Learning and sharing approaches is helping develop carbon literacy skills.
Transport for Wales is a wholly owned, not for profit company set up by the Welsh Government to deliver the vision of safe, accessible and sustainable travel across Wales.
It is currently driving forward a significant programme to improve services which includes a multi-million pounds investment to transform the valley lines and the running of an extra 29% more services every weekday over the coming years.
The aim is to achieve goals set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015): drive prosperity across Wales, improve the cohesion of Welsh and Border communities and contributing to a healthier and more equal Wales.
Hayley Warrens is Transport for Wales’ Climate Change Manager and her role is two-fold. She works towards decarbonising Transport for Wales’ direct operations and reducing further climate change. But Hayley also supports the company’s response to the climate crisis and the provision of a safe and reliable transport network in the face of future extreme weather:
"We have to embed sustainability into everything we do. It is an undercurrent of all our operations."
Appointed in August 2022, Hayley’s first task has been to establish carbon reporting:
"When I started, there had been carbon reporting but it wasn’t comprehensive enough to fully understand our carbon footprint. At the same time, the Welsh Government published its public sector net zero reporting guide: a guide for the public sector in Wales to estimate our net carbon footprint including direct and indirect emissions.
"The guide is specific to the activities we need to report on and we have developed a memorandum of understanding so that the relevant teams with activity data know what to provide and in what format."
Hayley’s work has also focussed on working with the in-house software development team to create an interactive, visual dashboard of all Transport for Wales carbon reporting which will be able to provide user-friendly, real-time reports and enhanced carbon management:
"We’ll be in a better position to understand why we have consumed more energy and how we can make improvements. It will help us to inform how we prioritise our decarbonisation solutions."
She has presented the work to Wales’ public sector and insists she is happy to support other organisations grappling with a strategic net zero roadmap:
"If you want to offset your residual emissions, you need to know what your residual emissions are in the first place and what your footprint looks like."
Hayley explains though that achieving net zero for Transport for Wales is a challenge:
"The Welsh Government understandably wants to see a modal shift. It wants to see more of us using public transport rather than private vehicles and we are committed to that. It would have a huge impact on reducing the nation’s emissions. That means we need to provide extra services which will see our organisational carbon footprint increase, but we are exploring innovative options to decarbonise our services and corporate activities."
Part of that work is electrifying 172km of track across the Valleys network, powered by renewable energy, a significant proportion of which will be sourced in Wales. Transport for Wales is also exploring the potential to use lineside renewables to power overhead electrification in the valleys.
"We’re also analysing how we can decarbonise our stations on Core Valley Lines and we’re looking at energy efficiency improvements like LED lighting and installing solar panels. We do have the challenge of listed building status at many sites but we are exploring what we can do."
Meanwhile, there are plans for designs of new buildings and structures to have to undergo a whole life carbon assessment. Whole life carbon measures all carbon emissions resulting from the bought raw materials to construction and the use of a building:
"We can analyse our lifetime carbon emissions at the design stage and choose lower carbon materials like steel and we can be more morally responsible for reducing carbon in all that we do."
Of course, as services increase across Wales so too do job opportunities. Transport for Wales estimates the provision of extra services will create hundreds of new jobs, including on-train customer service staff and engineer apprentices.
And the drive to net zero is requiring fundamental changes in operations which is why Transport for Wales has teamed up with Cynnal Cymru to deliver bespoke carbon literacy training for colleagues:
"Net zero and climate risk is essential to everything we do so we need to support people to think more sustainably and of the wider environmental impact. This is a new and evolving area of work so we acknowledge our responsibility to upskill our staff."
Hayley and the team are also organising a programme of Lunch and Learns so that staff can begin to understand how to undertake a climate risk assessment and how to use the interactive dashboard for carbon reporting.
As you might expect, Hayley’s team is growing with new recruits recently starting in brand new roles.
"I feel fortunate to have worked in this area for a number of years, even when there weren’t many jobs. There has been an exponential demand for skills in environmental science but the reality is that there is a skills gap and it can be a challenge to recruit. Going forward, I believe apprenticeships could be key to finding new talent as we need people with hands on experience as well as the theoretical knowledge."
Rhodri Thomas is Head of Development and Training at Cynnal Cymru:
"We provided Transport for Wales with Carbon Literacy training in March 2022. Using our certified 'Carbon Literacy at Work' course, we facilitated 20 engineers, project managers, safety and engagement officers from Transport for Wales, and its partners Amey and Siemens, to identify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the development of the south Wales Metro, the mitigation measures available, adaption needs and the best methods for motivating behaviour changes in the workforce.
“This process of group enquiry and learning with peers was embedded in the context of Welsh Government policy on decarbonisation and broader sustainability. Participants were supported to explore the reality of a warming climate and the stark implications for Wales and the sector, and then to identify and commit to practical SMART actions to take forward as individuals and as colleagues working collaboratively. Ten participants completed action forms for assessment and consequently received their Carbon Literacy certificate."
Cynnal Cymru is the official partner of the Carbon Literacy Project in Wales and supports individuals and organisations from the public, private and voluntary sector to understand why and how they can take action for a sustainable future. To find out more about its courses, please visit Training on Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales.