TRANSPORT now accounts for 17 per cent of Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions, of which the main sources are petrol and diesel cars.

Overall, Wales’ emissions between 1990 and 2017 fell by 25 per cent; however transport emissions barely changed (a three per cent drop). There is an urgent need to make walking, cycling and public transport more attractive than the car if we are to tackle carbon emissions.

Despite these frightening statistics, transport policy has continued to design transport and the built environment largely around the private car and we continue to see 62 per cent of the transport capital budget spent on building new roads.

However, as Wales navigates the twin challenges of the pandemic recovery and the climate crisis, Welsh Government’s newly appointed cabinet provides an opportunity to feel hopeful.

The recent announcement of a climate change ministry shows a commitment from the  Welsh Government to put the environment at the heart of their decision-making. Moreover, by including transport in the portfolio, Welsh Government will need to take a radical stance to reduce the sector’s emissions.

We know that one of the biggest things we can do to reduce the amount of harmful emissions is to reduce car dependency. Since the 1950s Wales has been designed around motor vehicles. Using a car to get from A to B has become second nature.

The majority of people don’t think twice about jumping in the car for a three-mile drive to work, or driving a couple of miles to drop the kids at school. People don’t think twice because they think that driving is the safest, fastest and cheapest option. We urgently need to transform transport to make sustainable modes the obvious choice.

There is no denying the enormity of this task. It will take strong, ambitious and brave leadership. Importantly, the climate change ministry has been given the key levers to really make a difference – bringing together the environment, energy, housing, planning and transport portfolios.

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This forward thinking and holistic approach, paired with Llwybr Newydd, the new transport strategy for Wales, has the potential to provide a solid base for Wales to become a green, resilient and fair nation.

Our transport system is as much a public service as it is a piece of economic infrastructure. This is front and centre in Llwybr Newydd with the vision of an accessible, sustainable and efficient transport system.

Arguably, the most significant aspect of Llwybr Newydd is that it includes something called the “sustainable transport hierarchy”.

This means that every time there is a need for new transport infrastructure or a decision about funding to be made, decision-makers need to start the process by asking themselves "Can it be solved through active travel or better public transport?" Previous documents have had warm sustainability words followed by a list of traditional road schemes. This is different.

The strategy recognises the need to focus on changing people’s behaviour to achieve a transformation in the way we travel. This will be key to ensuring a cleaner, greener and more inclusive transport network is established, that will better connect communities now and create a lasting legacy for future generations.

With the Welsh Government’s ambitious target of Wales becoming an Active Travel nation by 2030, we look forward to working with the climate change ministry to make its bold vision a reality.

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The National is running its first Environmental Awards to celebrate the best green practices and climate-action projects across Wales.

The awards will shine a spotlight on the individuals, companies and organisations doing outstanding work to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

Find more information on the criteria and how to nominate here

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