Road transport is responsible for 12 percent of Wales' total greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce our emissions, we have to change the way we travel, improve fuel efficiency and develop low carbon vehicles. But developing a more sustainable transport system will do more than help tackle climate change. Reducing car use will also reduce economically damaging congestion, help restore healthy air quality, improve road safety and encourage stronger communities.
Reducing the need to travel in the first place is an important part of getting cars off the road. Land-use planning must bring where we live, work and shop closer together, and ensure all are better served by public transport. Protecting rural services, encouraging tele-working and video-conferencing, and buying more local produce would bring significant transport emission reductions. And all these measures will help build strong communities and local economies too.
Government spending must favour sustainable travel over road building, as public transport needs to be frequent and affordable if it's to persuade us to leave our cars at home. Improving public transport means having a system that's fairer for all, as it will help those without cars to travel to the facilities and services they need. Car-ownership is closely related to income - only 48 percent of the poorest fifth of households own a car, compared to 90 percent car ownership in the richest fifth. Transferring freight from roads to rail and sea is also vitally important. More than 60 percent of freight is moved by road, adding greatly to congestion, pollution and carbon emissions.
Cars are not going to completely go away - they are essential for many of us, and offer benefits to our lifestyles and our society. So when we do drive, our cars need to be as efficient as they possibly can be. And with ever-increasing fuel prices, this will save us money too.Improving fuel efficiency of conventional engines and semi-electric cars can slash emissions by 20-30 per cent. But totally electric cars use only about a fifth of the energy of today's petrol and diesel engines. The urgent need to cut climate-changing emissions means that on-going rises in fuel taxes are necessary, and the revenue should be invested in cutting the cost of public transport and improving cycling and walking facilities.
Good for the economy
The Welsh economy will benefit from traffic and congestion reducing policies. There are also great opportunities for Welsh industry in developing and producing electric vehicles, and the renewable energy sources needed to power them. For example, Stevens Vehicles in Port Talbot and Connaught Engineering in Llanelli are already developing electric vehicles and technology, and there is rapidly developing expertise in Wales in the production and use of hydrogen and renewable fuels for transport. Pursuing a more sustainable transport system and green technology can put Wales in the driving seat of a global green economy.