Highways Magazine:

Sunak’s EV delays puts LTC carbon claims in doubt

A major plank to the carbon emissions case for the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) has been thrown into doubt following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s delay on banning petrol and diesel vehicles until 2035.
Last July, National Highways claimed that it could cut projected user emissions by 80% by switching from the Government’s recommended Emissions Factor Toolkit (EFT) method to one it developed to take account of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Decarbonising Transport Plan, particularly its 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are usually forecast using the TAG GHG Workbook and EFT version 11, ‘which includes forecasts of the mix of vehicles (petrol/diesel/electric) in the fleet, and engine fuel efficiency up to 2050′.

While National Highways’ development consent order (DCO) application for the LTC last autumn noted this, it added that the EFT ‘does not reflect the policy commitments set out within DfT’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan’.

‘To address the gap between the current assessment guidance and government policies, the DfT has approved a sensitivity test to review the potential impact that new policy measures set out within the Transport Decarbonisation Plan will have on the Project’s road-user emissions,’ it said.

National Highways said that while the official EFT method projected an increase in operational (mainly traffic) emissions of 4.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) over a 60-year appraisal period, applying the ‘sensitivity test’ decreases emissions by 76 – 88% to between approximately 0.561 and approximately 1.175 million tCO2e.

The government-owned company has told Highways (LTC) that its DCO is ‘not affected’ by the prime minister’s decision to delay the ban.

Despite having expressly asserted that this decrease is largely predicated on ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and end in 2030, National Highways told Highways on Thursday: ‘Our DCO application is not affected by yesterday’s announcement.’

Asked by Highways whether it stood by the assertion that the estimate based on the impact of the 2030 ban was ‘more realistic’, a spokesperson said: ‘Yes, we stand by our DCO application.’

The spokesperson added that the EFT method represented ‘limited adoption’ of zero emission vehicles and ‘does not reflect the current rate of uptake of electric vehicles, or how that is expected to accelerate in the future’.

Rebecca Lush, of Transport Action Network, said: ‘National Highways have been hiding behind the speculative policies in the decarbonisation plan to justify increasing traffic and emissions with its road schemes, including the £10bn Lower Thames Crossing.

‘The whole plan is dependent on electrification and banning new fossil fuelled cars, yet this flagship policy has now been significantly delayed, leaving the decarbonisation plan and National Highways’ claims in tatters.’


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