Zero carbon future for Humber is no pipe dream - Emma Hardy

NOVEMBER 2020 was meant to have been a key moment in the energy and environmental world – the UK’s hosting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26.

The Humber is at the forefront of a green energy revolution.

This offered the opportunity to put Britain centre stage in championing its ambitions, policies and projects to tackle climate change.

But whilst we have understandably had to focus attention on the immediate threat of Covid-19, we must not overlook the challenges – and the opportunities – in addressing this other existential threat.

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Throughout this year many regions, including my own in the Humber, which is the UK’s highest carbon-emitting industrial cluster, have been working hard to put together plans which can help to lower harmful emissions and move towards a cleaner, greener economy.

The presence of Siemens has transformed Hull's economic landscape.

This issue is close to people’s hearts in this region, which is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and has suffered significant floods in recent decades.

One of the major projects taking shape is Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH). This promises to be a real game-changer, with its offer of low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) across the Humber’s industrial sites, joined up by a trans-regional pipeline connecting to safe under-sea storage for carbon emissions.

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Last week, my two fellow Hull MPs and I wrote to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng to express our support for the project. We believe it offers a world-class opportunity to decarbonise the region whilst promoting local industry, attracting future inward investment and creating new jobs.

Some of the Humber’s largest emitters are also the largest employers, such as in steelmaking, chemicals and refining. Projects that can decarbonise these industries will also future-proof them, preserve jobs and skills, and create new opportunities for the local economy.

The ZCH partnership includes 12 major energy and industrial organisations, many of which are significant contributors to Yorkshire and the Humber’s economy – ABP, British Steel; Centrica, Drax, Equinor, Mitsubishi Power, National Grid, px Group, SSE Thermal, Triton Power, Uniper and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

These partners have now bid for public funding alongside their own to kick-start their ground-breaking project.

Earlier in November, Ed Miliband, the Shadow Business Secretary (and Doncaster MP) co-launched the Labour Party’s Green Economic Recovery paper, which highlights a number of crucial areas in the drive towards net zero:

The need for widespread deployment of CCUS technology to decarbonise energy-intensive industries such as those seen in the Humber and elsewhere in the North;

The significant potential offered by hydrogen to decarbonise industry, transport, heating and logistics, including in chemicals and steel manufacturing that operates on the banks of the River Humber;

The importance of providing long-term policy support to traditional heavy industries like steelmaking, coupled with a green public procurement strategy, to safeguard jobs and UK industry that many in this region rely upon;

The opportunities to transition highly skilled workers from the oil and gas sector into low-carbon energy alternatives, which is particularly relevant to communities like ours that have a historic relationship with the North Sea.

I think it’s notable that the Zero Carbon Humber proposals tick all these boxes. Zero Carbon Humber also ticks many boxes in the Government’s new “Ten Point Plan”. I believe it is important to show cross-party support for such forward-thinking proposals.

It will not have escaped anyone’s attention that in recent weeks Hull has unfortunately had the UK’s highest Covid rate, and many other areas across Yorkshire and the north of England have been affected particularly hard by this dreadful pandemic.

This is not only devastating to health but also to livelihoods and local economies.

I welcome the call to “build back greener” and believe that it will send a strong, positive signal if the Government backs exciting game-changing projects like Zero Carbon Humber at this difficult time.

Emma Hardy is the Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle.

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