Re-Energising Wales: Decarbonising Transport in Wales 

Shea Buckland-Jones introduces a new report from the IWA’s Re-energising Wales project

“Travelling in Wales can be challenging. The country’s topography, history and economic development have not been conducive to the development of a cohesive network that links people and communities”. 


This is the opening line of the introduction in the IWA’s ‘Decarbonising Transport in Wales’ report, launched today at an event in the Pierhead building which brings together representatives from Welsh Government and the transport sector to discuss the report’s findings and 22 recommendations.


This paper is one of a series of reports being launched as part of the IWA’s ‘Re-energising Wales’ project, which in early 2019 will deliver a plan to enable Wales to meet its projected energy demands entirely from renewable sources by 2035.


The IWA commissioned transport expert Chris Roberts to conduct this research and work with us to prepare a compelling, evidence-based vision for transport in Wales.  We are proud to launch this report today – a constructive contribution to a crucial priority area of policy.


Decarbonising transport will make a huge contribution to Wales’ success in meeting its projected energy demands entirely from renewable sources by 2035. Wales is required by its own Environment (Wales) Act 2016 to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050. Meanwhile, transport accounts for 13% of Wales’ emissions. The 2008 Climate Change Strategy Wales set out how it intended to cut transport emissions.  But that strategy has failed to achieve any significant reduction – emissions from transport are flatlining.


The report is clear: Wales needs a radical new approach to transport if it is to achieve its target.


Importantly, the report sets out why and how the relevant changes needed should be achieved in accord with another key Welsh law, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.  Of course, the Act requires public bodies, when taking action to decarbonise, to use interventions that also help to achieve the national goals set out in the Act.  Consequently the paper examines how actions that reduce emissions also impact on areas such as health, the economy and equalities.  We offer recommendations based on achieving the maximum benefit for all of the national goals.


The report’s research utilised the sustainable transport hierarchy, working down through measures that reduce the need to travel; active travel; public transport and finally alternatively fuelled cars.


A key message from the report is that Wales risks failing to meet its own targets on carbon emissions unless it changes its over-reliance on the car. Transport in Wales is dominated by the car more than in any other region or nation in the UK.  Most emissions emanate from the private car. The car is also a key barrier to more people using the less polluting and more sustainable modes: active travel and public transport.


Bus services in Wales are in serious long-term decline. Rail serves only a very small part of the country and, whilst growing, has less than a fifth of the passenger journeys of buses. Despite the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, walking and cycling levels are generally static or declining. Given that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is to be banned from 2040, there is a clear need for managed change in Wales’ transport system.


The report highlights a number of practical steps that can be taken to overcome Wales’ challenges. Amongst the report’s 22 recommendations are:


  • A central call for a Welsh ‘Transport Decarbonisation Plan’ to be co-produced by key public bodies and the transport sector  


  • Accelerated development of Regional Transport Authorities and long term plans for Transport for Wales


  • A Minister for Transport to help Welsh Government move from being an administrator of systems to an initiator of change


  • Changes to Planning Policy Wales to ensure that provision of sustainable transport infrastructure is a fundamental requirement of new developments


  • Welsh Government to accept and implement the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee’s recommendation that funding for active travel, capital and resource combined, should be set at £17-£20 per head per annum


  • Agreed steps to decarbonise the bus fleet with the utmost urgency, with a view to maximising funding for Welsh buses from the current Office for Low Emission Vehicles funding round


  • Transport for Wales to prioritise the development and integration of bus services into the South Wales Metro network


  • Welsh Government to impose a default 20mph limit in urban areas, allowing local authorities discretion in exempting routes where justified.


Our final message is that Wales needs a long term comprehensive plan to wean our transport system away from its over reliance on the car and towards much greater use of public transport and active travel.  


Delivery of this plan will require change from organisations and the general public.


We feel that Welsh Government are central to delivering the required change and need to show leadership in transforming Wales’ transport sector.



Shea Buckland-Jones is Re-energising Wales Project Coordinator at the Institute of Welsh Affairs

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy