1.Our remit includes a responsibility “to audit [Government departments’ and agencies’] performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.” Our predecessor Committee carried out this function through a series of “sustainability audits” of Government departments. It asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to undertake an audit of how a Department or Agency had embedded sustainability into its work, and the Committee then held an evidence session with departmental officials on the NAO’s findings. For the first such sustainability audit of this Parliament, we asked the NAO in October 2015 to review the work of the Department for Transport (DfT). Its overview was published in May, and we thank the NAO for its work and assistance.
2.The DfT describes its role as
[working] with our agencies and partners to support the transport network that helps the UK’s businesses and gets people and goods travelling around the country. We plan and invest in transport infrastructure to keep the UK on the move.
The DfT has planning and investment responsibilities for the UK’s road, rail, maritime, aviation and bus service sectors. The Department’s total spending is set to increase during this Parliament: although its resource spending is due to go down, its capital budgets will rise, with £73.4 billion of transport-related capital investment between 2015–16 and 2020–21, including £34.5 billion for Network Rail and £15.2 billion for its Roads Investment Strategy. In 2014–15 the Department allocated 50% of its gross expenditure to its roads, traffic and local responsibilities; almost 40% to its rail executive responsibilities; and 3% to its international, security and environment responsibilities.
3.The Government has a number of sustainability targets, including the commitment in the Climate Change Act 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Net UK greenhouse gas emissions were 514 MtCO2 equivalent in 2014, a 36% reduction on 1990 levels. Some 22% of those emissions came from the domestic transport sector, of which 94% were from road transport.
4.We have drawn on the NAO’s overview, previous departmental business plans and evidence from DfT officials, the transport sector and local government to examine DfT policies and policy making (chapter 2), governance (chapter 3) and operations (chapter 4) from a sustainable development perspective. The NAO concluded that the Department has “taken many positive steps to meeting the challenge of sustainability in the transport sector.” In this report we focus on those areas where the DfT might go further.
1 Environmental Audit Committee, , accessed 27 June 2016
2 Environmental Audit Committee, ; Sustainability in the Home Office, Fourth Report of Session 2014–15, , September 2014; Sustainability in BIS, Sixth Report of Session 2013–14, , November 2013
3 National Audit Office, , May 2016
4 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas of interest, p1
5 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas of interest, p2
6 Million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. A measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential.
7 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Areas of interest, pp4, 13.
8 National Audit Office, , May 2016, Key messages, p1
1 August 2016