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MS 5: Green Transition Package
Mr Speaker,

I rise today to update the House on how the government will use the £5.5bn “Green Transition Package” appropriated under the budget. This statement will build upon, clarify and elucidate upon prior announcements made in the fifteenth ministerial statement - on the Green Industrial Revolution - I made before the House in the last Parliament. One of the changes in the revised 2020 budget was an additional £500 million for the Green Transition Package. This allows us extra resources to help transition our economy to a greener and more sustainable future, and has allowed us to pursue a stronger and more diversified set of investments.

It is worth putting on the record that this is not the be all and end all of this government’s green investment strategy. These represent new forms of public sector green investment. This government is expanding existing methods of providing that investment - such as in home insulation, such as in flood defences, such as by using the government’s position to support new projects such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. We are also promoting new ways of encouraging private sector investment - such as through the renewable energy standard portfolio accounts contained within the climate change bill and by reversing Conservative cuts to feed-in tariffs that served to discourage home solar panel installation.

The first item will be the Green Investment Bank. £1.4 billion shall be used to create a new Green Investment Bank. The previous one - the first in the world of its kind - was regrettably privatised by the majority Conservative government. This will serve as seed capital that the Green Investment Bank will be able to use to leverage greater resources for its mission. In addition to the remit and responsibilities of the Bank as it previously existed, as a pioneering source of green infrastructure investment, we are giving the Green Investment Bank full powers to lend and borrow - as compatible with the overall framework of the public balance sheet - and to develop and issue green bonds, green mortgages and other green financial products. 

The UK is a leader in finance, and is already pioneering the development of new green financial instruments. The purpose of this restructured Green Investment Bank is to support these efforts. It will leverage greater private sector investment in crucial green infrastructure projects, including by mitigating the high level of risks often entailed by such investments. We are also including within this new incarnation of the Green Investment Bank ringfenced funding - £250 million of the overall investment of £1.4 billion - to create a venture capital arm of the Bank, to support high-risk yet high-potential projects and products in the early stages, with a focus on those from small and medium enterprises.

The prior iteration of the Green Investment Bank was able to leverage £15 billion in investment from a £1 billion capitalisation - we hope the expanded powers and the promise of additional top-up investments in future budgets will incentivise an even greater return of investment, coupled with the more mature status of many of these markets and technologies now. We hope it becomes a self-funding long-term investment arm of the UK government, including with an enduring venture capital wing to support bold new private investments. 

The second item will be the Just Transition Fund. This will be modelled after the Regional Growth Fund, which supported projects and programmes across the country to encourage further private sector investment and lasting economic opportunity in areas previously dependent predominantly on public sector employment. We will be providing, through the Just Transition Fund, grants and loans to eligible local authorities, local businesses, public-private partnerships, and other such entities as decreed appropriate. 

The purpose of the Fund will be to help those communities and local economies currently dependent on fossil fuels - either by virtue of being in an extraction or extraction-dependent industry, or by being in an industry that is currently highly fossil fuel intensive. We will support workers and communities in the former category transition into greener sectors, and will help the latter category find new ways of doing business. This includes communities who are undergoing such transformations, will undergo such transformations and have historically gone through such transformations. 

The Just Transition Fund has an initial investment of £1 billion. 

Thirdly, we turn to the question of natural beauty, environmental conservation and restoration, and natural capital. We are establishing a Natural Capital Fund, to be appropriated £1 billion in its first year, to focus on conserving, restoring, protecting and expanding our precious natural assets such as our saltmarshes, wetlands, peatlands, heathlands, coastal marshes and native woodlands, among others. A key part of this programme will be piloting “rewilding” schemes. Not only will this deliver intensive benefits in terms of carbon sequestration, but will deliver other benefits in terms of flood mitigation, wildlife preservation and long-term water quality improvement. Of this fund, at least £350 million will be earmarked towards agriculture: such as regenerative agriculture schemes, such as techniques that improve soil quality; methods to reduce methane emissions in animal husbandry; precision and organic farming techniques; and resources to reduce emissions from the use of nitrogen fertiliser. 

In addition to this Fund, we will be taking extra measures to protect biodiversity and bolster our natural capital.  

The benefits of planting trees - and the merits for dramatically expanding tree coverage throughout the UK - are well-documented. They are a phenomenal carbon sink and can also serve as invaluable new opportunities for tourism and sustainable timber. We know what can be achieved not just by expanding and creating new forests, but also by planting extra trees in urban areas and through agro-forestry. This is why we are creating a £250 million dedicated tree-planting, tree health and forest preservation programme. 

Tree coverage is not the only way to take carbon out of the atmosphere, however. Seagrass is an especially promising area, and it is only right we take it seriously too. It captures carbon at a speed up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests and though it covers only 0.2% of the seafloor it absorbs 10% of the ocean’s total carbon absorption. Restoring seagrass coverage can be an effective way of taking carbon out of the atmosphere, a crucial step to reinvigorating marine wildlife and replenishing fish populations, and to reverse the tragic fact that 92% of the UK’s seagrass has been lost over the twentieth century. A £90 million Seagrass Fund will fund research and pilot projects and invest in proven means of planting and preserving seagrass, using an evidence-based approach to maximise seagrass coverage, to establish the UK as a leader in restoring seagrass coverage. 

