We were delighted to discuss our ‘Zero-Carbon Investment’ priority with our members at our recent policy event.
The seminar included a teaser for our upcoming report on the climate compatibility of Scotland’s transport spending, as well as insights into the campaigning strategies against road building deployed south of the border.
Our Zero-Carbon Investment priority calls for sustainable connectivity within Scotland, arguing that capital expenditure priorities have been grotesquely skewed towards high-carbon road-building in recent decades.
To stop rising emissions, we must scrap Scotland’s expensive road-building programme and replace it with investment in climate compatible alternatives which benefit the whole population, not just those who drive a car.
At the seminar, we focused on the need for Scotland to reprioritise and redirect spending away from road building and towards sustainable transport options, hearing from two speakers:
- Jolin Warren, Transform report author: on the climate compatibility of Scotland’s transport investment plans and Transform’s forthcoming report scrutinising City Region Deals.
- Becca Lush, Transport Action Network (TAN) climate campaigner: on the work of Transport Action Network on resistance to road building in England and Wales.
These were followed by a Q&A segment.
Scotland’s track record of high-carbon transport spending
In his presentation, Jolin highlighted the need for sustainable investment decisions in the context of Scotland’s legally binding target to be net zero by 2045.
Given that road transport emits more than any other full sector of the economy, we cannot afford for current transport trends to continue (Transport Scotland expects a continued increase in traffic unless urgent action is taken).
It is now widely accepted that increasing road capacity – either building new roads or widening existing ones – generates more traffic.
Therefore, Scotland’s £7bn plans for road building are undermining the country’s climate goals, not least the commitment to cut traffic by 20% by 2030.
Jolin noted that Transform’s previous Roads to Ruin report found:
- Transport priorities are set in a vacuum
- Lack of availability of transparency on road building costs
- Costs of road building projects increase by nearly double on average
- Project appraisals are not fit for purpose
- Road building projects adversely impact social and generational justice
Watch the summary video for the report here:
It is clear that more transparency and scrutiny is required when assigning funds to transport projects, since the lack of this to date has led to no emissions reductions in transport for the last 30 years.
Jolin also teased Transform’s forthcoming report which reviews the transport spending in Scotland’s City Region Deals and asks:
- Does investment reduce inequalities and help build healthy places where people can thrive?
- Or are we marooning communities in a sea of outdated and high-carbon infrastructure?
Road and climate campaigning tactics in England and Wales
In her presentation, Becca (TAN) noted the similarities between England and Scotland’s approach to transport investment decisions in that words don’t translate to action.
That is, the UK Government also stresses its commitments to road maintenance and net zero whilst continuing to commit more than half of its entire budget to building new roads.
Becca added that the national planning policy – which all road schemes are assess against – itself undermines climate efforts as it says to ignore any carbon impacts of the road schemes.
She added that the situation was more promising in Wales since the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act prompted a re-write of the appraisal guidance for transport schemes which ensures that road building projects support net zero and modal shift.
In terms of roads campaigning, Becca reported that there are a lot less grassroots activities occurring, like demos and protests, and the network are increasingly resorting to legal avenues.
The network’s primary strategy at present is to pursue legal challenges, invoking the Climate Change Act, to expose that the rhetoric doesn’t match the policy.
The Scottish Government is not alone in committing vast amounts of money to road-building, with a recent European study revealing that for every €1 governments spent building railways, they spent €1.6 building roads.
To cut carbon in the transport sector, these investment patterns must change. More transparency on project costs, appraisal processes which consider the social and environmental impacts of investment decisions, and joined up thinking are critical for a healthier, greener Scotland.
Look out for our forthcoming report which scrutinises the transport spend in Scotland’s City Region Deals, launching in the new year.