The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has brought many important questions to the fore, including how do we better leverage the North’s assets, international connections and relationships to ensure a contribution on a global scale.
In this, the Humber has a golden opportunity to take a radical departure from the status quo. The Humber has acknowledged strengths and further potential in energy production and industrial processes including chemical refinery, clean energy, hydrogen production and carbon capture.
It also trades with the world through its ports at Immingham, Goole, Hull and Grimsby. Together, these factors mean it is a region primed to position itself at the forefront of the global transition to a zero carbon economic model.
As the UK’s highest CO2 emitting industrial cluster, the Humber holds the key to unlocking this ambition and making this most necessary of transformations.
The Humber LEP was awarded nearly £100,000 of funding last year to enable the first phase of work on a detailed decarbonisation delivery plan for the region’s estuarial industrial cluster.
For this relatively minimal investment, the Humber Industrial Decarbonisation Roadmap (HIDR) could become a 21st century game-changer not only for the North, or indeed the country, but the entire world.
We’re facing a global climate emergency, so we need to aim high and time is of the essence. We need to deliver and we need to do so quickly.
If fully realised, the HIDR will develop into a multi-million pounds programme that will reduce carbon emissions significantly and kickstart a new, green growth economy. And that’s not all.
In generating more than 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity, of which almost a fifth is exported to the rest of the country, the Northern Powerhouse contributes a significant amount of energy to the national economy.
Our analysis has shown the potential to harness this unique position to deliver a 50 per cent reduction in UK carbon levels by 2032, along with 100,000 new jobs, and £2bn a year to the economy by 2050.
To make a significant mark in this space, however, we will need the North to be better connected. We need to accelerate decisions and delivery on infrastructure, including for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, bringing equilibrium to one of the most overcentralised economies on the planet. Better connectivity also means improving digital infrastructure.
That said, our focus needs to move beyond gross domestic product. If we improve our connectivity in these ways, we will enhance our ability to collaborate more efficiently and set the path towards creating ‘Net Zero North’ – a truly pan-northern opportunity to realise our internationally significant clean growth vision.
With its potential for major investments into clean growth infrastructure, all eyes will be on the Humber to see where it can take us. This was further highlighted by last week’s approval of the Humber Freeport, which was confirmed in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget speech and will attract significant investment in decarbonisation, potentially establishing the region as a manufacturing hub for net zero technologies.
A number of other innovative projects, including Zero Carbon Humber, H2H Saltend and Lagoon Hull, will be showcased at a forthcoming high-profile virtual event aimed at helping to help secure billions of pounds of investment.
This event – The Humber: An Innovation and Investment Hotspot – will show we have the assets, ambition, willpower and strategy to succeed. It is crucial we continue making the case that the Northern Powerhouse offers solutions not only for the rest of the country, but for the sustainability of our planet.
* Roger Marsh will be speaking at The Humber: An Innovation and Investment Hotspot, which takes place from 8.30-10.15am on Thursday, March 11. To register for this free digital event, organised by Marketing Humber, visit www.marketinghumber.com
Roger Marsh is Chair of the NP11, which represents all the Local Enterprise Partnerships LEPs in the North, and Chair of the Leeds City Region LEP.
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