Andy Parkinson: Why Hull and the Humber can be at the vanguard of fight to combat climate change

Hull - and communities along the Humber Estuary - are at the vanguard of attempts to combat climate change.
Hull - and communities along the Humber Estuary - are at the vanguard of attempts to combat climate change.
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JUST a few months ago, the world received the most compelling warning yet of the threat to the planet from climate change. A landmark report by the world’s leading climate scientists warned we have only 12 years to keep global warming within a maximum of 1.5C to avoid catastrophic effects.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said even half a degree beyond this level would significantly worsen the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people, with the impact devastating for low-lying coastal areas.

Andy Parkinson, Chair of Marketing Humber, with managing director Diana Taylor on the Hessle foreshore.

Andy Parkinson, Chair of Marketing Humber, with managing director Diana Taylor on the Hessle foreshore.

It is easy to see this as a threat to faraway places – about the prospect of small island states in the Pacific or Indian Ocean being swamped by rising sea levels. But the threat is very real in our part of our fragile planet. No fewer than 740 regions around the world are listed as at high risk. The Humber is one of them.

That’s why climate change is directly relevant to the Humber and why we have a pressing need to play our full part in avoiding a devastating fate. We have begun to do that. Once one of the most polluting regions in Europe, the Humber is now making rapid progress in decarbonisation of power generation and energy supply.

Our reputation as the UK’s Energy Estuary is built on sustainable foundations. The Humber is a world leader in offshore wind, the fastest-growing element of the UK’s drive to a low-carbon economy. But this is not just about the necessity to act. There is also a huge opportunity.

In a recent blog, Microsoft founder Bill Gates outlined five “grand challenges” that must be met to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive up global temperatures. These challenges focus on power generation, manufacturing, transport, agriculture and buildings. All of them are relevant to the Humber.

As a region, we are a significant power producer and have a high proportion of manufacturing compared to the rest of the UK. Much of this industry is clustered around the estuary, the UK’s largest trading complex, and a major corridor for international shipping. The Humber also has large rural areas with significant farming activity and food production.

Gates is spearheading an investment fund, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which is looking for projects that support the transition to a low carbon future. It’s just one of many such global funds.

Here in the Humber we must see this as an opportunity not to be missed. With our geographical location, established industrial assets and growing green energy credentials, we could not be better positioned to be a “living lab” in which to develop ideas and showcase how the world, especially coastal regions, can work towards a clean growth future.

At Marketing Humber, we have recognised this opportunity and brought together partners to focus on it.

This evening in the magnificent surroundings of Hull Minster we will join with the University of Hull in launching a long-term campaign aimed at developing new models that demonstrate how decarbonisation can deliver both environmental sustainability and economic growth.

Our member businesses – the Bondholder Ambassadors – will hear from Lord Prescott, one of the architects of the ground-breaking Kyoto Protocol that committed nations around the world to cut greenhouse gases, and Professor Dan Parsons, of the University of Hull, an acknowledged international expert in flooding and flood risk.

We will also announce the creation of the London Humber Ambassadors Club, which will develop thinking on how decarbonisation can drive economic growth as well as seeking to influence Government policy and attract investments in academic and industrial research and development.

A key feature of the campaign will be collaboration. We will be working closely with the Humber Local Economic Partnership and the region’s local authorities to develop long-term thinking on how the Humber makes the required transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

We know the Humber is a vital strategic and economic asset to the UK. Now is the time to make the region globally relevant, through transformational ideas that are transferable around the world. It’s an exciting vision. Working together, we can truly put the Humber on the map by addressing the most critical of global issues.

Andy Parkinson is Chair of Marketing Humber, the organisation that promotes the region on the national and international stage.