The UK Infrastructure Bank Bill is continuing to make it’s way through Parliament. The aim of the bill is to place the UK Infrastructure Bank on a statutory footing and the purpose of the bank is to invest in infrastructure that will tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth. It’s an excellent proposition and a valuable opportunity to make sure that those strategic objectives, both environmental and levelling up, are well considered and clearly stated.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 11 May 2022. Second reading took place on 24 May 2022, followed by Committee Stage, which is when myself and colleagues in the House of Lords made suggestions (put forward amendments) intended to improve the bill. I put forward several amendments that dealt specifically with environmental issues, they were: promoting nature based solutions, clean air, green spaces, energy efficiency and energy security.
Yesterday, 4th July 2022, we came back to consider Report Stage, which is another chance to change the Bill. The government had bought forward an amendment to specify that energy efficiency should be included as a specific objective. A significant, and positive, move from the government.
Can I join others in congratulating my noble friend the Minister on bringing forward the government amendment on energy efficiency. It speaks to an amendment that I and others brought at Committee, and it is certainly welcome that it will now, rightly, be on the face of (included in) the Bill.Lord Holmes of Richmond, House of Lords, 4 July 2022
Nature Based Solutions
As I had done at Committee Stage, I suggested a small change to the Bill – that we should expand the definition of infrastructure projects to explicitly include “nature-based solutions”. The original wording of the Bill sets out that infrastructure projects should focus on “technologies and facilities relating to … climate change”.
Again we need greater clarity and direction from the government on the various ways we must address the climate crisis. ‘Nature-based solutions’ to climate change simply means, conserving, restoring, or better managing ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, for example, the restoration of peatland or woodland. The Science and Technology Select Committee recently published an important paper on the subject.
Amendment 7 would insert just three words: “nature-based solutions”. There is a lot in the Bill about climate and carbon, but the reality is, as noble Lords are well aware, whatever we do and must do on that front, we will still be left with a pressing, urgent need for nature-based solutions.Lord Holmes of Richmond, House of Lords, 4 July 2022
Finally, in similar terms, my Amendment 10 would insert “clean air”—perhaps one of the most significant, precious and essential parts of our infrastructure. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that it would not be difficult or controversial, and that it would be a thoroughly good thing, to have “clean air” on the face of our infrastructure bank Bill?Lord Holmes of Richmond, House of Lords, 4 July 2022
I did not force my amendments but there were votes on other amendments and we ended up with changes that did include nature-based solutions and the circular economy. Now to the final ‘tidying up’ of third reading and the Bill will be passed to the Commons to go through the same process there…..