Network Rail regulation and performance

23.07.07

Climate must be central to transport spending, say green groups

A package of measures, including a carbon reduction fund, is desperately needed to cut rising emissions from transport sector, a coalition of green groups has told the government.

The environmental campaign groups met officials in Whitehall where they called for future government spending on transport to focus on measures to cut the sector’s growing carbon emissions. The NGOs have drawn up a package of recommendations for the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review which is expected in the autumn.

Road transport currently accounts for over a fifth of UK carbon dioxide emissions, and this is forecast to rise by a further 18 per cent between 2005 and 2020, when they will represent over a quarter of total UK emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from road transport have risen by more than three per cent since 1997. And this has contributed to an overall rise in UK emissions under the present government – despite repeated promises of substantial cuts.

The coalition of green organisations, which includes the Campaign to Protect Rural England, CTC (the national cyclists’ campaign), Friends of the Earth, Living Streets, Railfuture, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sustrans and Transport 2000, is calling for:

- a carbon reduction fund
£138 million, rising to £1.25bn a year, should be set aside to help local authorities, transport providers and others cut emissions from the transport sector. This should be funded by cutting the government’s Transport Innovation Fund, which focuses on cutting congestion and improving productivity, rather than on cutting carbon emissions. Schemes could include rail freight upgrades, train services to holiday destinations and school travel plans.

- cutting plans to build or widen roads
Rather than easing congestion, evidence shows that building or widening roads leads to more traffic, more pollution and an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Plans to widen roads should be cut and the money spent on sustainable alternatives instead.

- increasing rail-use
There should be more funding to increase rail capacity, improve stations and get more freight on to rail. Money should also be spent to develop low-carbon links to and from stations. These initiatives would be funded by a concerted programme of cost reduction, including structural reform.

- boosting low-carbon local and regional transport schemes
This should include measures to promote cycling and bus improvements. These schemes can have a big impact, as has been demonstrated by the government’s Sustainable Travel Towns project, which reported in May that over a three-year period, Darlington has used simple measures to increase public transport trips by 14%, walking trips by 29% and cycling trips by 79%. Car trips went down 11%.

Stephen Joseph, Transport 2000’s executive director, said:
“Our proposals could save billions of pounds – and the government has already validated many of them as being good value for money. But it quickly needs to gather more evidence about which carbon-reduction schemes are the most effective – something which could be found out through the establishment of a carbon reduction fund. The government needs to act now to ensure money goes towards transport programmes that are good for the economy, the envirionment and our quality of life.“

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth’s transport campaigner, said:
“Carbon dioxide emissions from road transport are rising. The government must get serious about tackling transport emissions if it wants to meet its climate change targets. The Treasury must insist that future transport spending is used to cut emissions, not increase them by building and widening roads. Low-carbon transport solutions exist – the government must show the political will to invest in them.“

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