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Can a road be ‘carbon negative’?

  • by JW

Assessing the climate change impact of Devon’s road projects.


Great fanfare accompanied the granting of £15m plus for a new road in Exmouth – the questions being whether more roads re actually a good thing: “Do we even want roads?” – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And another question of whether roads can actually become ‘carbon negative’.

Here’s a new project for the county:

A Devon road is to become the UK’s first “carbon negative” highway after the government named it as one in just seven in the country to receive cash towards that objective.

The A382 link road development near Newton Abbot is getting £3.7 million to decarbonise the construction and maintenance of the road. It’s from a programme called Live Labs 2, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and organised by ADEPT (Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport).

… working with the University of Exeter and maintenance contractor Milestone Infrastructure to develop a “carbon calculator” to identify and measure the carbon produced in every aspect of road repairs and construction. Potential carbon saving measures proposed for the project include using local recycled materials, ensuring construction plant and equipment is sustainable, installing streetlighting that can generate power, and establishing low maintenance verges and hedgerows.

Dr Dan Lash, from the University of Exeter, said: We have been working with Devon County Council for some time on assessing the climate change impact of its road projects. This has involved producing innovative tools, and standards that are in the process of being incorporated into national guidance for the sector.” 

Newton Abbot link road to become ‘carbon negative’ – Radio Exe

The piece is largely taken from the county council’s press release: Ambitious project to make A382 link road the UK’s first carbon negative highway – News

But the scheme is very much part of the wider search for ‘sustainable construction’ in the county: The Built Environment – Devon Climate Emergency

With Dr Lash of the University of Exeter very much on board – and very much part of the research: Centre for Energy and the Environment | Centre for Energy and the Environment | University of Exeter


Of course the road construction industry is keen: The Norwegian start-up making roads carbon negative – Thred Website and Can Highway Construction Achieve “Net Zero” Carbon Emissions? – Environmental Technical Assistance Program Newsletter  and Planning for Reduced Emissions from Road Construction | Built and On the journey toward a carbon neutral future | Skanska – Global corporate website

But as with Dr Lash, there is a lot of serious research happening: Road life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions and emission reduction technologies: A review – ScienceDirect and Measuring the carbon footprint of road construction using CHANGER | Request PDF and Carbon Footprint of Roads: A Literature Review – IJERT