National Infrastructure Commission asks 'where are the decarbonisation delivery plans'?

Annual Monitoring Report adds to calls for government to deliver clearer delivery plans and more stable funding settlements for critical net zero infrastructure

The chorus of calls for the government to provide a more detailed plan for how it intends to deliver on its net zero targets and green recovery promises grew ever louder today, as the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) published its annual report assessing progress against the UK’s infrastructure goals.

Released on the same day as the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs published a sweeping report urging the government to use the upcoming Budget to deliver a coherent and ambitious green recovery package, the NIC’s Annual Monitoring Report issues a broadly similar call for the government to back up its various environmental goals with credible and detailed delivery plans.

Charting progress against each of the sectors within the Commission’s remit, the report welcomes how “government has set clear, measurable and timebound targets to phase-out new sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans, increase solid waste recycling rates, rollout gigabit capable broadband, reduce water leakage, carry out trials of  hydrogen production, implement low carbon heating and deploy offshore wind”.

However, it warns that the “the next step is for government to set out clear plans to deliver these goals”. 

The government has ramped up its infrastructure and decarbonisation ambitions over the past year, publishing a new National Infrastructure Strategy that adopted many of the NIC’s recommendations, releasing the Prime Minister’s new 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, delivering a long-awaited Energy White Paper, and stepping up investment in a number of areas, such as energy efficiency programmes and electric vehicle infrastructure.

However, green businesses and environmental campaigners have repeatedly warned increased funding and clarity on a raft of climate policies are repeatedly required if the UK is to get on track to meet its emissions goals and deliver on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to “build back better”.

It is a critique that is largely echoed by the NIC, which today warned that “clear plans with policy levers, appropriate budgets and milestones are now needed to ensure government departments, industry and regulators are working effectively towards the stated goals”.

Stressing that the Covid pandemic only increases the importance of ensuring infrastructure is in place to support a sustainable economic recovery across the whole of the UK, the report sets out a fresh series of recommendations, including calls for the government to launch the new National Infrastructure Bank as soon as possible and give greater long term funding and control to large cities outside London for public transport upgrades. 

Detailed plans for decarbonising energy supply, accelerating the roll out of electric vehicle charge points, and connecting hard to reach areas with high capacity broadband, should also be delivered as soon as possible, according to the report.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the group anticipated that the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy “will catalyse decision making and investment across all sectors, helping to address the challenges of levelling up the UK’s economic geography and achieving net zero”.

However, he stressed that meeting the UK’s infrastructure, net zero, and economic recovery goals would “require detailed planning, and delivery roadmaps backed up by stable funding plans and, where relevant, clarity of regulatory oversight”.

“These are critical factors for the successful delivery of the policy aspirations and targets government has now provided,” he said, adding that “2020’s policy statements set the bar high: 2021 must be a year of turning policy goals into delivery”.

The government has repeatedly stressed its commitment to delivering on the Prime Minister’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ plan and has signalled it intends to deliver a comprehensive net zero strategy ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit this autumn. Moreover, the NIC report notes that a wave of new strategy and policy documents are due to be published in the coming months, including the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Hydrogen Strategy, a transport decarbonisation plan, the Integrated Rail Plan, and the English Devolution and Local Recovery white paper.

However, concerns are growing over the pace at which crucial new policy documents will be delivered and the level of financial support they can expect given the continuing pressure on Whitehall from the coronavirus crisis and the Treasury’s controversial decision to slash funding for the Green Homes Grant scheme.

Read more: businessgreen.com