Planned transport spending could prevent Scotland from meeting the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045, environmental campaigners have warned.
A group of organisations fear that as it stands the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan is “deeply inadequate” when it comes to helping cut emissions from the transport sector.
Transform Scotland director Colin Howden said the current spending proposal “contains plenty of window dressing about future transport investment decisions following climate priorities”.
He said to make the “deep cuts” in transport emissions that are needed, investment needs to be focused away from spending on roads.
Transform Scotland has been joined by WWF Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Sustrans Scotland and Paths for All in sending an open letter to Transport and Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson.
In it, they told him: “Surface transport remains one of the largest contributors to climate change in Scotland, responsible for 25% of all emissions.
“Despite emission reduction goals being in place since 2009, emissions have risen since then.
“Whilst the declaration of a climate emergency has given this issue greater urgency within Government, we have yet to see a shift to the transformational approach that is required.”
The group said “historically, transport policy in Scotland has had a strong bias towards investing in high-carbon transport infrastructure”, such as spending on roads.
Campaigners argued ministers needed to “shift these priorities” to create a more sustainable transport system.
But they said they were “extremely troubled” to ﬁnd the draft infrastructure investment plan has failed to make this change.
As it stands, they said, the spending proposal “continues to support Transport Scotland’s multibillion-pound road building programme yet contains no new or additional funds for sustainable transport investment”.
They added: “We are concerned that it will reinforce existing trends towards road capacity expansion, preventing us from reaching net zero by 2045.”
Mr Howden said: “The infrastructure investment plan fails to prioritise investment in low-carbon, sustainable transport.
“Instead, it continues with the same old set of high-carbon roads projects that has made transport the single largest source of emissions in Scotland.
“The plan contains plenty of window-dressing about future transport investment decisions following climate priorities. But this is deeply inadequate.
“In order to make deep cuts in climate emissions, we need to see transport investment prioritised on climate change grounds now.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are already taking bold action on transport to meet our emissions reductions targets and will build on that in the climate change plan update, scheduled for December, alongside our work towards a green recovery from Covid-19.
“The infrastructure investment plan offers a robust pipeline of work that will help stimulate a green recovery – with more than £8 billion to support environmental sustainability and the transition to net-zero emissions over the next five years.
“Transport Scotland has identified the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation as a central plank in the recently published National Transport Strategy, which sets out our vision for the future.
“The strategy is clear that we will not build infrastructure to cater for unconstrained increases in traffic volumes.”