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Low carbon economy key to Northern England

12th September 2016

A new report from the Aldersgate Group out today, Setting the pace: Northern England’s low carbon economy, shows how low carbon projects in the North of England are contributing to increased economic activity in the region. Supporting the continued growth of the North’s low carbon economy should be a priority for national and regional government.

The report explores how low carbon investment is already creating jobs and developing supply chains, generating clean energy, protecting infrastructure and supporting skills development and innovation in the region. It also shows that the low carbon economy could deliver greater levels of growth to the region in the future. The report features a range of low carbon projects across the North, including a cluster of low carbon investment in Hull from Siemens, Associated British Ports and DONG Energy, shared emission reduction infrastructure creating a low emission industrial zone in the Tees Valley, and peatland restoration by Yorkshire Water in the Pennines.

Regeneration in the North has focused upon improved transport links through the Northern Powerhouse agenda, City and Growth deals and devolution deals. However, the Aldersgate Group argues that supporting the continued growth of the green economy also has a key role to play.

The report points to the 136,000 jobs in the North which have already been created by the low carbon sector.[1] It argues that, while businesses are already investing in low carbon projects, the extent to which the low carbon economy bolsters growth in the North could become even more meaningful in the coming years with reinforced support at both the national and regional levels.

Joan Walley, Chair of the Aldersgate Group, said: “We’ve seen from the great case studies in this report that the low carbon economy is supporting economic growth in the North of England as well as helping deliver the UK’s climate change targets. Both national government and devolved local authorities should build on these successes and continue to champion investment into low carbon infrastructure in the North so that it can continue setting the pace.”

Brent Cheshire, UK Country Chairman at DONG Energy said: “We are beginning to see the benefits of sustained investment in renewable energy in the North of England. It is not only helping to regenerate communities which have lost their traditional industries, but building a robust supply chain and attracting international manufacturers to locate plants in the UK.”

Matthew Knight, Director of Strategy and Government Affairs at Siemens said: ““The world must decarbonise, the question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.  The most jobs will go to those countries who get their act together first.  A clear low carbon industrial strategy now will help Britain grow its manufacturing base and become a major exporter of low carbon technologies such as offshore wind.”

In this report, the Aldersgate Group sets out some key recommendations for government to support the green engine of the Northern Powerhouse:

  1. A clear and stable national low carbon policy landscape to deliver the UK’s climate targets on time and budget, with a sufficiently detailed emission reduction plan that can drive greater private sector investment in low carbon technologies such as offshore wind and low emission vehicles.
  2. A new Carbon Capture and Storage strategy, to support roll out at a commercial scale, building on the learnings already acquired from the previous commercialisation programme.
  3. Improvements to the condition of natural resources, ensuring that local and national government better account for the importance of the natural environment in supporting economic activity and protecting businesses and communities from risks to infrastructure such as flooding and supporting the tourist industry. This should be accompanied by forward looking planning rules to ensure that any new infrastructure development is fit for purpose for the long term and resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  4. Regional champions of the low carbon economy, with devolved authorities routinely considering low carbon economy opportunities in local decision making and ensuring, where appropriate, opportunities for local community participation in such decision making
  5. Strengthened regional collaboration, in areas such as transport and digital infrastructure.
  6. More focus on the development of co-ordinated low carbon skills strategies, through greater collaboration between local government, the private sector, higher education and local educational bodies.
 

[1] The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2015) The size and performance of the UK low carbon economy