasonably confident that you got to a reasonable place in those terms.

Yes. In terms of the regulations that have been laid by the Government on climate change, I'm just—. Should they not have published draft regulations for wider consultation, really, before laying the regulations that they have done on the carbon budgets? Because you've mentioned that there had been—you provided advice, and there was engagement there, but that wasn't as specific around some of these proposals, was it? Or could you tell us how specific it was?

It was quite specific on what the budget should be, and the design of how it should be set up as well. I don't know that it is for us to comment on how the Welsh Government—

No. But I'm just wondering, because I think you had 11 responses. Was it 11? And then 15 to the different calls that she made. And I know that there were two events held, one in north Wales, one in south Wales, but is that sufficient for the Government to come up with this level of commitment?

We also had quite a lot of one-to-one meetings as well. So, we did do quite extensive stakeholder engagement on this.

And you're not commenting as to whether the Government should have maybe done more. You probably don't feel that's for you to say, is it?

It's not for us to say what the Government's process is. We've provided our advice, and the Government has said that it—

Because it feels a little bit to me—and I wouldn't expect you to respond, maybe, on this, but it feels a little bit as if the Government is just taking what you said, putting it in the regs, and we haven't really had that sort of wider discussion beyond the work that you've done—recognising that you have done some work on that. But there we are. Okay. Fine. 

Yes, yes. Sure, indeed. 

The other issue I have, of course, is that the Government, having not yet published or agreed a low carbon delivery plan, which is on its way in March—. As Members here, we're expected to approve these without really knowing how Government intends to achieve it. Is that an issue, as far as you see?

But we have looked at the—. This is based on numbers, so we have looked at all the opportunities for decarbonisation, and that's why we've come up with the budgets that we have. So, we believe it is achievable for Wales to meet what we've given you advice on. 

If I can—. We have a similar dynamic at UK level, and, indeed, in Scotland as well. The way it tends to work is: advice is provided by us, the targets are legislated, the Government comes forward with a plan, that is then scrutinised by, not just us, also yourselves, and the wider stakeholder community. And, if that plan is insufficient to meet the targets, then there's the potential then to make it stronger in various ways.

So, that is the dynamic that we have established already, and I understand that, clearly, you would want to also understand that the targets that are being legislated are achievable. And we hope that the advice that we've already given that underpins the level of the advice shows how they can be achieved. But, of course, we don't know yet how the Welsh Government intends to achieve that. So—.

So, if that process highlights an issue, then it's a case of going back and strengthening the plan, as opposed to diluting the targets. 

11:30

That would be our view, yes.

Well, yes, I would hope so as well, otherwise you wouldn't be doing your job. Can I just ask as well, then: you mentioned that this was the first time that you really provided this evidence and support and advice—what lessons are you taking from your experience this time around in order to inform or to amend the way that you maybe engage with this process in future?

I don't think I saw there were any major problems. I wasn't working on it on a day-to-day basis, so I don't know if there were any lessons.

I think one of the issues that we've got—the 2020 target has been raised already, and we recognised even—. Well, we recognised it implicitly within our advice that we'd rather not have been asked to set a 2020 target.

And everybody recognises that we have to start somewhere and presumably that won't be such an issue in future. 

Indeed. But the other thing that's caused issues is that the way that emissions are estimated has changed this year, compared to how it was in 2017 when we provided our advice, and that means that the targets we have recommended are now more difficult to achieve than we thought they were, because of the way that the estimations are done. We thought we had come up with a way of allowing for those kinds of changes, but, clearly, it hasn't worked out very well in the near term, so we need to think a bit more about those and particularly around near-term targets and how that changes the feasibility of any near-term targets that we recommend.

Thank you, Chair. The Welsh Government's preferred approach is more of a smooth trajectory towards the 2050 target. What do you think the risks of that approach are and do you think that it would be more effective if there was frontloading of emissions reductions?

So, the overall path for emissions looks very much like a straight line when you draw it between now and 2050, and that's true at the UK level as well. Now, that's an outcome of our analysis rather than an in-going assumption, so we look at the opportunities to reduce emissions across all of the sectors and actually, some of them, the emissions will go like that, and then, other ones, they'll go like that, and when you add them all up it looks like that. So, it does look very conveniently like a straight line, but actually we have a chart in one of our reports from three years ago that shows very much a spaghetti thing of everything getting to 80 per cent, but it's—you know, the sectors are doing very different things.

Now, clearly, it's possible to come up with ways that can frontload effort more by saying, 'Well, people can radically change their behaviour' and so on, and we will be looking again at some of those in our advice to the UK Government and to Welsh and Scottish Governments on the long-term targets in the spring. So, we'll be looking at, actually, if we need to go beyond an 80 per cent reduction, what are the extra things we need to do to get from 80 per cent to a more ambitious target, and do they need to start now. In which case, that might mean more frontloading of action as well.

Okay, thank you. And are you satisfied with the methodology used by Welsh Government to assess that the cost of its chosen pathway, it's robust, particularly as costs are substantially different—increase of £30 billion to your estimate?

That was really due to the power sector, emissions costs being derived slightly differently. So, we looked at the UK and then looked at the Wales proportion of that. So, it's a difference in methodology, but I don't think we would have a problem with it.

The Welsh Government has got estimates for an 80 per cent reduction and also an 85 per cent reduction. The figure for 80 per cent is £258 billion; the figure for the 85 per cent reduction is £272 billion, so there's a £14 billion difference. Are you satisfied that that estimated cost differential is robust?

