A proposed multibillion-pound road – which includes a tunnel underneath the Thames between Kent and Essex – will contribute more than five million tonnes of carbon emissions, figures have suggested.
One of Highways England’s main projects, the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) is proposed to feature a 2.6-mile (4.3km) road tunnel running beneath the Thames, east of Gravesend.
It will connect to the M2 near Rochester in Kent and the M25 in Essex between North and South Ockenden on its 14.5-mile (23.3km) route.
According to emissions figures from Highways England, which were published in November following a Freedom of Information request and reported by the BBC, the construction of the project will emit an estimated two million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The operational emissions cost of the project is expected to total 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 over a 60-year appraisal period.
While the advent and increasing use of electric cars should see the ultimate emissions cost come under the projections, campaigners believe the environmental impact of the proposal should have come under more scrutiny.
Chris Todd from the Transport Action Network told the BBC: “If the government is serious about tackling climate change, it can’t keep ignoring the emissions roads are causing.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week an “ambitious” target to cut the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030 as part of global efforts to curb climate change.
Last month, Mr Johnson unveiled a 10-point green plan for efforts to cut emissions, including phasing out conventional cars, increasing low carbon heating in homes, boosting offshore wind and rolling out hydrogen technology.
A spokesman for the Government-owned company said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is the UK’s most ambitious roads project in a generation, which will add billions to the national, regional and local economies by almost doubling road capacity between Kent and Essex and reducing congestion and delays.
“But it will also impact on the environment and minimising this impact is a key priority for us. We have taken a balanced approach – our proposed design includes the UK’s longest road tunnel as it offers the best possible local environmental benefits, however tunnels by their nature require large volumes of concrete with a high carbon footprint.
“As we’ve developed our plans, we’ve been able to cut the amount of carbon expected from construction by roughly a third, by optimising the design, refining how we plan to build the road and what materials we would use. At two million tonnes, this accounts for around 0.013% to 0.09% of the UK’s carbon budget over the construction period. But we will not stop there, and as our new delivery partners come on board, we’re setting high expectations and continually working with them to drive our footprint down even further.
“When the road opens for traffic, we predict carbon emissions of approximately 3.2 million tonnes over the first 60 years. We expect the real levels to be much lower as our forecast does not take into account the Government’s plans to reduce carbon from transport like the ban on sales of new petrol/diesel cars by 2030 and the increasingly rapid growth in electric car ownership.”