HS2's contribution to net zero is...up in the air

 

The Oakervee review, written some time at the end of last year and published last month, recommended continuing with the full HS2 rail network, a recommendation that the Government was happy to support.

”Local
Constructing HS2 track and tunnels will be carbon-intensive

As ministers had selected Doug Oakervee to carry out the review, neither outcome was at all surprising.

Among the points listed in the review report as implicitly leading to Mr Oakervee’s overall conclusion was a finding that: ‘HS2 could help deliver the government’s commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.’

Analysis of the detail of this report not only shows that this finding represents a sleight of hand by Mr Oakervee but illustrates the weakness of a net zero target.

The following excerpt from the document highlights the problem: ‘In the short to medium term, the construction of HS2 is forecast to add to carbon emissions. The most recent estimates from HS2 Ltd on emissions from construction of the full HS2 network are at between 8m and 14m tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) over the construction period, around 0.1% of current UK emissions on an annual basis.’

Obviously, the question that the document then addresses is whether the carbon savings from less carbon-intensive travel will be worth the emissions from construction. In short, it is unclear that they will.

The report notes that HS2 may encourage people to travel by rail instead of car but that 'the relative carbon benefits of rail compared with car travel will diminish as cars electrify'.

Overall, it finds that ‘the operational footprint of the full HS2 network is estimated by HS2 Ltd at saving circa 11-12m tonnes of CO2e over the first 60 years of operation’.

On the basis that the 11 million tonnes figure is smack in the middle of the 8-14 million range for construction emissions, the report notes that ‘it is not clear whether overall HS2 is positive or negative for greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Based on the current assessment, if the low end construction emissions are achieved, HS2 will reduce carbon emissions by 3-4m tonnes of CO2e; at the high end, the project will contribute 1-3m tonnes of CO2e over the assessment period of construction and 60 years of operation.’

It is also worth noting, following the government's recent announcement on increasing the ethanol content of petrol, that E10 has the potential to cut CO2 from transport by 750,000 tonnes per year. This is annually saving around a quarter of the entire CO2 savings of HS2 over 60 years under the most optimistic estimates.

Bear in mind that the full network is now not likely to be complete until 2040, which means that the assessment period over which the project could, on balance, be carbon neutral is the end of the century, half a century on from 2050.

The point about carbon dioxide emissions is that their impact is cumulative. It’s no good frontloading your emissions and then saying in 2050 that a new rail link is cutting current carbon emissions when the greenhouse gases emitted during its construction are still in the atmosphere.

This brings us back to the question of whether HS2 will really contribute to achieving net zero in 2050, which depends on how the calculation is made, which itself is very unclear.

The Office for National Statistics points out that one method is to calculate the UK’s carbon footprint, which estimates UK greenhouse gas emissions based on the consumption of all goods and services by households within the UK and includes ‘estimates of emissions associated with each stage of the supply chain for those goods and services, irrelevant of whether or not their production process occurs within the UK’.

Whether this carbon footprint method will be used to calculate whether the UK has achieved net zero, and whether it would require a proportion of the construction of the carbon cost of a transport service to be counted against the operation of that service, is, dare I say, up in the air.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Utility Liaison Officer

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£31,434 - £34,986 per annum
You will also be responsible for agreeing all relevant inspection and permit fee charges with utility companies including... Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Assistant Director Planning & Transportation

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council
£81,495 per annum 
Looking for a highly accomplished, ambitious and determined Chartered Town Planner to join the Growth Directorate’s leadership team.  Tameside, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council

Transport Network Monitoring Officer

City of York Council
£10.30 per hour
Do you have previous knowledge/experience of Computer Network Transport Systems? York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Senior Planner

West Sussex County Council
£32,029 to £38,813 per annum
Do you have experience in working in a Transport Planning Environment? We are seeking a Senior Planner in the Planning Services function Chichester, West Sussex
Recuriter: West Sussex County Council

Conservation Design Ecology and Trees Team Leader

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£42,683 - £44,632
As Conservation Design Ecology and Trees Team Leader, your responsibilities will include... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Senior Highways Maintenance Technician    

Worcestershire County Council
£25,540 up to £27,229 (plus payment for occasional out of hours working) 
Using your knowledge and experience in highways maintenance you will support and advise your colleagues and contractors. Worcestershire
Recuriter: Worcestershire County Council

Driver/Attendant

Redbridge London Borough Council
£21,591 per annum pro-rated for 20 hours and term time.
Experience in transporting students or Special Clients such as elderly or persons with disabilities is preferred. Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) Programme Lead

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£48,172 - £49,047
This is an excellent opportunity for an individual with highly developed interpersonal, organisational and negotiation skills along with... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Principal Planner

West Sussex County Council
£39,782 to £42,683 per annum
Do you have experience working in a Transport planning environment? We have a vacancy in the Planning Services function Chichester, West Sussex
Recuriter: West Sussex County Council

Technical Assistant – Network Information and Compliance

North Yorkshire County Council
£18,426 to £22,021
Do you have experience of using, researching, interpreting and communicating about both legal and technical documents?  North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Scottish Road Works Commissioner

Transport Scotland
£74,038 - £76,574
We are looking to appoint a new Scottish Road Works Commissioner for a maximum term of 5 years. Scotland
Recuriter: Transport Scotland

Senior Conservation Officer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£32,643 - £45,704 depending on skills
Do you want to work in one of London’s most exciting historic environments, leading on listed buildings and conservation areas? London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Project Engineer - Thirsk

North Yorkshire County Council
£24,313 to £34,788 
If you have experience in highway design and dealing with the public, we would love to hear from you.    Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Senior Highways Operative

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 to £29,636
We are looking for Senior Highways Operatives. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Climate Change Programme Manager

North West Leicestershire District Council
Band H, up to £42,683
North West Leicestershire is a great place to live, work and visit and we are clear about our ambition for the council to be carbon neutral by 2030. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Director of Place

London Borough of Bexley
Starting salary £147k
This is a key leadership role within the organisation, with a varied portfolio that includes
Recuriter: London Borough of Bexley

Head of Parks & Countryside

Sheffield City Council
£69k to £74k (pay award pending)
We are seeking an experienced leader to drive forward the Parks & Countryside services on their improvement journey Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Sheffield City Council

Economic Resilience Project Development Manager (Town Centres)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£42,683 - £44,632
We are looking for talented person to join our ambitious and highly collaborative team. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Operative

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£18,426 to £21,166
We are looking for Highways Operatives who have experience in a range of the following... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Waste Collection Operative - Loaders / HGV Drivers (Hays Recruitment)

Chelmsford City Council
Please see our Partner Organisation's advert for details
Looking for the right candidates who can help them to provide a waste collection service to their residents across Chelmsford. Chelmsford, Essex
Recuriter: Chelmsford City Council