Chancellor’s infrastructure and devolution plans must dovetail with climate goals and properly involve the British public, says think tank

Monday 5 October 2015

Think tank Green Alliance has welcomed the national infrastructure commission announced by the Chancellor today.

Green Alliance[1] has long argued that the UK’s long term economic sustainability requires a more strategic approach to infrastructure decision making, at national and combined authority level.

However, the think tank cautioned that the commission’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.[2]

The commission must also take the public’s views seriously, if it’s to avoid planning infrastructure that never gets built because of public opposition. Green Alliance proposed how this could work in its report, Opening up infrastructure planning.[3]

Similarly, plans to reform business rates and allow elected mayors to levy an infrastructure tax could revitalise local infrastructure development. The new power available to elected mayors could score two policy goals: smart mayors will use the tax to fund energy efficiency retrofits for households in fuel poverty, thus reducing a heavy burden on councils’ health and social care spending as well as reducing carbon emission from homes

Matthew Spencer, director of 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 could be successful but only if works within carbon budgets, takes the demand side seriously and builds in meaningful public engagement right from the start.”

[1] Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Since 1979, Green Alliance have been working with a growing network of influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to stimulate new thinking and dialogue on environmental policy, and increase political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.

[2] Analysis by Green Alliance of the UK’s infrastructure pipeline in December 2014 indicated that for the first time spending on fossil fuel projects would exceed that of low carbon energy, in the financial year 2014-15.

[3] Green Alliance’s report, Opening up infrastructure planning, was published in February 2015 and is available at This report sets out three fundamental problems with the current state of infrastructure decision making and makes three proposals for how these best be tackled:

1. A national strategic plan, supported by a new civil society advisory council
2. Spatial planning carried out at city and county level, informed by local public dialogues about infrastructure
3. A new body to be an impartial facilitator of public engagement
Lord Adonis spoke at the launch event of this report.

For more information, contact
Amy Mount, senior policy adviser on 020 7630 4515 or 0781 3474 986