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Cut road-building and reform road tax after Covid, says CCC


15 May 2020

Spending on broadband and active travel should be prioritised over road-building as the economy is rebuilt following Covid-19, the Committee on Climate Change has told ministers. It also hints that road transport taxation should rise.

CCC chairman Lord Deben has written to the Prime Minister and ministers including transport secretary Grant Shapps advising how climate policy can play a “core part” in the recovery. 

“There is an opportunity to embed new social norms, especially for travel, that benefit well-being, improve productivity, and reduce emissions,” says Deben. “Government can lead the way through its own operations (e.g. encouraging home working and remote medical consultations), through public communications, and through infrastructure provision (e.g. prioritising broadband investments over the road network, improving safety for cyclists), and investing in measures to facilitate social distancing on public transport.

“Restrictions on movement during this crisis and the potential for longer-lasting social distancing and home working measures could mean a radically different context for transport policy.

“Dedicating safe spaces for walking and cycling, more bike parking and support for shared bikes can be tied to new public attitudes towards walking, cycling and green spaces. 

“We should ensure that home working remains a widespread option; higher investment in resilient digital technology including 5G and fibre broadband should therefore be prioritised over strengthening the roads network.”

With taxation likely to have to rise to pay for the Government’s extra Covid-19 spending, Deben said the tax system should be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Changes in tax policy can aid the transition to net-zero emissions. Many sectors of the UK economy do not currently bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases. 

“Revenue could be raised by setting or raising carbon prices for these sectors, and low global oil prices provide an opportunity to offset changes in relative prices without hurting consumers.

“The UK’s future carbon pricing mechanism should be designed to ensure that an appropriate price for carbon is maintained even in times of external shocks, for example through a well-designed floor price.”

Deben said support for carbon-intensive sectors hit by the virus “should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change”

The aviation sector has shed thousands of jobs, though the Government has not implemented a bespoke aviation sector deal.  

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