Setting the scene for the relationship between infrastructure and net-zero

Ahead of the publication of ICE’s annual State of the Nation report, ICE Policy Manager Alex Hardy, sets the scene for the relationship between infrastructure and net-zero.

  • Updated: 24 June, 2020
  • Author: Alex Hardy, ICE Policy Manager

Although we are in the midst of a global health crisis, one which is impacting every part of our everyday lives, we also continue to fight another global crisis – the climate emergency.

According to recent polling by Ipsos, 66% of people believe that in the long-term, climate change is as serious a crisis as Covid-19. The impacts of climate change are already being felt; the planet is warming, rainfall patterns are changing, and sea levels are rising – resulting in the increased severity and frequency of heatwaves, floods, droughts and fires.

At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the health of the world’s people and economies. At least in the short-term, the pandemic is creating a ‘new normal’ across public life, with both working and socialising currently taking place more remotely for many people. In fact, polling suggests only 9% of people want everything to go back to how things were before the pandemic.

While we do not yet know what the long-term demand impacts will be on key infrastructure networks, we do know that managing their future delivery will need to be consistent with the UK Government’s target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. Therefore, the economic response to Covid-19 presents a unique opportunity for government to recalibrate its approach and rebuild the economy around the net-zero target.

Infrastructure will play an integral role in this. That’s why this year’s annual State of the Nation report focuses on the role of infrastructure in achieving that target. Published in one week’s time, this report will outline recommendations to help move our industry in the right direction.

Infrastructure’s contribution to net-zero

Currently, infrastructure is a major contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to recent figures from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy around 60% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions come from transport and energy alone. In 2019, total UK greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be 45% lower than in 1990 and 3.6% lower than 2018. While we have made progress reducing emissions, especially in the energy sector, much more is needed. According to the Committee on Climate Change’s Carbon Budgets, the UK is not on track to meet its emissions targets.

UK CO2 levels
Figures from BEIS illustrates how infrastructure contributes to the UK’s overall carbon emissions.

This year’s State of the Nation report recommends a series of high-level policy solutions to overcome the challenges for achieving net-zero emissions. The report responds to the key policy obstacles identified by the Committee on Climate Change, including:

  • Strengthening policy-making
  • Ensuring businesses respond
  • Engaging the public to act
  • Determining who pays
  • Providing the skills
  • Ensuring a just transition
  • Developing the infrastructure

Our recommendations relate to how decisions about infrastructure are made, the skills and behavioural changes required, as well as funding and financing mechanisms that need to be in place for the net-zero transition. The report also outlines a programme of thought leadership and knowledge sharing that ICE will be coordinating in the lead up to COP26 next year.

The final report is the product of an extensive evidence-gathering process. ICE held evidence-gathering workshops and focus groups in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England, inviting contributions from infrastructure experts across the public, private and third sectors. Over 400 expert individuals or organisations were consulted during the production of the report.

I encourage you to sign-up to attend the launch of the report, and find out more about what ICE is recommending for infrastructure’s transition to net-zero.

Keep up to date with the development of State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 Net-Zero Target.