National Highways, in pursuit of its goal to mitigate carbon emissions, has taken a significant step by establishing a dedicated division focused on environmental sustainability. The formation of this division marks the organisation's commitment to reducing its ecological footprint. Working closely with National Highways' executive directors, the division's primary objective is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions specifically in construction and maintenance activities by 2040.
To lead this crucial initiative, Stephen Elderkin has been appointed as the director of environmental sustainability. Elderkin brings a wealth of experience to the role, having previously served as the project director for the £1bn A12 upgrade scheme in Essex. Prior to his tenure at the government-owned company, known at the time as Highways England, Elderkin held various positions within Whitehall, contributing his expertise to climate change analysis, carbon budgeting, and energy-efficiency policies for esteemed departments such as Energy & Climate Change and Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Expressing his gratitude for assuming this pivotal role during a critical period, Elderkin acknowledges the increased public awareness that has followed the recent COP26 summit. He emphasises the urgent need for sustainable practices to achieve a net-zero economy and underscores the importance of National Highways' role in connecting the country and fostering national prosperity. Recognising the significance of leaving a positive environmental legacy, Elderkin pledges to carry out his responsibilities with an unwavering commitment to environmental consciousness.
The division's scope of work encompasses multiple key areas. Firstly, it will develop a comprehensive and long-term environmental strategy that will guide National Highways towards sustainability. Efforts towards enhancing biodiversity and minimising local environmental impacts resulting from the National Highways network will be a significant focus as well.
In the previous year, National Highways announced its ambitious net-zero targets, which entail achieving net-zero carbon emissions from its own operations by 2030 and extending that goal to encompass road users by 2050. In October, CEO Nick Harris highlighted the anticipated substantial reduction in emissions over the next five years, primarily driven by the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Harris emphasized the importance of supporting the infrastructure necessary for the proliferation of these environmentally friendly vehicles.
National Highways now places great emphasis on exploring and implementing carbon-neutral approaches to the construction and maintenance of roads. The company recognises the criticality of demonstrating sustainable practices in these core areas, as they form the backbone of the transportation infrastructure. By embracing these measures, National Highways aims to create a more secure and sustainable future for generations to come.