How Bradford can lead Britain's green transformation - Zahir Irani

Boris Johnson wants to turn Britain into the world’s number one centre for green technology and finance, building the foundations for decades of economic growth, and we believe Bradford can be at the heart of this transformation.

Library image of the University of Bradford’s School of Management

Across our metropolitan and rural district, we have a set of social, business and physical assets which, if fully harnessed, can help generate new jobs, increase prosperity and improve health and wellbeing. Prime Minister and advisers, please take note.

In our Covid Economic Recovery Plan, we have detailed our vision for Bradford to become a sustainable, resilient and connected low-carbon economy through infrastructure investment, business innovation and collective action.

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Bradford Council has launched the Sustainable Development Partnership to help the district achieve its ‘net zero’ carbon target by 2038 and has named business leader Dr Stewart Davies as chairman of the partnership. He is an influential figure in the green economy and last month was appointed to the board of the Environment Agency.

We are building momentum with flagship projects under way including a city centre heat network for cutting carbon and customer bills, expanding the number of electric vehicle charging points, switching the council fleet to electric, support for the Fair Trade initiative and increasing renewable energy generation across the council’s estate.

Earlier this month the council approved one of Britain’s most ambitious air quality action plans which will encourage drivers to switch to cleaner vehicles in Bradford city centre with investment of more than £40m to help bring down nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.

The Economic Recovery Partnership, which I chair, has recommended that Bradford create business cases for four game-changing projects – a neighbourhood-based retrofit energy efficiency programme, the development of a sustainable food supply system, supply chain support for hydrogen-powered light goods vehicles and the establishment of a circular economy demonstrator.

In every neighbourhood, we plan to retrofit homes and public buildings with energy efficiency technologies. In the longer term, we want to create ‘15-minute neighbourhoods’, where everything we need for daily life is within short walking distance.

Bradford is one of Britain’s strongest manufacturing centres and has sector strengths in the automotive industry. We want to help our automotive companies seize opportunities in the emerging supply chain for fuel cell electric vehicles.

We want Bradford to host a test bed for hydrogen-powered light goods vehicles and will work with our public and private sector partners to make this a reality.

A decade ago, the University of Bradford started working with Dame Ellen MacArthur and her foundation to help businesses change lanes to the circular economy, using the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

We are proud to have launched the world’s first circular economy MBA, equipping students and sponsoring bodies with the skills to use resources and energy more effectively, reuse products and materials and deliver increased profits.

We want to share this experience and expertise to develop a circular economy demonstrator and encourage more local businesses to realise the environmental and economic benefits, cutting carbon and generating employment.

Bradford was at the centre of the last great Industrial Revolution and our Economic Recovery Plan shows how the public, private and voluntary sectors can work together and put our young and enterprising district at the heart of the next one.

By Professor Zahir Irani - Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Bradford

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