Carbon intensive transport plan set to ignore COP27 concerns

Transport for the South East (TfSE) [1] is set to approve its carbon intensive Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), on Monday [2]. The SIP, which saw decarbonisation and the environment as the biggest concerns raised in its consultation [3], will increase carbon emissions through the proposed volume of road building [4]. It also risks not delivering on public transport and active travel.

Sign-off comes halfway through COP27, where the UN Secretary General declared last week that: “we are on the highway to climate hell with the foot on the accelerator” [5]. Transport Action Network [6] believes the SIP is based on out-of-date information and consequently comes up with the wrong answers [7]. It does little to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough, relying on external factors, over which TfSE has little control, to make up the shortfall. TAN remains concerned that the information presented to the public on carbon emissions is misleading [8] and that the SIP undermines our international climate obligations [9].

Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network, said:

“TfSE is paying lip service to the climate emergency. Approving this carbon intensive plan during COP27 shows unprecedented tone deafness to the dangers we face. It will help cook the planet even faster.

“Even worse is that it appears to have largely ignored the results of the consultation. That called for a greater focus on active and sustainable travel and to prioritise decarbonisation and environmental protection. In response, TfSE has merely rearranged the deckchairs on the Titanic, without making significant changes to reduce the plan’s impact.

“It has to stop greenwashing a business as usual approach. We need our leaders to stand up and be brave and to say that we cannot continue down this path. We have got to change fast and the consultation results give TfSE the mandate for that change.

“While the plan talks the talk, it fails to walk the walk. The harsh reality is that it proposes building over 50 road schemes before 2030. These will drive up traffic and emissions. They will undermine the UK’s ability to reduce carbon emission by 68% by 2030, its pledge to COP. It’s yet another example of why restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees looks increasingly hopeless.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

[1] Transport for the South East (TfSE) is a shadow sub-national transport body covering the county areas of Kent, Surrey, East and West Sussex, Hampshire and Isle of Wight and Berkshire.

[2] TfSE’s Board is meeting virtually at 1pm on Monday, 14th November to agree to forward the SIP to its member authorities for their individual approval. The meeting is not being live-streamed and can only be viewed on YouTube after the event.

[3] The consultation on the draft SIP ran from 20 June 2022 until 12 September 2022. It received 639 responses, 422 responding to the survey, 88 submitted individual letters or emails and 131 emailed from TAN’s action where they were able to personalise their response. 76% of respondents to the survey stated ‘Decarbonisation & Environment’ is the most important investment priority for the Strategic Investment Plan (see page 25 of the Board Papers). There was strong support for action on reducing fares, active travel and concern about the amount of road building.

[4] The draft SIP proposed over 90 road schemes, including over 50 to be built before 2030. (7 schemes have started construction, although one is currently paused). In contrast, the vast majority of public transport interventions are not scheduled until after 2030, with funding uncertain. The reality is that while most of the roads will get built, there will be few significant public transport improvements. See TAN’s response to the consultation for more detail.

[5] See UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ opening speech to COP27 on Monday 7 November: at approximately 1 minute, 30 seconds.

[6] Transport Action Network was established to support local communities press for more sustainable transport in England and Wales. This involves fighting cuts to bus services, particularly in rural areas, and opposing damaging road schemes and large unsustainable developments.

[7] Much has happened (Brexit, devastating mini-budget, high inflation, exodus of many EU residents, shortage of workers, Covid, etc) since the Transport Strategy was adopted, upon which this SIP is meant to be based. The traffic data is likewise out of date, based on 2018 figures at best, although some models are even older. The DfT has new projections but is refusing to share them suggesting that they may not help the case for more road building.

[8] Carbon emissions are presented in a way that hides the fact that SIP is making things worse. TfSE has selected a baseline Business as Usual (BAU) scenario which deviates from standard practice as it is NOT based on current policies and behaviours continuing into the future. Instead, TfSE’s ‘BAU’ is calculated on the fictitious scenario that the Government will reverse its ban on petrol and diesel car sales (p20, TfSE’s Transport Decarbonisation Thematic Plan). This is highly misleading and needs correcting.

[9] In December 2020, the UK Government agreed its Nationally Determined Contribution to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. (This requires greater cuts than suggested by the 5th carbon budget which was agreed prior to net-zero becoming the UK’s target).


Signing up will allow you to access our monthly newsletter and the latest actions and events