Barriers and opportunities to Wales reaching net zero

WCPP’s final evidence papers for the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group show that Wales is behind its current 2050 net zero ambitions in transport and residential buildings (along with the food and energy sectors as previously reported) and that bringing the target forward to 2035 would require policy innovation on an ‘unprecedented’ scale, along with significant behaviour change.

However, these reports also find potential upsides to decarbonising – such as on reducing fuel poverty, improving public health and Welsh transport systems. And the accompanying WCPP report on education, jobs and work finds reasons to be optimistic about Welsh Government efforts to prepare the Welsh workforce for the transition to net zero.

WCPP Director of Policy and Practice, Dan Bristow said, “It is clear from our latest series of reports for the Wales Net Zero Challenge Group that based on current evidence, an ambitious amount of work is required in the transport and residential buildings sectors for Wales to meet its current 2050 net zero target. To bring those targets forward to 2035 would require an unprecedented degree of commitment, investment and infrastructure from local and national policy makers, and the general public.

“However, our research also pinpoints some relatively easy wins – areas which could significantly accelerate Wales’ efforts to tackle the climate crisis.”

Wales Net Zero Challenge Group chair Jane Davidson added, “As evidenced in these and previous WCPP reports, a significant shift is needed to reduce the Welsh  contribution to this global challenge, whilst also safeguarding the wellbeing of current and future generations.

“It is our ambition to support our commissioners, the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru through the Co-operation Agreement , in navigating the challenging road ahead, ensuring that the transition to net zero brings tangible benefits to the people of Wales, whilst we still have the opportunity.

“I would like to thank WCPP for their support in providing high quality evidence papers to the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group.



  • Critical sector. Transport is Wales’ third highest greenhouse gas emitting sector (behind industry and energy) so decarbonising transport would greatly speed up Wales’ net zero progress.
  • Cars and light trucks contribute 72% of Wales’ transport emissions. The Welsh Government has failed to meet five of the nine targets in its Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy.
  • Greater efforts needed to reduce or avoid travel Most efforts to decarbonise transport have focused on shifting to more sustainable forms of surface transport and improving their efficiency but that alone won’t be enough.
  • Connecting people and places is key. This requires long term planning across transport sectors and beyond, a range of connected urban and rural transport initiatives, and behaviour change efforts to encourage a shift away from dependence on cars.
  • International examples. Lessons for Wales on speeding up the transport transition to net zero can be drawn from an accompanying review of initiatives from 18 countries.

    READ MORE: Decarbonising Wales’ transport system while connecting people and places.

Residential buildings

  • More to be done. Emissions from Welsh homes are currently not falling fast enough to meet net zero targets, reflecting the slow uptake of heat pumps and retrofit measures.
  • Ambitious action required. Meeting the existing net zero target of 2050 will require rapid and wholesale changes to how we build and heat our homes – and achieving net zero in 2035 would require policy innovation on an ambitious, if not unprecedented scale.
  • Welsh-specific barriers. The task is complicated by Welsh building stock being older than the UK average, and the large number of buildings in Wales that are considered ‘hard to decarbonise’.
  • Benefits. Decarbonising buildings presents opportunities to achieve multiple policy goals such as reducing fuel poverty, improving public health, supporting local supply chains and employment opportunities.
  • Case studies. An accompanying study of eight retrofit projects from around the world points to some lessons that can be learned for Wales.

    READ MORE: How could Wales heat and build low-carbon homes by 2035?

Net zero jobs and education

  • Jobs. The transition to net zero will create opportunities for more jobs and an increase in demand for technical skills.
  • Skills and education. Wales has a high number of low-skilled workers and a decreasing rate of participation in further education
  • A just transition. Combined with the Welsh economy’s industrial history, this means careful consideration is needed to meet decarbonisation targets whilst ensuring the protection of workers and a just transition.

    READ MORE: What could education, jobs and work look like across Wales by 2035?

Professor Bristow pointed to these opportunities while recognising the challenges in Wales.

“Whilst there is a concern regarding the potential loss of jobs, as sectors are decarbonised, a unique opportunity is presented to encourage workers to upskill and (re)train.
“There is work ongoing across the education and skills system with reforms aiming to bring together post-16 provision as well as a shift towards a less prescriptive, and more purpose-driven curriculum during compulsory education. Associated with this there are opportunities to integrate green skills provision and climate literacy across both compulsory and post-compulsory education and training.”


For further information, contact Liz Clutton | 07736 056669