19 November 2007

Labour, Transport And Climate Change

Gordon Brown is to give his "first major speech" on climate change today. I suggest that the problem in meeting Labour's promised cuts of 60% in emissions by 2050 is Ruth Kelly.

Ruth Kelly is Brown's Transport Secretary, she appeared on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM, and the transcript is enlightening.

1) She wants the expansion of Heathrow to go ahead (its third runway with an extra 300 000 flights per year). She squares the circle by saying that we need EU-wide caps on overall aviation. That is, other weaker economies will have to cut back, so we can fly and fly and fly and fly. It's the same trick that Gordon Brown will try. There might be EU-wide targets of 20% of energy being renewable by 2020, but Britain under Brown will push for Britain's share to be, say, 15%, and five other countries can balance us out by having 21% by 2020. The other countries will benefit from industrial jobs linked to renewable energy development, and Britain will lose out.

2) Kelly made a great play out of 1300 new carriages for the rail system, but she sketches out a future where it is not a government priority to replicate the Eurostar high-speed line for London to Bristol, or London to Scotland. Locally, more carriages and more seats on trains mean fewer toilets, fewer buffet services, and a fare hike on off-peak fares that are not saver tickets.

3) Andrew Marr doesn't call her on it, but it's clear that Kelly continues to oppose EU plans to have a target of 120g of carbon emissions per kilometre by 2012.

RUTH KELLY: One of the things I want to show is how the Transport Department as a whole can make real significant contributions to reducing CO2. But within that we shouldn't be telling people what form of transport they take, we should be providing the options ...
ANDREW MARR: Why not?
RUTH KELLY: ... investing in technology, trading in carbon and let the individuals make their choices. And that means just take cars for example. There's a really good example, that, you know, if we really invest in technology and we set a framework whereby 2020, or 2030 or 2050, car manufacturers know exactly what's expected of them. By 2050 we might have a situation in which cars are carbon free.
4) Elsewhere, Kelly's department is spending over £5 billion to widen the M1 (more car driving, more emissions). In contrast, £5 billion could pay for the government's contribution to 12 light rail schemes the size of Nottingham's 2nd phase of their tram network.

When NET Phase Two is complete, Greater Nottingham’s tram network will cover over 19 miles. 20 million trips are expected to be made by passengers using the NET system every year, of which 30% are expected to be ex-car users. NET Line One was opened in March 2004 and has shown strong patronage with 8.4m and 9.7m passengers respectively in its first two years of operation. The City Council says that a recent passenger survey revealed 98% satisfaction with the service and 80% support for the planned new lines south and west of the city.

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