The Welsh Government is to freeze new road-building projects as part of its response to the climate emergency.
A freeze will be put on new road-building projects in Wales while an external panel reviews highway schemes across the country. The review is expected to consider how the Welsh Government can shift spending towards better maintaining existing roads, and also investing in alternatives to give people meaningful transport choices.
Announcing the freeze in a statement to the Senedd on Tuesday evening, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters said;
“Since 1990, Welsh emissions have fallen by 31%. But to reach our statutory target of Net Zero emissions by 2050, we need to do much more. In the next 10 years, we are going to need to more than double all the cuts we have managed over the last 30 years, if we are going keep temperature rises within safe limits. That means changes in all parts of our lives. Transport makes up some 17 per cent of our total emissions and so must play its part.”
“We need a shift away from spending money on projects that encourage more people to drive and spend more money on maintaining our roads and investing in real alternatives that give people a meaningful choice.”
“All parties in this Senedd have committed to taking the threat posed by climate change seriously, and that means acting now to reduce emissions. This will not always be comfortable or easy, Llywydd, but it’s what the science requires us to do and what future generations demand of us.”
The full terms of the reference for the review are yet to be published, and the membership of the external panel is due to be announced at a later date, but it is expected to include some of the UK’s leading experts on climate change and transport.
Natasha Asghar, a Conservative MS for the South Wales East region and Shadow Minister for Transport criticised Waters’ statement, saying it “will be met with dismay and disappointment by businesses and road users alike”. In addition, she claimed that “successive Welsh Labour Governments have failed to build an adequate road network” and accused the Government of having “let road users down.”
The announcement of the freeze received a mixed response from other politicians, with many welcoming the focus on tackling carbon emissions, but raising concerns about the potential impacts on communities that had been expecting infrastructure improvements.
The move by the Welsh Government is likely to be seen by many as an important one and could lead to much more attention being paid to the climate emergency in future transport infrastructure decisions.
The UK has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, while the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned in less than a decades time, starting in 2030.