The role of Welsh industry in tackling climate change


Welsh manufacturers can play a vital role in transitioning Wales towards a Net Zero economy.

It’s a difficult time for businesses and individuals in Wales, with high costs of energy and raw materials alongside supply chain challenges.

In this context, it would be easy to fall into the trap of reacting in the short term, putting off much-needed action on climate and nature emergencies. But the solutions lie in looking at these challenges collectively rather than in isolation.

To decarbonise, it’s crucial to address the way we use resources by transitioning to a circular economy, keeping materials in use for as long as possible and avoiding waste.

Taking recycling further

Wales already has a great track record when it comes to recycling. Recent statistics show that we remain the leading recycling nation within the UK, and were able to maintain our world class performance during the pandemic.

We can build on this foundation by going beyond recycling. The importance of doing so is clear. 45% of to-tal carbon emissions are down to the materials we use in the products we consume.

There are both environmental and economic benefits to be found here. A circular economy improves the resilience of supply chains, provides opportunities for skilled jobs and increases our economy’s competi-tiveness in a decarbonising global economy. It also provides Wales with the opportunity to build on our fan-tastic recycling performance by driving greater added value from the materials we collect.

Building a circular economy

Innovation in companies and local enterprises show how being more efficient in the materials we use can deliver considerable economic benefits. To support this, Welsh Government have committed to expanding their circular economy fund for business, with £10 million allocated over the next three years.

Their new Net Zero Wales plan sets out the need to address unsustainable resource use, moving towards a circular economy as a key step towards decarbonisation.

This includes reducing direct territorial emissions and consumption emissions from products we import for use in Wales. Action on energy is equally crucial. Industry and business must continue to improve energy efficiency, and switch sources of energy from fossil fuels to renewables to reduce emissions.

Welsh Government have a target of at least 70% of Wales’ electricity being delivered by renewables by 2030. This, coupled with the anticipated increase in electricity consumed, highlights the opportunities asso-ciated with renewable energy and the industries and companies it supports.

Wales is blessed with renewable energy; solar, wind, wave and tidal. Nearly 60,000 people already work in the renewable energy sector in Wales with the sector earning revenues of around £5 billion.

Despite a diverse range of renewable energy sources and growth of the renewable sector, only 27% of elec-tricity generated in Wales comes from renewables at the moment: a lower proportion than the other three nations of the United Kingdom. However, more than half of the electricity consumed in Wales comes from renewable sources, and the expansion of renewables in Wales is ahead of the other nations.

A key step in realising the opportunities of renewable energy in Wales is upskilling our workforce. To achieve this, Welsh Government is committed to bringing forward a Net Zero Action Plan.

They want to support the development of companies in Wales that are committed to designing, installing, operating and maintaining renewables and other circular economy technologies. They are also working to expand Business Wales’ support in relation to advice about finance, renewables and resource efficiency, plus potential support to assist with premises, equipment and employee training.

Leading the change

An important role for the wider public sector in Wales is to lead the transition toward the circular economy. With more than £6 billion of goods and services procured by Wales’ public sector each year, Welsh Govern-ment is committed to prioritising goods and products made from remanufactured, refurbished, recycled or sustainable materials to support this transition.

They have also committed to the public sector being Net Zero by 2030, with plans to build 20,000 new low carbon homes while promoting active travel and public transport.

Collaboration and innovation are essential if we want to achieve Net Zero and help the Welsh economy prosper. With industry and manufacturing accounting for a third of Wales’ GDP, these sectors will continue to play a vital role in Wales’ transition toward a circular economy.

Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change said, “Welsh Government welcomes the work manufacturers have already been doing to develop plans for how they can achieve Net Zero. I’d be really pleased to re-ceive ideas about how we can work together to achieve our shared objective and how the Welsh Govern-ment might best assist industry and business further to support that decarbonization. The environmental global economy is equally crucial. I’m so excited to work with manufacturers and UWTSD to realise the enormous potential Wales has in moving towards a greener and more prosperous future”

This article was written following a session led by Minister of Climate Change, Julie James MS at the MADE Cymru Industry Summit 2022. We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can contact us on 01792 481199 or email [email protected].

MADE Cymru is a suite of programmes designed to navigate organisations through Industry 4.0 via collabo-rative research, development and upskilling. Funded by the European Social Fund/European Regional Devel-opment Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David