Greg Mulholland: Why Britain can bank on this region to lead the way into a green economy

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THE Green Investment Bank is one of the most exciting policy ideas put forward by the coalition.

However, if it is to succeed, it has to deliver the bold vision laid out by Ministers. It must innovate, it must challenge and it must be about doing things differently.

The Green Investment Bank is a big opportunity. It is also an opportunity for the Leeds City Region. But it is an even bigger opportunity for Yorkshire and the Humber to showcase the unique of mix of expertise, infrastructure and communication links in the region.

It is also a chance for the Government to show that it really is serious about innovating, regenerating and doing things differently.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said recently: “For years, our prosperity has been pinned on financial wizardry in London’s Square Mile, with other sectors and other regions left behind. That imbalance left us hugely exposed when the banking crisis hit... it is time to correct that imbalance.

“We need to spread growth across the whole country and across all sectors.”

If that doesn’t suggest that the Green Investment Bank should be not only outside London, but in a region where it has real power to harness, innovate and regenerate, I don’t know what does.

The Government’s vision is an admirable and exciting one. The case for the GIB to be in Leeds is similarly exciting and innovative. It seems to be an excellent match. The Leeds City Region already has a mission to be become a world class low carbon economy.

At the same time, the Government has announced aims to be the greenest ever and the bank assist the UK in making the all important transition to a green economy. As the portfolio holder for Energy and Climate Change in “Team Leeds” – a project created to form a dialogue between the business community in Leeds and the city’s eight MPs – I have been leading the Leeds City Region’s Parliamentary campaign for the Green Investment Bank that culminated with this week’s bid submission to Ministers. The question now is if it will be successful.

The Leeds City Region is serious about business, with close to three million people, a diverse resident workforce of 1.5 million, 106,000 businesses and an economy with £53bn a year. It offers three key attributes, which make it the perfect location for the Green Investment Bank and also seems to provide an excellent fit with the Government’s own criteria.

Firstly, location. As well as having excellent transport links to the rest of the country, the Leeds City Region is also close to some of the UK’s most exciting low carbon sustainable investment opportunities, including electric transport infrastructure, offshore energy, carbon capture and storage, as well as biomass and renewable energy production. There is a clear commitment to green ideals in the region, which is at the forefront of the transition to a low carbon economy.

Secondly, its talent in finance, business and the green economy. The region is already home to three banks and four building societies as well as 10 private equity firms. Most importantly, the business sector in the region has a strong record in supporting low carbon development, with the environmental expertise. Notably the region’s carbon capture and storage programme has been successfully led by Leeds-based CO2Sense.

Thirdly, the Leeds City Region also offers outstanding value for money, something the Government will no doubt have at the forefront of their minds. The region has a significant portfolio of affordable office space, in high quality and low-carbon buildings. As well as this, Leeds has highly competitive staffing and recruitment costs.

So the potential for green investment in the Yorkshire and Humber region is huge.

We now know what the Government will be judging potential locations for the bank on their ability to recruit and retain the specialist staff needed to run the organisation, enable the GIB to work closely with other parties involved in deals as well as other investment bodies, project developers and green technology providers, and finally be in a location that provides good value for money. It is undeniable that Leeds meets all these criteria exactly.

So we know that the Government is serious about the Green Investment Bank and the vision it can deliver towards a green economy. Well, those of involved in the campaign to bring the GIB to Yorkshire are just as serious, serious not just about it being in the Leeds City Region, but succeeding and excelling in a way that benefits the whole of Yorkshire. The competition will be tough, with London and Bristol the most obvious contenders.However, in terms of “best fit” with the Government’s own criteria, Ministers cannot fail to notice that Leeds will take some beating.

Greg Mulholland is the Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West.

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