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Why green infrastructure is vital to our post-Covid recovery

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In the second of a blog series following on from our ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’ webinar, our Account Executive Simran Sarai discusses the importance of focusing an economic recovery  plan around green infrastructure.

As we seek to recover economically from the shock of COVID-19, the infrastructure sector must look towards building back greener. The government’s Energy White Paper announced investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, as well as carbon capture technology to decarbonise the economy.

Electric vehicles were also at the centre of Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Ed Miliband’s speech today (25 March 2020) on Labour’s plans to invest in £30bn green jobs through a green economic recovery. As outlined in a recent LGA report, investment in electric vehicles can charge up the green recovery and forge longer-term economic growth.

However, green infrastructure is about more than big-ticket items like EVs and wind turbines. It can be embedded into every aspect of placemaking and urban design.

WHAT IS GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE?

Green infrastructure is the conscious incorporation of environmental factors in spatial planning and development. This includes minimising carbon emissions and considering a project’s impact upon its surrounding ecosystem. Examples include permeable pavements and rain gardens, as well as the electric vehicle infrastructure and carbon capture technology outlined above. As well as protecting the environment, green infrastructure aims to upgrade the spatial planning process by looking at how towns and cities can build – as a whole – towards a greener future.

Green walls are brilliant examples of green infrastructure in the flesh. They are an innovative mitigation feature which unites biodiversity with infrastructure in an aesthetically pleasing way. The Living Wall at The Athenaeum Hotel in London exemplifies this. The industry must adapt to this environmentally-driven thinking in order to meet the demands of the future.

HOW IT WILL DRIVE RECOVERY

The government has pledged to create 220,000 green jobs by 2030. A green infrastructure strategy can supplement the solutions set out in the Energy White Paper by helping to localise environmental concerns. Subsequently, this maximises the benefits and potentially creates a greater number of green jobs in the long run – helping the government reach targets.

Furthermore, a report published by the Royal Institute of British Architects found that cities home to populations with the poorest health had the least amount of green spaces available, suggesting that green infrastructure is associated with positive health benefits.

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE LONG TERM

The most attractive aspect of a green infrastructure-based recovery plan is that it is sustainable. The government’s Net Zero Interim Report reinforces the need for an environmentally-friendly transformation of the infrastructure and development sectors if the UK wants to meet its net zero target. The European Commission’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 cites green infrastructure as a way of reversing damage to existing ecosystems and protecting the natural environment.

The green infrastructure strategy also goes hand-in-hand with levelling up of cities across the UK. The surge in lifetime skills that green infrastructure jobs will bring, combined with its efficient and sustainable principles, makes implementing the strategy a no-brainer in post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

To find out more about our work in supporting green infrastructure and economic development strategies, please contact Simran.Sarai@copperconsultancy.com

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