Osborne’s £5bn infrastructure plan, but where’s the plan for green growth?
George Osborne has hardly been displaying his green credentials lately, but yesterday, during his autumn statement, he reminded us all that he was the Chancellor who funded the first ever Green Investment Bank and introduced a Carbon Floor Price. And, as if to answer those critics who have been suggesting he’s one of those in the Cabinet detracting from the Government’s green agenda, he told MPs yesterday that he “had not shied away from supporting sensible steps to reduce the country’s dependency on oil prices and reduce our carbon emissions”.
You may wonder then, why he gave the go-ahead to a whole string of road schemes but failed to mention one single major green project as he announced his £5 billion National Infrastructure Plan yesterday. True, there were some major rail projects, including the electrification of the Transpennine Express, and money set aside for new (greener) house-buidling announced, but where were the new renewable power plants, energy efficiency projects, or – dare I say it – those “waste facilities” he briefly referred to?
What are the new renewable and energy efficiency projects?
I’ve spent the last two days trying to get clarity on what new low carbon projects are included in the 35 infrastructure projects the Chancellor said he was greenlighting yesterday, but so far I’ve drawn a blank. I’m still waiting for a call back from the “very small team” at the Treasury press office (a victim of Osborne’s cuts it would seem).
I’ve taken a look at the Treasury’s map of ‘Government Actions’ to support infrastructure investment, but that’s not much help since it lumps new and existing projects together and from what I can surmise doesn’t list one new low carbon energy or waste project on it. (The map does make reference to ‘Centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering’, which I am assuming are new, but I’m yet to discover what exactly they will do).
The National Infrastructure Plan document, meanwhile, lists wind, biomass, CCS and smart meters among its ‘priority’ infrastructure investments, but unlike transport, there’s not neat table to tell us what’s new and what’s not. Same goes for waste.
Is Osborne’s infrastructure plan good news for green growth?
Infrastructure plans are a good way to kick-start growth in tough times. The New Deal programme famously pulled America out of the Great Depression through the construction of countless bridges, highways and parks. But that was almost a century ago.
Osborne’s £5 billion plan is also worryingly focused on road building. Yes, there’ll investment in a broadband ‘superhighway’, and inevitably the Government has to invest in low carbon energy infrastructure to make it fit for the future, but this is happening far too slowly and yesterday’s plan provides little evidence that Osborne has grasped the true value of a green growth strategy.
If you can help us shed some light on Osborne’s green infrastructure plan we’d like to hear from you.