Net zero 2035: Trends and pathways report

While reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Wales have, so far, kept pace with existing targets on the pathway to achieving net zero by 2050, future progress will require substantial changes to the economy and society, with dramatic falls in emissions needed over the next decade.

The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) has been given funding by the Welsh Government to provide independent support to the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group, chaired by former minister Jane Davidson, helping them to access relevant evidence and expertise to inform their work.

Our introductory report for the Group presents an overview of existing emissions trends in Wales and the pathways to net zero modelled by the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), addressing the following research questions:

  1. What is Wales’ current progress towards its emissions targets?
  2. What are the key sources of abatement described in the CCC’s ‘balanced pathway’ for Wales, both up to 2035 and 2050?
  3. What are the potential implications of seeking to accelerate these?

Our report describes current and historical emissions trends, before providing an overview of the CCC’s balanced pathway scenario for Wales and detailed analysis of the greenhouse gas emission reduction pathways for six key emissions sectors: electricity generation, manufacturing and construction, residential buildings, agriculture, surface transport, and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Most emissions reductions in recent years have been driven by the decarbonisation of electricity generation, whereas limited progress has been made across other sectors. Compared to the UK, the agriculture and surface transport sectors comprise a higher proportion of Wales’ total emissions, meaning that successes and failures to decarbonise these sectors will have a proportionately higher impact on trajectories for Wales.

Our report also discusses assumptions about how much societal change is plausible in the timeframe, as opposed to technological solutions which are a significant driver of emissions reductions in the CCC’s balanced pathway.

In a linked discussion piece, prepared for the Group ahead of their first meeting in January 2023, WCPP Director of Policy and Practice Dan Bristow provides some reflections on the nature of the task facing the Group as they explore how Wales’ transition to net zero could be accelerated, setting out some of the complexities, challenges and opportunities and offering some advice about how these might best be navigated. WCPP Research associate Josh Coles-Riley has also published a blog framing our report in the context of the CCC’s latest progress report for reducing emissions in Wales.

The analysis and the conclusions presented in the report, blog and discussion piece are the authors’ own and do not represent the views or positions of the Wales Net Zero 2035 Challenge Group