Infrastructure commission must decarbonise UK

6th October 2015


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  • England

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The new infrastructure commission must promote low-carbon infrastructure to enable the UK to meet its carbon budgets, think tank the Green Alliance said.

Chancellor George Osborne yesterday announced the creation of the commission, telling delegates at the Conservative party conference that the body would be independent and headed up by Lord Adonis, former transport secretary during the last Labour government.

Adonis is a non-executive director of HS2, according to his register of interests, and has resigned from his role as shadow Treasury spokesperson to become a cross-bencher with no party affiliation.

The commission will be "free from party arguments" and will work out "calmly and dispassionately what the country needs to build for its future and holds any government's feet to the fire if it fails to deliver," Osborne said.

The Green Alliance welcomed the creation of the commission, which it called for in a report earlier this year.

However, it cautioned that the body's success will depend on the extent to which it dovetails with the UK's climate ambitions, building resilient infrastructure that enables the nation to decarbonise and meet legislated carbon budgets.

The UK's infrastructure pipeline is currently dominated by high-carbon spending, it said. The commission must also take the public's views seriously, if it is to avoid planning infrastructure that never gets built because of public opposition, it pointed out.

Matthew Spencer, director of the Green Alliance, said: "The chancellor's infrastructure commission is welcome, but it will only be successful if it avoids the 'white elephant' risk. This is where experts advise what's in the national interest but the public has a very different view, leaving ministers lumbered with expensive and unpopular projects."

The commission's first priorities will be energy, transport in London and HS3, the proposed high-speed rail route linking Hull and Liverpool via Manchester and Leeds, which form part of Osborne's plans to create the "northern powerhouse".

Osborne also announced plans to reform business rates and allow elected mayors to levy an infrastructure tax. This could be used to fund energy efficiency retrofits for households in fuel poverty, the alliance suggested.

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