As carbon emissions took a sudden turn for the worst this week, as lockdowns across the globe were eased, a top climate scientist has warned that building more roads “would be very detrimental”. Corrine Le Quere, is a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia and a member of the Committee on Climate Change which was established by the Government to provide independent advice on climate change. Her warning validates our current legal action and the strong view amongst many that we cannot continue with business as usual. The Committee is due to send its report to the Government this month about the UK’s progress on reducing carbon emissions.
Carbon emissions are now only 5% lower than this time last year (after an 11 week period of lockdown) and the fear is that we could be on track for even high emissions over the next few weeks and months as many people shun public transport as lockdown eases. This has been exacerbated by the Government telling people to drive as much as you want to despite encouraging people to walk and cycle more. Telling people to avoid public transport, suppressing demand further, has made things even worse.
Rehabilitating public transport is going to be crucial over the coming months, along with encouraging as many people to continue to work from home and for people to walk and cycle. Strong messaging around these themes could help reduce the traffic and congestion that has already reappeared on our streets.
Le Quere has warned that the role of Governments will be key and that there was still a window of opportunity to act before the end of the year. Governments need to use their economic rescue packages to ensure a switch from high to low carbon infrastructure. That means no more new roads, investing in broadband, better buses and trains, e-bikes and wider pavements. We also need to look after what we have better, such as addressing the £16 billion backlog in local road and bridge maintenance, which also offers the opportunity to introduce many walking and cycling improvements.
While the Government has started to do some good things in urban areas, it is sending out mixed messages around driving. It and many county councils still appear addicted to carbon intensive infrastructure, such as new roads. With an emergency budget in July to stimulate the economic recovery, it is essential that the Government understands the dire implications of continuing business as usual and the building of new roads.
We’ve now raised over £46,000 for our legal challenge to the road programme thanks to your generosity, and filed our case at the High Court last week. Please continue to help us to raise awareness of this important legal action by sharing our posts on Facebook and Twitter, the link to our crowdfunder, and our blogs.