Net zero U-turns will hit UK infrastructure, say government advisers

Rishi Sunak’s U-turns over net zero have delayed progress on vital infrastructure that is needed for economic growth, the government’s advisers have said.

Sir John Armitt, the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), said good progress had been made on renewable energy in the past five years, but changes to key policies, including postponing a scheme to boost heat pump takeup, had created uncertainty and delay.

He said the government could no longer “duck key decisions”, as Britain was falling behind on vital infrastructure, from rail transport and energy to water, flood defences and waste.

Failure to catch up would stymie economic growth, and imperil climate targets, the NIC found in its latest annual review. The NIC found:

  • The government will fail to meet its targets on heat pump rollout.

  • The promised lifting of a ban on new onshore windfarms has not gone far enough.

  • Massive investment is needed in the electricity grid.

  • There is no proper plan for rail in the north and Midlands now that the northern leg of HS2 has been cancelled, severely inhibiting economic growth in those regions.

  • Water bills will need to go up to fix the sewage crisis, and more reservoirs are needed to avoid drought, while water companies have done too little to staunch leaks.

  • The UK lacks a coherent strategy on flooding, with more than 900,000 properties at risk of river or sea flooding and 910,000 at risk of surface water flooding.

  • Good progress has been made on the rollout of gigabit broadband around the country.

Armitt called for this government, and the next, to act swiftly. “It’s not too late to catch up in many of the areas we’ve highlighted, if the goals are matched with policies of sufficient scale. But the window is closing,” he said.

“Ducking big decisions over the next 12 months will put the major goals of net zero, regional economic growth, and environmental protection in jeopardy,” he warned.

Read the full article by the Guardian here.

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