The Times says it has learnt that the Department for Transport's (DfT's) second road investment strategy (RIS), which includes "proposals to roll out controversial smart motorways", has been "put on hold over climate change concerns". "The £25 billion strategy to expand motorways and major A-roads over the next five years, has been shelved until later in the spring or even early summer", according to the article, which says the move follows the Court of Appeal ruling against the expansion of Heathrow because "it failed to take account of the UK’s climate change commitments". It was "widely assumed" that the second RIS, covering 2020 to 2025, "would be published alongside this week’s budget", the newspaper adds, but "is now unlikely to be published for several months and could lead to some road schemes being scrapped altogether".
The Daily Telegraph reports that city region elected mayors "have launched a power grab from Whitehall as they seek a boost from Boris Johnson's pledge to 'level up' the economy". The mayors of the West Midlands and Greater Manchester "have called for more control of key policies such as taxes, welfare and transport in the UK's second and third largest cities", according to the newspaper. It goes on to say that "early talks over transferring beefed-up powers to eight metro mayors have started ahead of a White Paper setting out proposals for further devolution", with Greater Manchester's mayor Andy Burnham also wanting "the freedom to borrow to build more council housing".
The Daily Telegraph also reports on calls "for an unprecedented suspension of business rates in order to protect retailers from collapse, as coronavirus piles further pressure on an industry already in crisis". It says that stores "are being warned to expect a slump in footfall this month as worries about the virus could accelerate the rush towards online shopping". It quotes a retail analyst and the head of the British Independent Retailers Association calling for a big discount or temporary suspension of business rates as a result.
The Guardian reports that "carbon emissions from the global electricity system fell by two per cent last year, the biggest drop in almost 30 years, as countries began to turn their back on coal-fired power plants". It says a "new report on electricity generation revealed the steepest cut in carbon emissions since 1990 as the US and the EU relied more on cleaner energy sources". Overall, the article adds, power from coal plants fell by three per cent last year while coal generation in the US and Europe "has halved since 2007".