Environment

Infrastructure can help us protect and enhance our environment and safeguard natural resources in the face of climate change.

Updated:

Offshore wind farm

There is very little of the natural environment in the UK today that has not been shaped or impacted in some way by human activity and the infrastructure that has been put in place to support it.

Although there have been some major improvements (for example water quality in major rivers such as the Thames), trends over the last 60 years in many environmental parameters such as biodiversity show decline.

Infrastructure will play a significant role in meeting the UK’s target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or before. When planned properly, it can also help protect and enhance the built and natural environment.

The Commission’s work in this area covers the big challenges and opportunities in moving to a low cost, low carbon future for key utilities, as explored in our energy & waste theme. Our work on transport also helps inform policy making that cuts air pollution and seeks to decarbonise both public transport systems and private road transport; while our work on water and floods helps build community resilience in the face of extreme weather patterns.

It is vital that major infrastructure projects consider their impact on the environment at every stage of their planning and design, as reflected in our design principles for national infrastructure. Our research and recommendations span ways of both reducing the negative impact of major infrastructure construction and operation, and how infrastructure can actively contribute to a greener future.

Latest Updates

James Heath: Getting the evidence in place for key decisions on low carbon heat
Man turning on a British Combi Gas Boiler

James Heath: Getting the evidence in place for key decisions on low carbon heat

James Heath, Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Commission, addressed Utility Week’s ‘Build Back Better’ Forum today (21 October 2020). His speech explored the policy decisions and investment needed to harness the full potential of low carbon heat, setting out the range of evidence that will be required to ensure effective decisions to address the...

21 Oct 2020 By
Armitt speech on principles for urban infrastructure
Cities Programme
Portrait of Sir John Armitt

Armitt speech on principles for urban infrastructure

Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, delivered a speech today (7 October 2020) at the launch of the Commission’s report, Principles for effective urban infrastructure. The launch event was co-hosted with Centre for Cities. The text of Sir John’s speech can be found below.   Before I begin let me thank our...

7 Oct 2020 By
Armitt: “Build Build Build” plans need to lock in environmental gains with long term strategy
windmills against a blue sky

Armitt: “Build Build Build” plans need to lock in environmental gains with long term strategy

Responding to today’s speech (‘Build Build Build’, 30 June 2020) by the Prime Minister, Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Building back better, greener and faster are welcome ambitions and it is critical that we take immediate steps to secure jobs and build confidence across supply chains. “Opportunities remain to accelerate...

30 Jun 2020 By
New report a “timely reminder” of need for green economic recovery plan

New report a “timely reminder” of need for green economic recovery plan

The latest annual report to Parliament by the Committee on Climate Change says accelerating steps to address climate change must be at the heart of any economic recovery plan, and proposes a range of green stimulus measures in tune with recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission. The CCC’s latest report says government should use...

25 Jun 2020 By
Forecasting a changeable outlook

Forecasting a changeable outlook

You don’t have to be a trained weather forecaster to note that the weather in the UK is changing. The scientific consensus is that we will see an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events as a result of climate change. The UK government has legislated for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by...

12 Jun 2020 By
Net zero: Commission recommendations and the net zero target

Net zero: Commission recommendations and the net zero target

4 May 2020
Net zero: Opportunities for the power sector

Net zero: Opportunities for the power sector

6 Mar 2020
Ofgem decarbonisation action plan a welcome step forward

Ofgem decarbonisation action plan a welcome step forward

The energy regulator Ofgem has today published its decarbonisation plan for the UK’s energy sector to support the growth of EVs, promote growth in offshore generation and unlock investment in green technologies. Its plan sets out nine actions to ensure energy networks can deliver the UK’s net zero emissions goals, including a programme to decarbonise...

3 Feb 2020 By
Utility regulators must have new powers if UK is to tackle climate change

Utility regulators must have new powers if UK is to tackle climate change

The UK will fail to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if regulators aren’t given new powers to ensure utility companies invest in sustainable infrastructure, according to a report from the National Infrastructure Commission. Chair Sir John Armitt said the UK’s regulatory system must adapt to meet the demands of the future and...

