Prior to the 1700s, Britain was a military power of considerable standing but hardly distinguished itself when it came to economics, a legacy of feudalism.
But a number of factors led to Britain dominating the planet within an impressively short time frame.
The Civil War had the long-term impact of limiting the powers of the monarchy and handing more control to Parliament. This in turn begat our great social institutions along with the indomitable Rule of Law.
These factors combined would probably have led to Great Britain leading the Industrial Revolution anyway, a transformation in which Yorkshire was a crucial player but what made Britain so powerful in this process was the unique natural resources it possessed in the shape of coal, iron and other resources, which were bountiful for such a small island as ours.
The Industrial Revolution was transformative in terms of British society, creating vast cities and transport infrastructures to link them which persist to this day.
But it also created social and environmental conditions with which we are still struggling to this day.
The impact of the Industrial Revolution did more than change human history, it changed the planet’s. We are now faced with an environmental catastrophe which will within many of our lifetimes make seismic impacts on our everyday life that make Covid-19 look like a day at the beach.
Britain has a net zero carbon deadline of 2050 and many in private industry have set themselves more stringent targets of achieving this even sooner, some by the decade’s end.
At a time when much focus is in rebuilding the economy after the devastating impact of the pandemic, we need an economic pivot and supercharging process that is equal in worth of the Industrial Revolution.
The hour of the green economy revolution is at hand and, as in Georgian and Victorian times, we in Yorkshire are primed to play a central role.
Last week myself and my colleagues spent many hours canvasing views of national leaders in policy, politics and commerce. These included the deputy governor of the Bank of England, the head of the Institute of Directors, the shadow business secretary and many, many more. Virtually to a man and woman, all of these leading thinkers and decision makers cited Yorkshire as being a destination ideal to deliver the green economy our nation needs.
The Local Government Association has published research saying that as many as 150,000 green energy jobs could be created in Yorkshire over the next 30 years.
Investments in green energy projects like Siemen’s wind turbine factory in Hull (which is set to double in size), the Pensana investment into a rare earth facility on the Humber and the work that the px Group is doing in the same areas show private industry already recognises this potential and is backing this up with millions of pounds worth of investment.
North Yorkshire’s Drax is pressing ahead with its carbon capture scheme which could take millions of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere and create thousands of jobs in doing so. And the much vaunted Green Infrastructure Bank is absolutely ideal for a city like Leeds.
All of this points towards the need for Government to make good on its pledge of creating a more balanced economy and to invest in the North.
It must now follow where private industry is leading and create a policy network that allows to once again become a world-leading power that takes the global economy into a fresh and sustainable direction.
The train is very much leaving the station and if we are not onboard than somewhere lese will be. No one wants Britain to return to the dark ages, let us put the environment and Yorkshire first and write a proud new chapter in our nation’s history.