Smart Transport

National Infrastructure Commission highlights “slow progress” on plans to deliver net zero

The Government is at risk of failing to deliver its plans for net zero unless it picks up the pace with detailed infrastructure policy design, according to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

James Heath, NIC chief executive, is confirmed as one of the plenary speakers at the Smart Transport Conference on 10 May.

The event, held at The Queens Hotel in Leeds, will see Heath deliver a keynote to discuss in detail NIC's key recommendations from his organisation's annual review of Government progress on infrastructure.

The UK’s official independent infrastructure adviser says that clear, long term goals are now in place across most infrastructure areas and gives credit for increased investment – a £100 billion commitment over the next three years, alongside an indication of increased spending in the long term. 

The NIC’s annual review also notes that some of the advisory body’s key recommendations have been delivered this year, including the creation of the UK Infrastructure Bank, and that both gigabit broadband coverage and renewable electricity capacity have continued to increase.

However, it said slow progress in other areas poses threats to achieving key objectives at the heart of the National Infrastructure Strategy.

That Government document, published in 2020, set out plans for infrastructure to help boost economic growth across all parts of the UK and meet the net zero emissions target by 2050. 

Since that publication, the NIC’s own assessment report says: “Some of the strategies the Government has developed over the last year lack detailed delivery policy, leave key gaps, or simply do not go far enough.”

Ten priorities for the year ahead

It highlights 10 priorities for the year ahead, including the urgent need for a comprehensive energy efficiency push to insulate homes, devolved funding to more councils for local transport schemes, and the need to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicle charging points to ensure the 2030 date for the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars remains viable.

It assesses recent Government activity against five tests: a long term perspective, clear goals and plans to achieve them, firm funding commitments, a genuine commitment to change, and action on the ground. 

The NIC highlights the need for a pipeline of mass urban transit schemes beyond the planned development of such a project for West Yorkshire, and a rapid shift away from competitive bidding between councils for short term transport funding pots, towards long term devolved funding settlements.  

The NIC’s report also flags the need for big decisions on how the net zero transition will be funded: “Ultimately, that will either be taxpayers, consumers, or a combination of both.

“But ensuring the costs are distributed fairly is critical.

“Delays to decisions on who pays are now holding up delivering infrastructure, including low carbon heat and energy efficiency.

“Open and honest conversations, followed by clear decisions, are needed to address this.”

Expert speakers and breakout sessions at the Smart Transport Conference

Confirmed plenary speakers for the Smart Transport Conference already include Cllr Louise Gittins, vice chair, Transport for the North and leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Professor Sarah Sharples, Department for Transport (DfT) chief scientific adviser and Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel Transport Committee, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority transport portfolio holder.

These keynote presentations will be followed by a range of breakout sessions that look to explore varied topics like active travel, confidence in public transport, funding, electric vehicle and alternative fuel infrastructure, transport data, rural transport solutions and much more.

The full list of confirmed speakers are available to view online and tickets are available to book now.

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