Carbon Emissions in Wales Among the Highest the World
The province ranks 13th in an international league table of the worst emitters of carbon dioxide the greenhouse gas that contributes most to climate change.
At 15.57 tonnes per person in 2006, which is the most recent year for which detailed statistics are available, Wales' carbon dioxide emissions are significantly higher than in all three other UK nations.
Northern Ireland produced emissions at the rate of 10.17 tonnes per person, with Scotland at 10.02 tonnes and England 9.26 tonnes, the data released by the National Assembly reveals.
One of Wales' most prominent environmentalists last night said the figures indicated the extent of the challenge facing Wales.
The report includes a survey of the latest scientific thinking on climate change and says the average temperature in Wales is now 1.33 degrees higher than in 1961, said Martin Shipton, reporting for Western Mail
Gordon James, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: "The abundant political rhetoric we've had on the subject must be replaced by courageous action that will bring about big reductions in emissions in the near future."
The Assembly Government has committed itself to 3% year-on- year reductions in carbon emissions from 2011, but a detailed strategy will not be published until the end of this year.
The paper published by the Members' Research Service at the National Assembly suggests the higher CO˛ emission levels in Wales reflect both the high rate of fossil fuel electricity generation and the nation's relative poverty.
It says: "One factor affecting Wales' high carbon intensity is high carbon electricity generation. Since no major energy company has its headquarters in Wales, the profit made from electricity generation is accrued elsewhere, while the carbon emissions are attributed to Wales.
"Furthermore, electricity prices in Wales are 1.7% to 3.6% higher than the average in England, which partially results from grid charges: grid charges are around 17% higher in Wales than in England.
"This reduces the disposable income that people in Wales are able to spend on more economically productive activities."
Earth Cymru's James said: "This paper on carbon dioxide emissions in Wales spells out the immense threat we face from climate change. It also shows that, despite some welcome initiatives from the Welsh Assembly Government, the overall response to this threat remains hopelessly inadequate.
"It's extremely disappointing to learn that carbon dioxide emissions in Wales rose between 2005 and 2006. They are still just below the 1990 level and well short of the 20% cut by 2010 target set by the Government.
"The abundant political rhetoric we have had on the subject must be replaced by courageous action that will bring about big reductions in emissions in the very near future. Last week's decision to give the go-ahead to a large power station at Pembroke instead of the far more efficient combined heat and power systems just shows how politicians are still delivering business as usual responses rather than the radical policy changes that are now essential."
An Assembly Government spokesman said: "We will read this report with interest and take on board the comments as part of our ongoing battle against climate change.
"Wales is rising to the challenges of the changing world of energy, climate change and sustainability and is taking its own steps which in many areas are leading the way for the UK.
"Calculating CO˛ emissions per unit of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) provides an interesting insight into carbon intensive economic activity but it is not really a measure of 'good' or 'poor' performance by a country. It reflects the relative GDP of a country and the carbon intensity of the sectors that make up its economy.
"Given that Wales has a lower GDP than the EU average, and a relative high proportion of energy intensive industry and energy generators, it is not surprising that the CO˛ emissions for each unit of GDP are higher than in some other countries. In contrast, a sector like financial services which is an important contributor to England's higher GDP has very low emissions."
The spokesman added: "We have made a commitment to fight climate change and are developing strategies and action to deliver 3% annual emission reductions per year from 2011 onwards in devolved areas. Last month we launched a consultation on how we will measure this goal. We have set a baseline against which our target can be measured and identified areas we can make a difference: transport, homes and buildings, businesses, the public sector, waste, agriculture and land use.
"By December 2009 the Assembly Government will publish final targets and a programme of action."