Tony Bosworth: It is time for ministers to stand up to the road and aviation lobbies

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The Independent Online

When Labour came to power it said that climate change would be at the heart of its policy-making, and promised to make significant cuts in UK carbon dioxide emissions.

But the Government's climate policies have failed to deliver. Britain's carbon footprint is now bigger than it was in 1997, and the biggest culprit is the Department for Transport.

Since 1990, total UK emissions of carbon dioxide have fallen by 5.6 per cent, but transport emissions (including international aviation and shipping) have risen substantially and now account for more than a quarter of UK emissions.

The Government's key transport strategy goal must be to cut radically the sector's contribution to climate change. Research shows transport emissions can be cut to 60 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 – that must be the scale of the Government's ambition.

Yesterday's strategy announcement contained some forward-thinking elements, such as greater support for smaller-scale schemes that have been shown to cut car use at a relatively low cost. But yet again this has been undermined by continuing support for motorway widening and airport expansion.

If transport policy is allowed to continue in this same unsustainable direction, it will cause significant rises in carbon dioxide emissions, which will cancel the benefits from other measures and ultimately jeopardise the Government's climate strategy.

Transport must play a full part in tackling climate change, and to achieve this the Government must stand up to the powerful road and aviation lobbies.

There should be a moratorium on airport expansion, and Britain's share of international aviation and shipping emissions must be included in the Government's Climate Change Bill.

Big cuts in road building would save billions of pounds. The widening of the M1 is predicted to cost more than £5bn, with a further £2.5bn earmarked for the M6. And we need tough mandatory standards to make cars cleaner and more fuel-efficient.

Last month Gordon Brown said that he wants the UK to be a world leader in developing a low-carbon economy. If this vision is to become a reality, we need policies that are coherent, not contradictory. It's time for real political leadership.

Tony Bosworth is the transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth