How Highways England plans to offset all carbon emissions from building roads by 2040 - International Burch University
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How Highways England plans to offset all carbon emissions from building roads by 2040

Highways England has set out its roadmap to reaching net zero by 2050.

As part of its ambitious plans, it aims to offset all carbon emissions from its maintenance and construction programmes by 2040.

The plan largely focusses on the use of materials – in particular the  asphalt, cement and steel sectors.

Under the plan a modest 0-10% reduction in carbon emissions is expected to be achieved by 2025 (compared to 2020). That increases to a 40-50% reduction by 2030 (against 2020).

Highways England expects to begin working on the UK’s first near zero road scheme in 2025 – with an opening date earmarked for 2035 at the latest.

Under Highways England’s net zero timeline, all construction plant and compounds will be zero emissions by 2030.

The plan adds: “We are one of the UK’s largest buyers of construction materials, used to keep our road network in good condition and ready for the future.

“The emissions from the maintenance and construction of our network led to emissions of around 734,000t of CO2e during 2020, which are projected to fall to around 350,000t in 2040 with no additional action from us.”

It adds: “We have a significant opportunity to catalyse Britain’s construction industry to deliver the Committee on Climate Change’s call for the construction industry to be largely decarbonised by 2040.

“We will focus on the asphalt, cement and steel sectors. We will use a carbon management system to embed approaches that minimise emissions, including lean construction practices and the principles of the circular economy.

“We will also use digital technologies to increase the capacity of our existing network minimising new construction.”

Contractors and suppliers will also be “required to act”, including commitments to reduce carbon year-on-year by using the latest technologies, “so that by 2040 our road maintenance and construction is near zero emissions”.

Highways England acting chief executive Nick Harris previously warned that environmental concerns are not an “existential threat” to the future of road building in the UK.

In response to the roadmap, he added: “Highways England recognises the threat of climate change and the risks it poses for us all. That’s why we’re pledging to take effective action to take carbon out of roads.

To achieve net zero, Highways England is taking action by the following dates:

2025: Highways England has made a Greening Government Commitment to reduce its own carbon emissions by 75% compared with the 2017/18 baseline

2030: Highways England will be net-zero for its own carbon emissions. This includes switching to LED lighting, changing its vehicle fleet to electric and planting up to 3 million additional trees

2040: All construction and maintenance activities carried out on the Strategic Road Network will be net-zero

2050: All vehicles on our network will be net-zero

Transport minister Rachel Maclean added: “We know that transport is the biggest emitter of carbon emissions, which is why I’m pleased to see that Highways England are setting out a roadmap which will clean up our air as we Build Back Greener.”

Highways England’s plans have been released on the back of the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which sets out the DfT’s wider plans to reach net zero emissions on all transport systems in the UK by 2050.


Department of Civil Engineering