Budget 2018: Environmental groups attack government’s £30bn road spending plan
Green campaigners have lined up to attack chancellor Philip Hammond for announcing a multi-billion-pound boost for building and upgrading roads
This news comes days after world scientists urgently warned that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut.
In Monday’s budget, Mr Hammond is due to champion £30bn of funding for new roads and road repairs, hailing it “the biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads”.
Yet the chancellor is recycling an old Conservative party announcement, The Independent can reveal – and environmental experts including Greenpeace’s chief scientist said he should have done a U-turn on the party’s earlier pledge. It comes after the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned the world has 12 years in which to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. And earlier this month the government cut grants for electric cars and scrapped those for hybrids.
Mr Hammond will say in his budget speech that a £28.8bn fund will be dedicated to strategically important roads such as motorways and major local routes, for improvements, upgrades and easing congestion under the plan, which covers 2020-25. Major new roads could be built too.
He will also set aside extra cash to fix potholes, repair damaged roads, and trial new methods of transport such as electric bikes.
But in the 2015 budget, then-chancellor George Osborne announced that for cars registered after April 2017, all vehicle excise duty would go to a new roads fundfrom 2020.
Car tax raises about £6bn a year, and calculated across the five years of Mr Hammond’s plan for 2020-25, amounts to £30bn – the sum he will be trumpeting in the budget.
Publicising the move in advance, the Treasury said: “This will be the first time ever that ‘road tax’ will only be spent on roads. Roads are a crucial part of transport infrastructure and it’s right that from 2020 motorists see their road tax directly paying for improvements to their roads.”
But both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said Mr Hammond should have reconsidered Mr Osborne’s plan.
“It’s less than three weeks since we had a very severe warning from scientists on the effects of climate change. When we need to start cutting emissions, how compatible is this roads programme he’s talking about?” said Mr Parr.
Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Liz Hutchins said: “Doesn’t Philip Hammond read the news? Earlier this month UN scientists warned that we only have a dozen years to prevent catastrophic climate change.
“Yet rather than investing in a low-carbon economy, the chancellor is gearing up to create more pollution that wrecks our climate and damages our health.
“We could be a world leader in building a cleaner, safer future, but government climate policy seems to be stuck in reverse.”
Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green party, said: “’It’s very disappointing to see this government announce over and over again a ‘new’ roads programme that will just make traffic problems worse.
“Building new roads just creates new traffic. Real, green investment in our future would boost walking and cycling, green energy and local public transport.”