Plans to reduce CO2 emissions in Lancashire appear to have disappeared into thin air, if the approach of Geoff Driver, the man charged with implementing the Climate Change Act in the County is anything to go by.
Despite global concern on climate change, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver has been writing to county residents opposed to the building of the £140 million Heysham M6 Link road playing down the emissions threat.
His letters reveal a worrying attitude, and campaigners for a different approach to Lancaster and Morecambe's traffic problems argue his claims flies in the face of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence from around the world.
The County's own figures estimate the CO2 emissions from the proposed Link Road - currently on hold as the national government has delayed all new road projects that have not already begun construction - to be as high as 23,500 tonnes/year. But in letters to local taxpayers, Councillor Driver claims "The CO2 emissions for England in 2007 were 419 million tonnes/year of which 113 million tonnes/year were from transport. The increase due to the Link Road is one five thousandth of England's transport emissions in 2007."
However, using the 2007 figures from County’s own website, the CO2 emissions from transport in the Lancaster district were 346,000 tonnes/year -- which means the increase due to the Link Road would actually be as high as 6.8% of the Lancaster district total.
What’s more, government figures for emissions from local and regional roads (excluding motorways) in the Lancaster district – which are the County Council’s responsibility – were 191,000 tonnes/year.
In other words, the increase due to the Link Road would be 12.3% - a massive one eighth of the Lancaster District total.
It's generally accepted that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas”, and causes global warming and climate change. The Climate Change Act 2008 gives the Government a legally binding commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.
"It is not acceptable to say ‘It’s only a little increase’," argues David Gate, chair of transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, who are promoting more sustainable alternatives to the lorry traffic-generating Link road.
"Lancashire County Council will have to reverse these increases in CO2 emissions, and then put in place policies to achieve the reductions required by law," he explains.
"Council decisions on transport, planning and housing can have a significant impact on emissions, but it looks unlikely that Lancashire will meet its legal targets given the mindset of its leader."
Despite the huge cost and the loss of 173 acres of the North Lancashire Green Belt, Lancashire County Council, backed by both local Conservative MPs, is still pressing hard to build the massive new road, in the face of massive opposition.
Incredibly, at a time when government is urging for careful spending plans, the Council also paid for technical consultants to prepare cheaper and more sustainable integrated transport plans for the district, but these are not being progressed, even though the road plan may well be axed in the government spending review.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond recently revealed that one of the Government’s “three key priorities” is to contribute to reduced carbon emissions from transport.
“This HGV road plan runs directly against a top aim of the new Coalition Government”, said Mr Gate. “It’s time for the County Council to stop fighting against Government policy and ditch this polluting scheme.”
• Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe web site - find out how you could ease traffic problems without blowing over £100 million of taxpayers money
• County Councillor Geoff Driver's web page on the Lancashire County Council web site