Decarbonising Wales’ transport system while connecting people and places

Transport is the third highest greenhouse gas emitting sector in Wales.

Decarbonising the transport sector while ensuring that the people and places of Wales are connected is essential for Wales’ net zero future.

The Welsh Government, as part of its Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, has formed the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group, chaired by former Minister Jane Davidson, as part of the commitment to ‘commission independent advice to examine potential pathways to net zero by 2035’. The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) has been commissioned by the Welsh Government to provide independent evidence support to the Challenge Group.

In response to the question ‘How could people and places be connected across Wales by 2035?’ WCPP have produced two papers:

A background paper ‘Decarbonising Wales’ transport system while connecting people and places’. This summarises Wales’ current transport emissions, and explores how the Welsh Government is implementing, or proposing to implement, policies to improve connectivity. Targets and aims for carbon emission reductions and behaviour changes are reviewed, to understand the supporting measures required to speed up the transition to net zero.

A review paper ‘Connecting people and places: International initiatives to decarbonise transport’.  This is a non-exhaustive evidence review of international examples of planned or implemented policies aimed at supporting the decarbonisation of surface transport, aviation and shipping; and policies on digital connectivity that could help to reduce or avoid the need for travel.

The transport sector in Wales is responsible for 16% of total carbon emissions; 6% of which is produced by the aviation and shipping sector. Wales has varying degrees of responsibility over the different sectors of transport, with aviation and shipping mainly reserved to the UK government. However, surface transport is devolved to Wales, and cars and light goods are the most significant carbon emission contributors of the sector.

Opportunities to decarbonise the transport sector can be categorised into those that help to reduce or avoid the need for travel, shift the transportation of people and goods to more sustainable forms of transport, or improve the operational efficiency of transport modes. The Welsh Government have already set avoid and shift targets related to surface transport, such as 39% of journeys to be made by sustainable transport modes (for example, public transport, walking or cycling) by 2030 and 30% of the workforce to be working remotely.

However, whilst a greater focus on initiatives that support people to avoid transport will mean Wales is likely to meet net zero targets more efficiently, the transport sector must be fit-for-purpose and ensure people across Wales can access their workplaces and core amenities such as healthcare and schools. The same sustainable transport solutions may not be appropriate across all areas of Wales as, for example, those living in rural areas disproportionately rely on private car usage, as opposed to active transport (due to distance) or public transport (due to availability).