'White elephant' green spending should be ploughed into road and rail infrastructure

A right-leaning think tank has published a report arguing that the billions spent on subsidising the green agenda would be better spent on the UK's basic infrastructure.

Reform, a pro-market forces think tank, says that the UK's infrastructure is ranked 34th in the world, despite it being the sixth richest country in the world.

It argues that money spent on 'white elephant projects without financial merit' such as offshore wind farms and high-speed rail links would be put to better use in basic transport, utilities and communications infrastructure.

It pours scorn on the cross-party interest in a green technology revolution, calling this is "a new corporatist agenda with as little hope as the white heat of the 1960s."

The report calls for a greater use of public-private partnerships for financing infrastructure and Government to focus on economic benefits rather than meeting social goals or propping up industry.

The report actually praised one scheme with environmental benefits - the London Congestion Charge - as it was in keeping with its advice that Government should pursue a policy of charges for those who use particular facilities or services, rather than blanket taxes for all.

It did recommend, however, that green tax schemes, such as the Renewables Obligation Certificates, should be phased out.

As might be expected,the think tank's findings are not universally accepted.

Adrian Wilkes, chairman of the Environmental Industries Commission, told edie that it authors were out on a limb and going against the consensus of a growing number of governments, not just Britain's.

Simply looking at the up-front cost of green infrastructure rather than long term savings was, he claimed, not seeing the whole picture.

"The problem is that we are dealing with a market failure here," he said.

"As if you don't factor in the cost of carbon or any other kind of pollution, your market system is going to be fatally flawed.

"The human race faces a huge challenge to solve the climate change problem that's going to require trillions of dollars of investment."

Sam Bond



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