UK cities and regions embrace zero-carbon challenge

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Two new campaigns have taken big next steps in the UK to deliver zero-carbon cities and clusters.

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Two new campaigns have taken big next steps in the UK to deliver zero-carbon results, with the city of Bristol in the southwest launching a search for a partner to develop the country’s first carbon neutral city, and the Humber region in the country’s north launching its campaign to deliver the UK’s first net-zero carbon cluster.

The Bristol City Council in partnership with Bristol Energy, the city’s energy company, launched the Bristol City Leap last year, an ambitious project intended to deliver a zero-carbon, smart energy city by 2030.

This week, Bristol City Leap has launched a global search to deliver up to £1 billion (AU$1.8 billion) of investment into the project, creating a joint venture to support the delivery of the UK’s first carbon neutral city.

“City Leap is a world first,” said Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol. “We are creating a decarbonised local energy system that Bristol can be proud of.

“City Leap is leading the way on carbon reduction, while at the same time addressing important social and economic challenges.

“The inclusion of Bristol Energy is integral to delivering smart energy propositions utilising City Leap’s projects by weaving a number of technologies together, helping to ensure that the company continues to deliver clean energy and social value for local people.”

Since its launch last year, Bristol City Leap has already attracted the interest form over 180 local, national, and international organisations, including technology firms, investors, community organisations, and energy and infrastructure developers.

Already, £50 million (AU$90 million) has been invested into Bristol low-carbon and renewable energy projects since 2012 and has helped the Council cut its own emissions by 71% by 2005.

“City Leap will help us deliver a sustainable energy company with social value at its heart,” said Marek Majewicz, Managing Director of Bristol Energy, which will play a key role in City Leap. “From community heat networks, to energy innovation in social housing, the substantial investment from the partnership will enable everyone in Bristol to benefit from low carbon, renewable energy projects.

“Bristol Energy is already working on a wide range of innovative projects and we’re looking forward to harnessing low-carbon technologies for the good of our city and our customers.”

On the same day that Bristol’s City Leap launched its search for a financial partner, a new campaign was launched at the other end of the country to turn the Humber region into the country’s first net-zero carbon cluster.

The Zero Carbon Humber campaign was launched by leading energy companies Drax Group, Equinor, and National Grid Ventures, in partnership with Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and CATCH, a trade body for industrials in the Humber region.

The campaign was launched in response to the UK Government’s ambition to establish the first net-zero carbon industrial cluster in the UK by 2040.

“By working together the Humber region can become the world’s first zero carbon economy and thrive again as a British industrial powerhouse and be at the forefront of the fight against the climate crisis,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group. “We can help Britain become a world leader in emerging technologies like carbon capture, preserving and creating jobs, and rebalancing the economy.”

“The potential of this project is substantial for the Humber and the wider region in decarbonising multiple sectors of the economy,” added Irene Rummelhoff, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Midstream & Processing at Equinor.

“It can also act as a catalyst for clean growth for the UK and other countries. We look forward to continuing the good progress we have already made and working with new partners to develop these plans further.”

The Humber, in the north of England, is home to the UK’s largest industrial economy, employing 55,000 people and contributing £18 billion (AU$32.4 billion) to UK GDP each year.

Hosting around 100 chemical and refining companies alone – which together account for around 12% of total employment in the UK chemicals sector – the Humber hopes to leverage its rich heritage of industry, skills, and trade to deliver on the Government’s desire to create a world-first net-zero carbon cluster.

Failing to decarbonise the Humber industrial region, however, will see costs of between £1.4bn and £4.2bn in carbon taxes alone by 2040, which will only serve to make the region less attractive to global investors, in turn risking jobs and supply chains.

“This campaign is about tackling carbon so that we can keep major industrial business across the Humber open,” said Jon Butterworth, COO, Global Transmission at National Grid Ventures. “If we get it right, we will help put the region back on the world stage and attract the industries of the future.

The power industry has already made great strides to decarbonise the sector and continues to do so through the growth of renewables, battery storage and interconnectors. Today’s call for support represents the next critical step in helping us make sure we also get our plans right for industry. I urge them to join us and help shape a better future for the Humber.”

The consortium pushing to deliver the Zero Carbon Humber has issued a call for expressions of interest from more industrial businesses across the Humber region who would like to sign up to the campaign.

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