Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:11 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Mair Lord Mair Crossbench 1:11 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on introducing this important debate. I speak as a civil engineer and draw attention to my interests in the register. In the limited time available, I will make three points. These relate to carbon, resilience of our infrastructure and prioritisation of resources.

First, on carbon, the Government have legislated to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. We have a long way to go to achieve this, and we must act quickly. We require smart engineering to minimise the use of materials and energy, while still ensuring the resilience of our infrastructure. This can be achieved by many innovations, including the latest digital and sensing technologies. We must be innovative with green stimulus programmes. We should be planning modern transport infrastructure, reducing car use and pedestrianising cities. We should construct more renewable energy sources such as offshore wind. Carbon capture and storage should be exploited for low-carbon production of cement and hydrogen fuels. All such initiatives will involve welcome new employment opportunities, requiring extensive technical training and reskilling.

Secondly, all the new infrastructure that we build must be cost-effective and resilient. Covid-19 has forced rapid changes in practice on our society. It demonstrates the opportunity to do things differently. We must not revert to designing and constructing infrastructure in the same way as before. We must apply the latest technologies to find ways of doing more for less, but still ensuring resilience.

Thirdly, how should we prioritise our resources? Much of our infrastructure is old; a lot of it is Victorian. We should exploit the latest digital and sensing technologies to optimise the assets that we already have by measuring and understanding their performance. We should fix them before rushing to build new infrastructure. In summary, we should exploit the very latest technologies in the post-Covid-19 recovery plan. We need all our engineering ingenuity to reduce carbon, increase resilience and preserve resources.