I haven't done a thorough analysis of this, so—.

What I would say is—the 85 per cent reduction is at the limit of what we've identified as being feasible, having looked at all of the opportunities to reduce emissions in Wales. The problem with providing a cost estimate for the most ambitious emissions reduction is that, if any part of that programme slips, then how do you achieve that target at all, or it may be that the action that is required to make up that shortfall is extremely expensive. Therefore, to give a single number for the most ambitious reduction possible—we are reluctant to do that in general. We haven't done that for Scotland, for example, and we haven't done it in this case, because it is very sensitive to any slippage. Whereas an 80 per cent reduction, there is more opportunity for a little bit of slippage that could be made up elsewhere, with known measures of known cost. So, I wouldn't like to comment on the specific numbers, but I'm always wary of trying to cost the very most ambitious scenarios.

11:35

Also, any costs would be at today's prices, wouldn't they, rather than at 2050 prices?

Yes. That's the way it's done, yes.

The point I was trying to make is that the actual numbers in 2050 will be substantially higher if we just move today's prices forward.

Yes. There are two things there. There'll be, obviously, inflation in the meantime, but there will also be growth within the Welsh economy; GVA and GDP will be higher in Wales. So, as a proportion of those things, it will look less expensive in 2050 than it looks at the moment.

I'm glad of your confidence in the growth of the economy. Llyr.

Yes. I just wanted to ask a couple of questions, really. The variability is obvious and there have been references to it already in terms of maybe large energy generators going offline, big, industrial demands as well. So, it is difficult to pitch, isn't it, really? But I'm just wondering as well whether you believe the Welsh Government has sufficient powers to actually effect this agenda sufficiently for us to be confident that these figures are meaningful. Because we had the economy and transport Cabinet Secretary before us earlier today explaining what he's been doing in terms of decarbonising rail, or his plans, and buses and electrical vehicles, for example, but then also reminding us that he has no power over vehicle emissions. So, he can't set any limits in a Welsh context on fumes coming from the back of cars. So, how much confidence can we take from these, in the knowledge that, actually, Welsh Government powers are limited?

It's a really good question and we've spent a long time looking at which powers were devolved and which powers weren't. I think you do clearly have, or we do clearly have, devolved powers over areas where we can make an impact—with agriculture and forestry, for example, with buildings, and also using the planning powers as well, particularly the stronger planning powers as well. So, there are opportunities, but we also looked in our advice at the sort of soft power that you have for linking together and working more closely with the UK as a whole as well on that.

But this is quite exposed to the UK Government making one decision about one coal-fired power station somewhere in Wales, and the figures are sort of meaningless.

But we have allowed for that. 

I noted that, but that just illustrates, I think, not only the difficulty in coming up with these targets, let's say, but also the reality that circumstances can conspire to make these—not meaningless; I don't want to be disparaging. But how can the public have the sufficient confidence that these are meaningful targets when these external decisions can have such an impact?

It is difficult. The balance that we had to consider was between limiting the scope of the Welsh targets to areas where Wales had complete control and therefore can be more confident that the targets can be met if the right actions are taken, versus having a broader scope where some of the areas are ones where Wales can make a bit of a difference but where a lot of the powers lie with the UK Government. We decided on the latter because we think it's important for Wales to exercise its powers, even where they're somewhat limited, in trying to reduce emissions within Wales. But, clearly, we cannot expect Wales to achieve an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 if it's not happening in the rest of the UK, because there are so many interactions. So, we completely recognise that it's not completely within Welsh Government's control to meet the targets, but we nevertheless made a judgment that it's better to do it that way than to narrow the scope, and that's—.

Don't take my question as questioning the need to do this. I'm a big believer in—. There are too many people in this world trying to get half way up a mountain and making it—that's the old saying, isn't it—and we need to be aiming for the peak, and I bet you we get further than halfway. So, we need to be ambitious, absolutely. 

Can I just ask as well—? There was reference earlier to the information and the data that you'd be collecting in terms of providing this advice. Are there any particular data sets that are missing that you would like, in terms of Wales-specific data? Clearly, there's a lot of UK-wide data. Is there anything that's missing that would really help?

11:40

Yes, there are—. How long is a piece of string?

There are a couple of specific things that come to mind—one is a housing condition survey, so actually knowing what the current state of the Welsh housing stock is, as opposed to the most recent survey, which—I forget whether it was 2009 or that kind of thing, but it was a while ago, and we really don't have the up-to-date information. It's then quite difficult to assess what can be done if we don't know where we are at the moment.

The other one is a travel survey for Wales, again, to understand how people travel in Wales. I think the methodology was changed around 2012 or 2013, and now we have less information than we used to. Again, that has made it difficult for us to make some of these detailed assessments about what's possible. So, those two things, I think, would be really valuable—if efforts were made to collect that data.

Have you conveyed that to Government? Clearly, we can reflect that in our evidence.

Those were both included in our advice a year ago.

Any more questions? Can I thank you very much for coming along and giving us your time? What I would also say is that you'll get sent a transcript of this. I would urge you to check it for accuracy. What happens to me is that I tend to move around, and if you move around the microphone sometimes misses a word, so if you could just check it—it'll be accurate in what you said, but some words may have disappeared as you turn around to face somebody and it may miss them. But, again, thank you very much for coming along. We're very grateful to you for giving up your time. 

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:42.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:42.

Archwilio Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru