Heritage of Heavy Industry Contributes to Wales' Larger Carbon Footprint; Assembly Government Must Take Firmer Action on Climate Change

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Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter

WALES has one of the highest rates of carbon emissions in the world, latest official figures show.

The nation ranks 13th in an international league table of the worst emitters of CO2 - 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' CO2 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.

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."

Environment Minister Jane Davidson has repeatedly spoken of her passion to combat climate change, and she was placed at Number Three on a UK Green List of most influential environmentalists.

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has committed itself to 3% year-on-year reductions in carbon emissions from 2011, but a detailed strategy will not be published until the end of this year.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 inflated CO2 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."

Other figures show that while carbon emissions from international shipping in Wales were higher than might be expected at 661,000 tonnes (9.7% of the UK total), emissions from international aviation were low at 141,000 tonnes - just 0.4% of the UK total.

In 2006, Wales was the 46th lowest ranked country in the world in terms of generating "value" from carbon emissions.

This "carbon intensity" measure is arrived at by calculating the quantity of CO2 emissions in megatonnes per EUR1,000 of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While Wales had a carbon intensity of 0.65, the equivalent figure was 0.40 in Northern Ireland, 0.34 in Scotland and 0.29 in England.

The only EU countries with a poorer carbon intensity record than Wales were Bulgaria and Estonia.

At a local level, the highest level of emissions by far came from Neath Port Talbot, site of the big Corus steelworks. In total the county borough emitted 7,257 kilotonnes of carbon in 2006, some 6,584 tonnes coming from industry and commerce.

The next biggest emitter was Flintshire, with 2,609 kilotonnes (1,834 from industry.

Powys and Ynys Mon had the highest per capita CO2 emissions from domestic sources, while Cardiff had the lowest. Gwynedd was the only local authority in Wales where per capita CO2 emissions from domestic sources decreased between 2005 and 2006: all other authorities registered an increase. …