It feels impossible to drive anywhere without seeing a construction project filling up part of the road. A new highway here or a bypass over there — it seems our streets are ever-expanding.
That’s why it’s shocking to hear that one country has decided to stop building new roads entirely. In a surprising move, Wales has scrapped nearly all plans for new major road projects in an effort to curb pollution.
As Time reports, the Welsh government established a panel in 2021 to review the impact of its road projects. The projects consisted of everything from bypasses and highways to new bridges and major expansions, mostly designed to help with traffic.
Overall, the panel only approved 15 projects to move forward. The others were scrapped completely or postponed indefinitely.
With Wales’ goal of becoming net zero by 2050, the panel concluded that more roads would lead to more private vehicle use — fueling more demand for new roads. Personal vehicle use is a huge factor in overall carbon pollution, considering a typical car produces over 100,000 pounds of carbon pollution yearly.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it, and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over,” Lee Waters, Wales’ Deputy Climate Change Minister, recently told the Welsh parliament.
This does not mean Wales will never have a new road or will stop investing in its transportation. Instead, the panel recommended a strict set of rules for new projects, including that they must either: support a shift to public transport, walking, or cycling; improve safety through small-scale change; help the Welsh Government adapt to the impacts of the changing climate; or provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximizes public transport.
“Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak, but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems,” Waters said. “We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking, and cycling projects.”
However, Welsh officials are standing firm, reasserting that while major change isn’t easy, it is necessary.
“Our approach for the last 70 years is not working … This decade, Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined,” Waters said. “Greater cuts in the next 10 years than the whole of the last 30 — that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales.”
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