The North West has the potential to “lead the way” in global efforts to become carbon neutral, and has set the ambitious target of achieving that goal by 2030 – two decades before the national 2050 date.
Key to this is the North West Energy and Hydrogen Cluster – a scheme delivering decarbonisation of the region’s industrial sector, hoping to be the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster in 11 years’ time.
As well as saving the planet, it’s hoped the initiative could deliver 33,000 jobs and over £4bn investment, with the scheme supported by the Liverpool and Manchester metro mayors, as well as Local Enterprise Partnerships in Cheshire and Warrington.
Leading the charge to save 10m tonnes of carbon every year is the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT), headed up by Chair Richard Carter, who is also managing director of chemical production giant BASF’s UK head office in Cheadle, Stockport.
Speaking to BusinessLive, he said: “The topic is bigger than all of us – it’s as simple as that.
“Many people say to me that the UK is only responsible for a tiny amount of carbon emissions around the world.
“They say ‘why should the UK and North West be leading an initiative like this? It should be up to China, India and so on’.
“But the key thing is nationally and regionally, we want to improve the situation – and we could do just that with our game-changing initiatives.
“Technologies that can and will be applied in the North West can be exploited globally. So if the North West becomes a leader for decarbonisation in the UK, it will pull people in.
“We have the potential to lead the way here, and we have already started, with some of the initiatives having received funding.”
NWBLT says the region is at the forefront of UK manufacturing – as well as being home to a concentration of energy intensive users which have been a “major driver” for growth. But we now face a major challenge to decarbonise.
If the issue is not solved, those industries will “disappear”, which is why NWBLT believes the region has a huge chance to be world leaders on the agenda – driving innovation, attracting investment and creating jobs and supply chain opportunities.
Mr Carter said the North West has some of the best prerequisites in the UK to become one of the first net-zero carbon clusters, adding: “When we look at the industrial strategies in the UK, many of them have set out goals to be carbon neutral by 2050. For us, we are a lot more ambitious, and hope to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“So far, it has been an excellent example of collaboration – if you look at the companies involved, the universities, technologies institutes, we are talking about 40 or 50 different stakeholders.
“This collaboration represents one of the most vibrant clusters in the UK with a wide range of energy intensive industry partners. This is a game-changing opportunity.”
Mr Carter said one of the areas in which the North West is leading the way is hydrogen. The region is home to HyNet – the most advanced hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) project in the UK.
That project could see hydrogen blended into the gas grid and piped into homes and businesses across Liverpool, Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington, within the next five years.
The project will initially save one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO) emissions every year (rising to up to 10 million tonnes per year), creating a replicable model for the rest of the UK and beyond. It would also see hydrogen supplied in new pipelines to major manufacturing and power generation sites reducing the carbon footprint of industry and creating many opportunities.
The Liverpool City Region declared a Climate Emergency earlier this year with hydrogen forming a critical part of the planned response.
Targets included replacing all methane with hydrogen from the city region’s gas grid by 2035 and delivering a network of at least eight zero-carbon refuelling stations by 2025.
Liverpool City Region Business News
But Mr Carter said said it was vital such projects receive Government support – from whichever party forms a government after the General Election on December 12.
He said: “One of the challenges for us all in North West is to develop a road map to make things happen, and to utilise national government funding.
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“There are pots of money to be deployed and invested in this.”
He called on whoever leads the next government to provide clarity as soon as possible, in revealing policy frameworks and “how that road map may look.”
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