Amendment 1

Part of UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 4 July 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Hayman Baroness Hayman Crossbench 3:30, 4 July 2022

My Lords, I declare my interest as a director and co-chair of Peers for the Planet.

I thank the Minister for the constructive dialogue that has taken place throughout the passage of the Bill, including the meeting with the bank’s chair and chief executive last week to discuss their new strategic plan and the subsequent letter from the chief executive, which we received today. These meetings have been useful and have provided some comfort that the bank’s leadership, which is obviously of very high quality, has considered and intends to address many of this House’s concerns about issues such as natural capital, climate resilience and how certain types of infrastructure, such as gas and roads, will be treated. It would, however, be extremely helpful if the Minister made clear from the Dispatch Box the position on gas exploration and road building, concerns about which were raised in Committee and in our meeting. Although I know she believes that those concerns are unfounded, it would be helpful to have on the record some of the assurances that we received informally.

I welcome the Government’s amendment on energy efficiency, to which I have added my name. It is a much-needed signal of their recognition of the urgency and importance of making progress in this area. I hope the Minister may have an opportunity to have a word with her noble friend about the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, where we could do with some movement on the same topic.

Where we have not made progress in making changes to the Bill is on the environmental priorities, including nature-based solutions, the circular economy and adaptation. It is with these issues, about which we spoke at length in Committee, that this group of amendments is concerned. I have tabled Amendments 1 and 6A, while similar related issues are raised in amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Holmes of Richmond, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. My amendments have signatories from all sides of the House, for whose support I am extremely grateful. Indeed, the Minister herself recognised the importance of these issues but simply queried the need to spell them out in the Bill.

Following the Minister’s comments in Committee, my Amendment 1 no longer sets out a third stand-alone objective for the bank, which she indicated would be extremely difficult to do, but is limited to expanding on the climate change objective to clarify exactly what

“to help tackle climate change” means for the bank in practice, and to reflecting what has been indicated by the Chancellor, the Minister and the bank itself—that is, that resilience and adaptation measures and nature-based solutions absolutely fall within the scope of the climate change objective.

Given the consensus on this, it is hard to understand the argument against including these additional proposed new subsections and making clear that the bank has within its founding objectives a coherent, integrated response to climate change, and sending a clear message to the markets that these are priority areas for market development. We all agree on this, so why do we not make that clear to everyone else out there?

Including nature in the Bill in no way ignores the fact, as has been argued, that the market for nature-based solutions is nascent. What it does provide is a strong signal that the bank recognises that it has a role in developing capacity towards a pipeline of investable projects and will be poised to act—crucially, encouraging others to do the same—when these come to fruition. Moreover, the bank has a role now in helping build and develop these markets, including through taking a nature-positive approach to near-term projects, building internal capacity for future projects and taking a joined-up approach across government-related bodies, including UKRI, the British Business Bank and local authorities, to help seed projects and initiate the local capital and innovation needed to bring those projects to market.

On adaptation, we are told that it is agreed that climate-resilient infrastructure is critical to reaching net zero, and that mitigation and adaptation will be considered together. But even the Climate Change Committee’s most recent progress report last week observed that the UKIB consultation on investment priorities focused on key net-zero infrastructure priorities, but

“has no mention of adaptation.”

Clarity, focus and policy direction are needed.

Amendment 6A, the second tabled in my name, offers an alternative approach to these issues by including the circular economy and nature-based solutions in the definition of infrastructure, by making explicit that the infrastructure solutions set out in the indicative list in Clause 2(5) include those related to the circular economy and nature. As the Minister will have noticed, it mirrors the approach that the Government themselves have taken to energy efficiency.

I have already spoken about the importance of including nature in the Bill. It was generally accepted how important an issue it was in Committee, so I can be brief on this point. It is not in question that nature-based solutions play a role. The bank’s new strategic plan, which is focused on short initial timescales, already provides examples of some of the main near-term opportunities in the water sector for nature-based solutions. Explicitly stating that nature may play a part in infrastructure projects which realise the bank’s objectives would provide the confidence and the clarity needed to give momentum to the development of these solutions.

Similarly, adopting circular economy structures within the definition should be uncontroversial and a signal of how infrastructure projects may be approached. The bank’s strategy already says that it is

“open to financing … circular economy projects.”

A circular economy approach is completely in step with producing positive synergies between the bank’s objectives. Circular economy principles recognise planetary boundaries, promote fairness and reduce overconsumption. It is estimated that circular economy infrastructure could support up to 450,000 jobs by 2035 in reuse, recycling and remanufacturing. Crucially, those jobs would be in occupations and areas suffering higher rates of unemployment.

In our debates, the Minister spoke at length about the need for clarity, but the Bill is Parliament’s only opportunity to be not only clear but explicit about policy priorities. The Government recognised that by proposing their own amendment on energy efficiency. I believe that there is support all around the House for taking exactly the same approach to nature-based solutions and the other issues covered in these amendments. I beg to move.