11 Oct 2019 By
Climate-proofing the UK’s infrastructure must be a priority (article)
Portrait of Sir John Armitt

Climate-proofing the UK’s infrastructure must be a priority (article)

Our Chair Sir John Armitt has today written an article in Business Green highlighting the importance of future-proofing the UK’s infrastructure against the impacts of climate change, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 9 on building resilient infrastructure. His text is reproduced below. “Throughout history, human beings have used infrastructure to master our...

8 Aug 2019 By
Government’s ‘net zero’ pledge highlights urgency of shift to low-carbon economy

Government’s ‘net zero’ pledge highlights urgency of shift to low-carbon economy

Responding to today’s government commitment to ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, National Infrastructure Commission Chair Sir John Armitt today said the recognition of the threats from climate change was an important step, but must be followed up by tangible actions to prepare the UK economy for a low-emissions future. The UK’s first-ever National...

12 Jun 2019 By
New report highlights difficult – but achievable – steps necessary to deliver zero carbon UK economy

New report highlights difficult – but achievable – steps necessary to deliver zero carbon UK economy

A new report today says big reductions in the cost of renewable energy generation mean the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is achievable. But only if steps are taken now to boost low carbon power and heating – in line with recommendations made in the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment. The Committee...

1 May 2019 By
Reducing the environmental impact of freight
Lorries on a busy UK motorway

Reducing the environmental impact of freight

17 Apr 2019
Ban new diesel HGV sales by 2040 to help make UK freight carbon free

Ban new diesel HGV sales by 2040 to help make UK freight carbon free

Ministers should ban the sale of new diesel HGV lorries by no later than 2040, a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says today. The development of hydrogen and battery HGVs is already well advanced and vehicles are expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s. Sir John Armitt, the Commission chairman,...

16 Apr 2019 By
UK’s freight is fast & efficient but it needs our help to deliver cleanly
Portrait of Andy Green

UK’s freight is fast & efficient but it needs our help to deliver cleanly

Every day, all of us rely on the efficiency of our freight industry to deliver goods to our homes and businesses: the manufacturer dependent on just-in-time delivery of crucial parts; the family that avoids the weekly trip to the supermarket in favour of getting their groceries dropped off at their doorstep; or the shopper looking...

16 Apr 2019 By
Report shows need to tackle carbon and congestion caused by ever-greater demands for deliveries

Report shows need to tackle carbon and congestion caused by ever-greater demands for deliveries

Whitehall and Town Halls should offer greater support to efforts to meet people’s growing demands for fast deliveries while also reducing congestion and carbon emissions, the National Infrastructure Commission warned today. As more and more consumers are looking to get next-day deliveries on their last-minute Christmas shopping this weekend, chairman Sir John Armitt argued the...

21 Dec 2018 By
IPCC report shows need for urgent action on climate change

IPCC report shows need for urgent action on climate change

A new report from the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the need for urgent action – including on tackling the environmental impact of infrastructure. The report highlights the potential impact of global temperatures rising by more than 1.5C, and urges action including a switch to 80 per cent renewables by 2050, reducing coal use...

8 Oct 2018 By
National Infrastructure Assessment 1
Man among huge solar power plant

National Infrastructure Assessment 1

The National Infrastructure Assessment looks at the United Kingdom’s future economic infrastructure needs up to 2050 and makes key recommendations for how to deliver new transport, low carbon energy and digital networks, how to recycle more and waste less, and how future infrastructure should be paid for.

10 Jul 2018
The impact of the environment and climate change on future infrastructure supply and demand

The impact of the environment and climate change on future infrastructure supply and demand

A paper focused on the environment, forming part of a series looking at the drivers of future infrastructure supply and demand in the UK.

12 Jun 2017
Costs and benefits of GB interconnection
Woman walking dog along beach

Costs and benefits of GB interconnection

4 Mar 2016

Join our team of professionals supporting the Commission to provide evidence based and forward thinking advice on infrastructure strategy.