Report warns road investment strategy will breach UK climate commitments

The government’s plans for a £27bn, five-year road investment strategy would breach the UK’s climate change commitments, a report has claimed.

On 10 July, Transport for Quality of Life published a report, using Highways England data to forecast how the government’s roads programme would add 20mn tonnes of carbon dioxide (20MtCO2) to UK emissions between now and 2032. Even when considering the Department for Transport’s (DfT) most optimistic assumptions of how what impact rapid electric vehicle (EV) uptake will have, the report said total carbon emissions from the Strategic Road Network (SRN) up to 2032 are set to be 381MtCO2.

This would work out as a third of emissions coming from construction, a third from increases in vehicle speeds on wider, faster roads, and a third from extra traffic generated by bigger roads, resulting in more car-dependent housing, retail parks and business parks.

The report called for the DfT to set a binding Paris-compliant carbon budget for all parts of the transport sector, suggesting 214MtCO2 as a fair figure. To achieve the necessary 167MtCO2 cut in emissions, the report explained it would require a combination of a faster switch to EVs and actions to significantly reduce vehicle mileage. This would include measures to restrict driving, such as road pricing, better and more affordable rail and coach services and universal rollout of superfast broadband to support remote working.