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State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 net-zero target

01 July 2020

Achieving the net-zero target by 2050 will require an unprecedented transformation of our infrastructure. The vital infrastructure systems on which the UK is built – such as energy, transport and utilities – currently contribute the majority of the UK’s emissions.

While the 2050 target may seem distant, in many cases the infrastructure currently under development will take decades to deliver and will be operational well beyond 2050. Therefore we need to act now to ensure the UK’s infrastructure systems are consistent with the net-zero target.

State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 net-zero target examines the contribution of the UK’s infrastructure systems in achieving net-zero by 2050. Specifically, the report sets out a range of recommendations for overcoming the seven policy obstacles that the Committee on Climate Change identified in its advice to government on what is required to meet the net-zero target.

Strengthening policy-making

Recommendation 1: As part of the National Infrastructure Strategy, a Net-Zero Infrastructure Plan for transitioning the UK’s economic infrastructure networks to a net-zero footing should be delivered.

Developing the infrastructure

Recommendation 2: The Green Book should be reformed to better reflect the net-zero target in project appraisals and assessments.

Recommendation 3: Clients and regulated asset managers should prioritise and elevate the value of emissions reduction impacts in procurement criteria, so it is at the same level as value for money, and health and safety outcomes.

Ensuring businesses respond

Recommendation 4: Models of regulation should be updated to promote the achievement of net zero, and enable owners and managers of regulated assets to take longer-term and more flexible strategic planning and investment decisions.

Recommendation 5: Through procurement policy, clients should require better collection, sharing and use of data on infrastructure assets to enable improved decision-making in the context of the net-zero target.

Ensuring a just transition

Recommendation 6: Power and responsibilities for infrastructure policy and service delivery should continue to be devolved to ensure the economic opportunities of the net-zero transition are distributed throughout the UK, to support the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Determining who pays

Recommendation 7: Contracts for Difference and the Regulated Asset Base model should continue to be used, where appropriate, to unlock the market for net-zero technologies identified by the Committee on Climate Change.

Recommendation 8: A UK Investment Bank should be established, with a sustainability mandate to invest in net-zero-aligned infrastructure and crowd-in private finance.

Engaging the public to act

Recommendation 9: A net-zero education and awareness-raising campaign for the built environment should be developed. Details of the campaign should be set out as part of the Net-Zero Infrastructure Plan.

Providing the skills

Recommendation 10: An Infrastructure Skills Plan to ensure the UK has the capability within the built environment sector for the transition to net zero should be delivered. Details for the development of the skills plan should be set out as part of the Net-Zero Infrastructure Plan.

State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 net-zero target

Content type: State of the Nation

Authors: ICE

  • Alex Hardy, policy manager at ICE