Policy update: Greening UK infrastructure

12th December 2013

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Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Central government



IEMA's executive director of policy Martin Baxter argues that the government must stick to the green policies it outlined in coming to power, to reap the benefits of more sustainable infrastructure

The infrastructure carbon review, published last month, set out a series of actions to be taken by the government and industry to reduce carbon emissions from the construction and operation of the UK’s infrastructure assets. The recommendations have the potential to abate 24 million tonnes of CO2 and cut costs by £1.46 billion a year by 2050.

Perhaps what’s most striking about this report is not the significant savings that can be derived from better design, construction and maintenance of UK infrastructure, but that it was published by the Treasury. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it is Treasury policy to use market mechanisms to achieve environmental outcomes at the lowest cost; building competitive advantage for those who take a low-carbon approach.

The policy was set in the 2011 budget, which stated: “The government is committed to being the greenest ever. A simple, efficient and cost-effective policy framework will meet environmental objectives, while supporting growth and maintaining a sound fiscal position. Market-based solutions to price carbon are at the heart of this approach, achieving objectives at the lowest possible cost. The government will increase the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by environmental taxes.”

The Treasury defines environmental taxes as those which:

  • are explicitly linked to government environmental objectives;
  • have the primary objective of encouraging environmentally positive behaviour change; and
  • are structured in relation to environmental objectives – the more polluting the behaviour, the greater the tax levied.

It is critical that government sticks to this policy and provides long-term certainty for business and investors to achieve carbon and cost savings.


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