94% of our unique wildlife is located in British Overseas Territories and the Sovereign Base Areas. Much of our contribution to preserving global biodiversity, including ensuring the survival of endangered species and protecting marine life, will centre around what support we provide for these territories. To that end, we are establishing a £35 million British Overseas Ecosystems Fund - to support biodiversity, environmental preservation and restoration, green economy and renewable energy efforts, and the like. 

£50 million will be used to reverse the damage underfunding has done to the work of Natural England - helping Natural England rebuild capacity to catch up on the conservation backlog at Sites of Special Scientific Interest and ensure long-term protection for nature reserves, respond to requests from farmers to help with stewardship and conservation work, do its vital work on areas such as marine conservation and air pollution, and so on. The work of Natural England brings economic and environmental benefits, and I am pleased this government is supporting its vital work. 

£50 million, meanwhile, will be used to reverse damage done via cuts to the crucial work of the Environment Agency. Continued cuts to this Agency are, simply put, a false economy. With both the Environment Agency and Natural England, this is on top of the government’s decision to cease real-terms cuts - both in denying full inflation adjustments and in applying cuts in nominal value in far too many years. 

£25 million will be spent on wildlife preservation and animal welfare work. As to how this money will be divided: 

£3 million will be provided to grow the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Not only will this provide long-term funding certainty for the Unit - the longest period of certainty the Unit has ever received - but it will also be used to grow its operations, including increasing its ability to cooperate with international organisations such as Interpol and Europol. Protecting wild animals and plants is a priority of this government and we are pleased to support the NWCU’s work. 

£10 million will be used to support police forces and local authorities in strengthening their work against animal cruelty charges and crimes such as pet theft and pet smuggling, including supporting the collection of further data to best inform long-term policy.

£2 million will be provided to supplement and support research into a bovine TB vaccine and to strengthen badger vaccination programmes, including research into new ways of transmitting the vaccine. Oral trials were, sadly, unsuccessful, but that does not change the need to deal with the weaknesses of the trapping approach. 

£10 million is appropriated for researching and promoting practical and ethical alternatives to testing on animals, through the three Rs of replacement, reduction and refinement. 

The fourth broad topic I wish to turn to is transport. 

This government is determined to support the electric vehicle industry. £600 million will be used to create a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging points. We will also be using £75 million to support the electric vehicle industry in other ways - including exploring how best we can support service-led manufacture models, the development of sustainable spare parts and replacement sectors for electric vehicles, ramping up the use of electric vehicles in government vehicle fleets, and exploring how best we can use the batteries of electric vehicles, as energy storage, to smooth consumption against supply in local energy networks. Our ambition is simple - to get the electric vehicle industry to the point where it is the natural, common-sense point for further investment and enterprise, and we believe this package can help with that. 

We will be investing £300 million to support the development and commercialisation of sustainable airline fuels. Last parliament I told the House that, when it comes to tackling climate change, air travel is not the problem - air fuel is the problem. This is still something I wholeheartedly believe. We will set up an Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels, to coordinate cross-departmental governmental leadership to help develop and commercialise sustainable air fuels. The vast bulk of this money, however, will go to provide matching public funds for a first-in-the-world flagship facility, using wastes and residues to produce sustainable aviation fuels, creating a word-pioneering facility for testing and bringing to market new sustainable fuel proposals, and serving as a centre of excellence for the development of sustainable air fuels. 

We will be making various other investments to help support the transition to a green economy. £300 million will be provided for a “circular economy” drive. The point of a circular economy is, in effect, to make supply chains circular - to minimise waste and zero-use items, to minimise the costs that come from removing old materials from the supply chain and bringing new materials into them. This entails resource efficiency, energy efficiency and the promotion of reusing, repair, remanufacturing, servitisation, biorefining and recycling. This fund will go towards promoting the circular economy through two main methods: one is to encourage the use of circular economy processes through government contracting and procurement power, one is to strengthen the resources councils have in their recycling duties and the final - biggest, at £200 million - bulk of this package will go towards supporting research, infrastructure, loans, training and materials needed to ramp up the circular economy in the private sector. We’ll also include resource and energy efficiency services within the scope of this scheme. We want to bring down the resource cost burdens on companies and give this industry the support it needs to prosper.

Recognising the international problem of climate change, and that to truly make the UK a green economy we need to act as such on the international stage, we are investing £125 million from this Green Transition Package to create an International Green Investment Bank - a dedicate green alternative to the work done by the CDC.

£125 million will be used to support energy storage capacity, such as by building more interconnectors, investing in Smart Grid and demand response capabilities, investing in technology and research in this field, promoting community energy schemes, and improving the efficiency and availability of home batteries. 

Mr Speaker, this is a bold and ambitious programme of investment. I commend this statement to the House. 
Grant Smith
Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West (2005-present)

Media Unknown, Constituency Appeal, Campaign Organiser, Fundraiser Extraordinaire 
Previously: Sir Lachlan Domnhall Coinneach Duncan MacMahon; Graham Adiputera; I think I played some dull Labour bloke at one point

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