Over twenty years ago the UK Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act, providing the legal basis for the National Assembly for Wales. The official opening of the National Assembly for Wales marked a significant change in Welsh politics that promised a new politics of change and co-operation. Today we are witnessing the manifestation of that change in the new Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement.
The Co-operation Agreement announced is a response to the urgent challenges of our time, which require radical change and reform for Wales to progress at the pace required and provide the Senedd with a concrete plan for delivering for Wales.
What does the deal mean for the climate and nature emergency?
The commitments outlined in the Co-operation Agreement build on the common goal between the two parties to create a sustainable Wales. By working together, the Agreement will commit both parties to examining potential pathways to bring the net zero date from 2050 to 2035. This will include looking at how any adverse economic conditions can be mitigated and how best to approach the asset management of the Crown Estate and its assets in Wales.
In October this year, the Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford said that devolving the Crown Estate to Wales could boost the country’s aspirations to become a world leader in renewable energy.
Another key outcome of the Agreement was the formation of a net zero publicly-owned energy company ‘Ynni Cymru’ to encourage community-owned renewable energy generation. This has met with support and consternation in equal measure, with some welcoming the move as a means of galvanising Welsh commitment to green energy, but others raising concerns over yet another delay, cost and complication at a time when direct action is needed right away. Welsh Government could just empower those with the expertise and experience to deliver these projects (i.e. existing developers) through focusing on, legislation, clear guidance and a fully resourced and clearly directed planning system. Industry argues that this would help to deliver against net-zero targets and secure an innovative approach to community-ownership much quicker than seeking to create a whole new body to deliver this.
Clearly, for net zero targets to be delivered, our lifestyles and habits must change rapidly and eco-friendly decisions must become easier than the polluting decisions that we currently make, particularly in the realm of transportation, which is why the Agreement has set out to explore the development of transport links between North and South Wales, including how to protect potential travel corridors on the west coast of Wales. Furthermore, the Welsh Government will continue to press ahead with Metro developments to improve connectivity and encourage people to switch to public transport.
How will the deal be executed?
In its current form, the deal would not amount to a coalition between the parties, and Plaid Cymru members of the Senedd will not be entering government, however Plaid Cymru will be able to appoint special advisers to work on the Agreement in government. It must be noted at this stage that the three-year deal could be shattered this weekend should Plaid members vote against it at the virtual conference.
What does this mean for the renewable energy market?
Looking ahead, overall the deal presents a positive political background for the renewables market and the investment appetite is clearly there, however with a lack of detail on a Welsh hydrogen strategy and the failure to address ongoing supply chain issues, it is clear that the two parties will need to consult further with industry to complete the collaborative approach to tackling the climate emergency.