the alliance against road building
Climate change and road building:
a Road Block briefing for the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change conference
Road Block is an alliance of groups and individuals opposing road building. Road Block is concerned about the yawning gulf between UK Government policies on climate change and Government policies on transport, which is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.
Road Block believes that avoiding dangerous climate change will be no more than a pipe-dream unless we stop building roads.
The roads programme
There are at least 200 road schemes in the UK, with many more currently being ‘worked up'. These schemes are divided into three main categories: Local Transport Plans; national schemes in the Targeted Programme of Improvements; and ‘aspirational' schemes (other schemes which exist as ideas or even proposals).
Roads and climate change
Transport, including both roads and aviation, makes up around 24 per cent of the UK's total carbon dioxide emissions . Transport is an exception to the overall decline in UK greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions from transport (including aviation) were 47 per cent higher in 2002 than in 1990, with road transport making up 18 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 . Total UK greenhouse gas emissions declined by 10 per cent during the same period .
Greenhouse gas emissions from UK households' private vehicles rose by six per cent during this time .
According to the Government's Climate Change Review consultation paper , carbon dioxide emissions from road transport are expected to grow by another nine per cent or so between 2000 and 2010. As emissions from most other sectors are forecast to fall in the same period, transport's share of total emissions is likely to increase.
Government policy, roads and climate change
The July 2004 White Paper on Transport The Future of Transport  outlined the Government's 10 year transport plan. The White Paper talked of the “need to … identify, fund and deliver promptly additional road capacity”. This was effectively a commitment to transport policies which cater for traffic growth through road building.
December 2004's Climate Change Review consultation did acknowledge the environmental impact of transport. However, rather than calling for a major re-think on the direction of transport policy, it suggested tinkering with vehicle taxation and increased fuel efficiency: measures which even the consultation paper acknowledged as being of limited impact .
Even the House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee has rung alarm bells, stating in August 2004 that the Government's climate change strategy “is seriously off course” and “a more imaginative and radical strategy is needed” for transport .
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
Vehicle dependency in the UK is increasing . Meanwhile Government policy to expand road capacity is a move away from, not towards, the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere that is desperately needed to avert climate chaos.
It doesn't have to be this way: avoiding dangerous climate change is entirely possible. The UK has the resources and the claimed interest to take action on climate change. However, a s the Prime Minister himself has said : “to acquire global leadership on this issue, Britain must demonstrate it first at home”.
 ‘Transport and climate change', RSPB Environmental Policy Department , 20 September 2004, http://www.rspb.org.uk/policy/climatechange/transport.asp