A report by the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) highlights a range of actions needed to help local councils achieve net zero – with one of the findings revealing that a lack of knowledge and skills is slowing down the speed in which electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is being rolled out.
As local council highways teams come under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions and achieve net zero, LCRIG carried out an exclusive survey to find out more about activity levels, barriers and the actions that are needed to drive this agenda forward.
This survey was kindly facilitated by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) as a voluntary addendum to its ALARM Survey, carried out at the beginning of 2022. The findings are based on data analysis by LCRIG.
The findings of the ‘net zero in highways’ report show that whilst a number of councils have declared a climate emergency cost is seen as a major barrier that is stopping progress from being made.
Sixty-four of the 91 English councils who responded to the survey highlighted cost as one of the main barriers.
It was a similar story amongst the Welsh councils with 7 out of 10 also selecting cost as a significant barrier. The same trend appeared in London with 15 authorities in the capital stating that cost was stopping them making progress towards net zero.
91 English councils, 21 London-based councils and 10 Welsh councils all took part in the survey.
Knowledge and Lack of Direction were cited as barriers stopping councils from rolling out electric vehicle charging points.
Having been asked to rank in order, where 1 is the most important and 10 the least, from a selection of options what the barriers are – funding was highlighted as one of the top barriers.
Over a third (33) of English councils selected it as the top barrier with 4 from London and 4 from Wales also giving it the highest ranking.
The report also showed that councils are struggling to keep up with technological changes as they try to keep up with the pace of change required to accelerate the transition to clean energy and sustainable roads.
A total of 30 English councils selected this as a barrier, with 4 from London and 3 from Wales also choosing it.
This highlights a need for further help and guidance to support council officers in meeting their aims and objectives.
When asked what practical steps should be prioritised to deliver climate change many English, Welsh and London councils ticked all the options available which included: evaluation and tracking of carbon savings; rollout of EV charging infrastructure; use of sustainable materials; reducing emissions through the use of decarbonised fleets.
Other key findings in the report showed that:
• Just one council claimed it was fully advanced in taking forward practical steps to deliver net zero
• Of those who responded 84 councils have declared a climate emergency
• Myriad of options available to assess carbon savings
• Cost seen as main barrier stopping progress from being made
• Councils struggling to keep up with technological changes
• Lack of knowledge and skills stifling speed of EV charging rollout
Paula Claytonsmith, Director, Government and Strategy at the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) said: “Our report into net zero in highways makes for interesting reading. Whilst there are some positives to take from the findings there are also areas of concern which must be addressed to help councils overcome barriers that are stopping them from reaching net zero.
“Of these, the cost of doing so is identified as a main barrier. Given the economic backdrop against which a number of councils are operating this is perhaps unsurprising – but what it does highlight is the importance of practical guidance and the sharing of best practice to help educate officers on their journey to net zero.
“At LCRIG we will continue to play an important role in helping our members and the wider sector to reach net zero. Ultimately, net zero is a must and not an if – because by getting there we will be changing the lives of future generations for the better.”
Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) Chair Rick Green added: “The AIA is pleased to again support LCRIG’s Net Zero in Highways Survey, which highlights that delivering net zero is a tall order for local authorities’ highways teams, especially considering the challenge of rising costs due to inflation and a potential real terms cut in funding.
“Our industry has been working tirelessly on lower carbon solutions as we strive to reach our own challenging carbon reduction targets and we’ll continue to support greater local authority take up of products which can already reduce the CO2 associated with carriageway works. Continued collaboration between local authorities and industry will also be key and we agree with the need for standardising carbon calculation tools.
“But what’s really needed to kickstart the journey towards net zero highways would be a longer-term funding horizon and ringfencing of central government funding streams. This would help enable local authorities to plan for and make the best whole-life decisions when it comes to road maintenance –cutting carbon and delivering better roads.”
The full report is available to view here.