Highways England is set to produce baselines for its biodiversity and carbon emissions reduction targets in its Delivery Plan update, due to be published in the Summer.
Transport minister Rachel Maclean announced: 'As part of the second Road Investment Strategy, published last year, we asked Highways England to calculate baselines for both its corporate carbon emission and biodiversity Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
'There have been productive conversations between Highways England and the Department during the past year on the setting of the baselines, details of which will be provided in Highways England’s Delivery Plan update, due to be published in the Summer.
'The Office for Rail and Road will independently monitor and assess Highways England’s performance against the targets throughout the remainder of the road period.'
RIS 2 KPIs
- Biodiversity - Target: Achieve No Net Loss of biodiversity over the whole Highways England soft estate by the end of RP2.
- Air quality - Target: Bring links agreed with the Department and based on the Pollution Control Mapping model into compliance with legal NO2 limits in the shortest possible time.
- Highways England carbon emissions - Target: Reduce Highways England’s carbon emissions as a result of electricity consumption, fuel use and other day-to-day operational activities during RP2, to levels defined by baselining and target setting activities in 2020-21.
- Performance Indicator: 'Supply Chain Carbon emissions: emissions from Highways England’s contractors (including embodied carbon from construction) per million pounds spent.'
The move comes at a crucial time, with transport authorities across the UK facing rising legal costs driven in part by concerns over new infrastructure's carbon impacts.
Notably, Transport Action Network has brought a case against Highways England’s RIS 2 on the grounds that it does not meet the UK’s obligations to reduce carbon emissions.
Any move from Highways England to clarify its carbon emissions position and produce a refreshed policy could help see off further legal action, lawyers have suggested.
Head of infrastructure planning and government affairs at law firm Pinsent Masons LLP, Robbie Owen, told Highways: ‘There is no doubt the significant increase in climate change litigation over the last two or three years has affected transport just as it has other sectors, particularly energy. As we await the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan later this year a further judicial review of policy has just been launched, of the Government’s decision not to review the National Networks National Policy Statement.
‘This, along with the RIS 2 legal challenge and challenges to planning decisions on several individual projects, compounds the feeling that transport programmes and projects are saddled with having to apply policies that seem outdated and that a policy refresh is urgently needed if further claims and so delays are to be avoided.’