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Political climate will colour key low carbon decisions

Parliamentary infrastructure group discusses vital investment challenges.

Establishing new vehicles to finance future investment in infrastructure is set to be the critical factor in developing a thriving low carbon economy in the UK, engineers warned ministers last week.

Speakers at last week’s ICE-backed All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI), agreed that infrastructure remained a major challenge for the UK and called for action to ensure that vital private cash could be levered in to fund schemes.

Green Investment Bank

KPMG vice chairman, global infrastructure, Darryl Murphy warned that the coalition government’s proposed Green Investment Bank (GIB), designed to help unlock private capital, was still “a concept”.

“We should be conscious of the fact that the bank is not yet a reality,” said Murphy.

“Setting up such a bank or fund will not all of a sudden fix the financing issue.”

Ingrid Holmes, programme lead, low carbon finance at environmental consultancy, E3G, agreed that the GIB was still a concept.

She said the recent GIB Commission report “provided a broad range of products and it now stays with the Government to pick and choose from this long menu of options.”

Last week’s APPGI meeting brought together representatives from professional institutions, academia, industry and business, specifically to discuss the scale of the UK infrastructure funding challenge and the priorities for investment.

It was facilitated by former construction minister Nick Raynsford and also heard from Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan and Simon Grubb, head of strategic development at Interserve and a member of the ICE’s State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2010 steering group.

Political agenda

Infrastructure funding has risen up the political agenda over the last year, with a growing recognition that extensive and reliable infrastructure will play a key part in underpinning a rebalanced and low carbon economy.

Details of the government’s GIB proposals - which are broadly in line with the ICE’s own proposal for a national infrastructure investment bank - are expected to be announced after October’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Murphy pointed out that there were several issues that still had to be examined and resolved to
put discussion about the whole future of infrastructure financing into context.

“We must look at the scale of the investment needed in infrastructure, the pace of investment over time, the risks of not providing this investment and the legislative environment - is it right?,” he said. “Is it really conducive to investment?”

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