The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has said that devolving the crown estate to Wales could boost the country’s aspirations to become a world leader in renewable energy.
One of the Labour-led government’s key strategies in tackling the climate emergency is to make the most of Wales’ extraordinary natural resources, including wind and wave power.
Speaking during a visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid Wales, Drakeford said: “Wales’ big contribution to a carbon-neutral future is to use the natural assets we have to be at the forefront of renewable energy production, whether that is from wind or waves or water.
“Geography is on our side. If you’re on the west side of the UK, you have the prevailing winds. We are surrounded on three sides by water.”
Asked about devolving the crown estate, which holds the rights to seabeds around the British Isles, Drakeford said: “It’s definitely an idea we should take seriously. The crown estate is devolved in Scotland. The Scottish government do have levers they are able to use that are not directly available to us. In Scotland it’s a direct tool the government is able to deploy.”
Drakeford also criticised the UK government for not sharing its net zero strategy with Cardiff ahead of publication this week.
“Working across the UK is absolutely essential,” he said. “I hate to sound complaining but the UK’s net zero paper is an essential context for things we can do in Wales. We were promised in June we would see a good draft of that in July. We ended up not seeing it at all until it was published.”
Drakeford said the next decade was “absolutely essential in the journey to net zero by 2050 … We have to accomplish as much in the next decade as we have in the last 30 years. This is a decade of action if we are to be on the track we want to be on.”
He also said that while Wales was blessed with natural resources that could help it tackle the climate emergency, it was also vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as flooding.
“We do have fantastic resources but there are real vulnerabilities as well if global temperatures rise unchecked. It’s not too late but we’ve got to be serious about it,” he said.
Drakeford said key plans for the Welsh government included turning new social housing into a net creator of power, only building roads in exceptional circumstances, investing in public transport and encouraging individuals to do more.
“Small individual actions in our own lives cumulatively amount to something important,” he said.
At prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, the Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts, asked Boris Johnson if he would support her bill to devolve the crown estate to Wales, which she said would “bring half a billion pounds worth of offshore wind and tidal stream potential under Welsh control”.
Johnson said that devolving the crown estate would “fragment the market, complicate existing processes and make it more difficult for Wales and the rest of the UK to move forward to net zero”.