The low-carbon economy across the region already supports an impressive number of jobs – at about 17,000, it’s well above average. Relative to our population, we’re also leading the UK in terms of renewable energy generation powered by biomass.
Take the Drax Power Station, in Selby, for example. It’s fuelled by compressed wood pellets sourced from sustainably managed forests and waste from existing forestry work. This is a prime example of a firm using greener ways of working to reduce its carbon footprint.
So far, so good – we’re working from a strong base and the region is playing its rightful role in helping the UK reach its targets.
But this should be a platform, not a plateau – and at Lloyds Banking Group, we want to play our part in helping UK businesses seize the opportunities that will allow them to recover and grow a low-carbon, green economy.
We commissioned The Oxford Economics UK Green Growth Index to set out the opportunities and the challenges for each of the country’s regions and nations.
For example, Yorkshire and the Humber has one of the largest natural gas-fired power capacities in the country and emissions rates from businesses and households are among the highest in the UK.
We currently spend £300 per person on Research and Development (R&D), which is the second lowest amount among regions of the UK, and we need to do better. But this low base means we have headroom to do so much more and puts into sharp focus the importance of increasing investment in research and development to support the innovations needed for the transition to net zero.
Make no mistake, the challenge is immense for the whole country. The Climate Change Committee estimates that more than £50bn a year will need to be invested between 2025 and 2050 if the UK is to meet its net zero target, a total of £1.4tn.
These huge figures highlight how much is being asked of every region and nation.
And while Yorkshire and the Humber might have more to do in certain areas, none of what we should be doing – plugging the skills gap, investing in R&D and transitioning to a low carbon future – is impossible.
Some of the work is already underway. Last year, the National Grid and several major energy companies formed the Northern Endurance Partnership to develop offshore carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure in the North Sea.
This will serve the proposed Zero Carbon Humber project that aims to establish a decarbonised industrial cluster in the Humber – a huge opportunity for growth that could span over many decades.
Meanwhile, the University of Leeds is currently playing host to an office of the Connected Places Catapult, which supports innovation by connecting industry, academics, investors and the public sector. Its purpose? To accelerate innovation for cities, transport and places – another opportunity.
Leeds has also been chosen as the home of the new UK Infrastructure Bank, which will support green investment, the transition to net zero and the Government’s levelling-up agenda.
The UK’s green economy is starting to take shape and the chance for us to thrive is here. Initiatives like the Government’s £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund – which will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK – will also play a significant role.
At Lloyds Banking Group, we know we have a role to play in supporting our customers and clients make the most of the opportunities on offer and we are determined to do all we can to deliver on that.
In the end though, what will really power the green revolution in Yorkshire and the Humber is the grit, drive and ambition to turn the climate crisis into a catalyst for change.
Catherine Rutter is Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for Yorkshire
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