National Highways sets up new sustainability division

National Highways has created a new division for environmental sustainability as part of its aim to cut carbon emissions.

The division will work with National Highways’s executive directors to deliver targets that include achieving net-zero for its construction and maintenance activities by 2040.

Stephen Elderkin (pictured), formerly project director of the £1bn A12 upgrade scheme in Essex, has been appointed to lead the division and named as the body’s first director of environmental sustainability.

Prior to joining the government-owned company, then known as Highways England, in 2015, Elderkin worked in various Whitehall roles including for the departments of Energy & Climate Change and Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. His roles included leading the government analysis for the Climate Change Act, carbon budgets and energy-efficiency policies.

He said: “It’s a privilege to take on this role at such a critical time. We’ve seen how COP26 has brought heightened public recognition of the need for action on climate change. National Highways connects the country, playing a vital role in national prosperity. But we must do that sustainably, making our contribution to achieving a net-zero economy and showing ambition and leadership to leave a positive legacy through our approach to the environment.”

Among his division’s tasks will be developing a long-term environmental strategy, working on biodiversity enhancement and reducing local environmental impacts from the National Highways network.

Last summer, the government-owned company announced its net-zero targets, which included achieving net-zero for its own operations by 2030 and from road users by 2050.

In October, chief executive Nick Harris told an online conference: “Over the next five years we will see a big change in emissions because of [electric vehicles]. We talk about the provision of charging points and so on – it’s really important we continue to support that.

“We’re now focused on ‘can we build and maintain roads in a carbon neutral way?’ I think it is essential that we demonstrate we can build roads and operate roads in a sustainable, carbon-neutral way otherwise the future has to be questionable.”

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