Carbon Plan shows a disappointing shortfall in policy breadth

Despite some fantastic coverage in last Sunday’s Observer, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne this week launched the Carbon Plan to very little media response, reports Eleanor Besley.

Despite some fantastic coverage in last Sunday’s Observer, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne this week launched the Carbon Plan to very little media response.

The plan, which sets out a vision of “a changed Britain, powered by cleaner energy used more efficiently in our homes and businesses, with more secure energy supplies and more stable energy prices, and benefiting from the jobs and growth that a low carbon economy will bring” was developed quietly and released with equal restraint, but essentially focuses on:

1. The way we generate electricity;

2. The way we heat our homes;

3. The way we travel.

All very admirable, although a closer look at the transport section shows a disappointing shortfall in policy breadth.

Transport is an engine for economic growth, tick; domestic transport accounts for 22% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, tick; it is imperative that we develop and improve vehicle technologies, tick; the government will work to support sustainable travel choices and alternatives to travel, and to promote sustainable distribution of goods and sustainable low carbon approaches to other forms of transport, including rail, aviation and shipping…

High speed rail, hmm; bio fuels, hmm; mustn’t forget the funding of £560 million for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will enable local bodies to deliver sustainable transport solutions that support local economies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But hang on… Where is land use planning and why is local transport an afterthought when 23 per cent of car journeys are less than 2 miles long and 56 per cent less than 5 miles?

Smarter travel choices, in the form of walking or cycling, are real options for many people for many of these journeys and can present quick wins. We know this because the Committee on Climate Change told us in their 2009 first annual report to parliament. Governments of all colours have invested in programmes to establish how effective modal shift programmes can be and to look at the impact of land use planning.

When will these things stop being innovative and edge their way into mainstream policy?

Equally disappointing is this week’s publication of the European Union Roadmap for moving to a low carbon economy by 2050, which in advance of the EU white paper on transport outlines a sectoral approach to achieving carbon reduction targets. The Roadmap focuses almost entirely on technological innovation despite a suggestion that this would have a positive impact on health.

 As far as I am aware, electric vehicles are not getting people active or reducing road danger (being currently heavier than petrol cars) so the link with health is perplexing. Still, here’s to hoping that the monitoring of departmental progress of the Carbon Plan is to be taken on, as in some places reported, by NGOs; I think they might have something to say…

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