Exclusive: Shelved DfT decarbonisation guidance revealed

10/06/2024
Chris Ames

Highways has obtained the draft guidance for councils on decarbonisation that was shelved last year, which the Department for Transport (DfT) has said could be implemented by the incoming government.

The consultation draft Quantifiable Carbon Reduction Guidance, was drawn up at public expense but appears to have fallen foul of the Conservative government’s recent pivot away from green issues.

The DfT told Highways last week that the 108-page document ‘did not receive approval to go to consultation’ but has declined to say why.

It said the guidance, dated April 2023, should not be seen as government policy and could be out of date, adding that ‘any decision to take it forward will be a matter for the Government after the General Election’.

The document, obtained under freedom of information laws, stresses the ‘unique’ position of local transport authorities to ‘deliver the place-based solutions needed to support the accelerated uptake of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) and encourage the use of public and active transport’.

Covering both road user and infrastructure emissions, it was intended to be a technical annex to guidance for councils in drawing up Local Transport Plans (LTPs), although that guidance has also not been published.

It states: ‘Tackling climate change by decarbonising transport must be a priority outcome of LTPs. To achieve this, authorities must make the carbon impacts of their policies a central consideration in the development of their LTP. This guidance provides practical advice on how best to do this.’

However, as Highways has reported, the guidance ‘has been paused for some time’.

At an event in April Rupert Furness the DfT's deputy director of local highways and active travel road transport group, said that he would be ‘really interested in some views from the wider audience as to whether we should look to give that some fresh momentum’.

However, the department then said it had no plans to publish the guidance.

In response to a request for information showing why it was shelved, it described this as ‘internal communication…which also relates to wider work on Local Transport Plan guidance, which is still in development’.

It added: ‘This is an area where Ministers and officials need a private thinking space to consider all of the options.'

In October 2021 roads minister Baroness Vere said LTPs would need to set out how local areas would achieve quantifiable carbon reductions, ‘with future transport funding dependent on these plans being robust, ambitious and achievable’.

However, last summer, Rishi Sunak began to back away from policies in the DfT’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, including delaying the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans.

In January Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Randerson asked ministers about the delay in publishing the guidance on LTPs.

In response, transport minister Lord Gower said the DfT was reconsidering the case for the guidance as a result of extra local transport funding under the so-called Network North plan.

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