To meet the climate change targets agreed at Paris, billions of pounds of green investment will be needed to upgrade the UK’s energy and transport infrastructure. The Green Investment Bank has so far done a sterling job of attracting capital to low-carbon infrastructure projects in the UK that might otherwise have struggled to find funding. The privatisation of the GIB (Report, 3 March) could move its focus away from novel and riskier low-carbon projects in favour of easier, more commercial projects
I am not opposed to privatisation if it can be shown that it is the right policy tool to get the job done. But the decision to sell the GIB seems to have been rushed through just to get it off the government’s balance sheet. The Commons environmental audit committee found that the decision was taken without due transparency, consultation or proper consideration of alternatives. Ministers have simply not yet proved to parliament that the bank will achieve its aims better in the private sector. The government has relied heavily on assurances from potential shareholders and executives that stand to benefit from the sale. If the sale goes ahead, the government should ensure that the GIB remains accountable to parliament by reporting annually on the pay of its top team.
The EAC recommended that the government undertake proper consultation and evidence-gathering before any sale, and that protecting the GIB’s green identity should be paramount. I welcome the secretary of state’s pledge to protect the bank’s green status with a special share, as my committee recommended, but I am concerned that without locking this in legislation it may not be secure.
I will be supporting amendments to that effect when the sale is debated in the Commons this week. If the government cannot guarantee that the GIB will continue to invest in smart, energy-efficient, low-carbon projects, the sale should not go ahead.
Mary Creagh MP
Chair, Environmental audit committee
First published by the Guardian on 6th March 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/06/the-green-investment-bank-must-be-allowed-to-stay-green?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other