New reports on roads and climate

Led by a cross-party panel, the final report of the Institute of Public Policy Research’s Environment and Justice Commission was published in July. It insists on ‘six shifts’ to make the response to climate emergency an opportunity, done with and by people, fairly and taking a whole-society approach, treating climate not in isolation but with nature, with government taking leadership but giving responsibility locally. Summarising 4 citizens juries spread through the UK, and analyses of carbon emissions and much else, on transport the report says:

“Transport decarbonisation plans must aim to make it possible to live a good life, wherever you are, without needing to own a car. This will mean that alternatives to the private car, including both public transport and shared mobility schemes, reach a level of convenience and affordability that makes them the obvious choice for personal travel for far more people than they do today.” (p99)

Roads, Runways and Resistance is a very different read. Published this year, Steve Melia entertainingly runs the winding course of government road policy, the industrial road lobby, and resistance to road schemes from 1990 to the present. Scepticism in providing for forecasts of ever-increasing traffic is a streak that has run through all governments during that time, keeping road-building a hotly contested policy.

Despite John Prescott’s 1997 promise ‘I will have failed if in five years there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car’, the road lobby has always been powerful enough to keep policy confined to slowing traffic growth rather than putting a lid on it. The book’s final chapters chart the climate actions of recent years.

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