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Infrastructure Policy Watch: EU climate deal proposed, while UK financing and planning steps forward

04 May 2021

- EU officials agree new draft climate deal
- Chair of the UK Infrastructure Bank announced
- NIC publishes process for second national infrastructure assessment

Infrastructure Policy Watch: EU climate deal proposed, while UK financing and planning steps forward

In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

European Union officials reach provisional agreement on an EU climate law

A new law could enshrine the EU’s plans for climate neutrality by 2050.

A provisional agreement, reached by officials, could increase the EU’s emissions reduction target from a 40% net reduction to a 55% net reduction by 2030, baselined against 1990.

Also included in the agreement is a proposal to create a new European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. The board would advise on reporting, targets, and budgets, similar to the UK’s Committee on Climate Change. A range of additional laws is planned for later this year to build on the draft agreement.

Several measures put forward by the European Parliament failed to make it into the draft law, including a more ambitious target of 60% and a requirement for each EU country to apply the target in their own countries, rather than keeping it purely at the EU level.

ICE’s view

The announcement came just before the US-led Climate Leaders Summitt. As we said in response to that Summit, making targets is the (relatively) easy part; designing a strategy, building consensus and delivering is more complicated. As an example, EU auditors warned this month that on the current trend, the EU would miss its target of 1 million electric vehicle charging points by 2025. It will be interesting to see how much the new law spurs action once the dust has settled.

UK Government appoints new Chair of the UK Infrastructure Bank

The appointment of Chris Grigg as the new Chair of the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) helps move the Bank one step closer to reality. The creation of a UKIB has been a long-held recommendation of the ICE, and discussion will now turn to the Bank's scope and how it should exercise its powers.

The creation of a UK Infrastructure Bank comes at the same time as similar institutions are being created around the world, including in India, as a way to provide finance for the rapid development and transformation of the infrastructure system.

ICE’s view

ICE would like to see the Bank focused on crowding-in investment, de-risking new technologies for decarbonisation and supporting regional economic growth. Early indicators are that this is the direction of travel which would be a positive step in dealing with the UK’s sustainability challenges over the decades to come.

Roadmap outlined for the UK’s second national infrastructure assessment

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has outlined a roadmap for the publication of the second national infrastructure assessment (NIA2) in the second half of 2023.

The programme will start with a baseline assessment of the current state of key infrastructure sectors. This will be published for consultation in autumn 2021, alongside the NIC’s proposals for the strategic themes and main priorities it will explore as part of NIA2.

The NIC has established three expert panels on net-zero, levelling-up and climate resilience to support this work, with representation from a broad spectrum, including several ICE Fellows. I have been invited to sit on the ‘levelling-up’ panel The panels will offer expert advice, contribute new ideas and challenge the NIC’s thinking.

ICE’s view

NIA2’s focus on net-zero, climate resilience and regional inequalities with a cross-cutting focus on productivity and growth are the right ones. These are all themes identified by ICE in our Covid-19 study as the long-term drivers that have not changed. As ICE’s discussion paper, and recently closed consultation, shows, the NIC has played an active role in bringing together an otherwise siloed planning process for infrastructure development. We are currently reviewing this process to ensure it is fit for the future and will be coming forward with recommendations for change shortly.

In case you missed it...

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers