The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) aims to be the country’s first Net Zero Pathfinder region, leading the way in establishing clean energy systems, with best practices being shared with Government and other authorities in the run up to COP26.
This builds on the region’s achievements in clean transport, such as the All-Electric Bus City in Coventry, UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, industrial decarbonisation in the Black Country and its pioneering energy systems projects. But the WMCA’s energy experts Energy Capital, have said that the region could go further and faster, with more support and devolution from central Government.
The Net Zero Pathfinder document published by the WMCA today makes the case for more local control over energy policy and asks for the Government’s support to realise this ambition. The ten ‘asks’ of Government stress the need for a ‘local first’ approach to help the region make greater strides in tackling climate change, and include: a regional programme for the wide-scale retrofitting of homes; a new model for investment in major energy infrastructure; keeping control over energy levies raised in the region and local retention of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) – worth over £50m to the region.
Cadent’s West Midlands Network Director, Kate Grant
The Pathfinder paper builds on the Government’s Energy White Paper, setting out how the UK intends to clean up its energy network and reach its net zero emissions target of 2050. It is hoped that the move will boost jobs and accelerate the region’s plans for a green industrial revolution, enabling the decarbonisation of our homes, workplaces and transport systems, whilst unlocking billions in commercial investment.
The announcement of the region’s role as a pathfinder was made at a virtual Q&A with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street hosted by Cadent, the UK's largest gas distribution network and one of the first invitees to join the region’s new Net Zero Delivery Board.
The Mayor said: “The West Midlands is facing a climate emergency, and it is absolutely critical that we deliver on our #WM2041 plans to have the region carbon neutral by 2041. With brilliant green initiatives like the electric bus city in Coventry, our Brownfield First approach and our plans for the UK’s first Gigafactory, we believe we are well placed to achieve our goal.
“But we want to go further and faster and we realise that clean energy is fundamental to these plans. That is why today we’ve set out our pathfinder ambitions, including the support we need from Government to make this happen. The West Midlands led the way with the industrial revolution, and we can do so again with a green industrial revolution.”
Nationally, the West Midlands confirmation of a pathfinder region would boost the UK’s claim to be a nation leading investor in innovative net zero technologies, supporting the ‘Global Britain’ agenda showcased at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference - COP26.
Developing the Net Zero Pathfinder builds on the work of the Energy Capital initiative, established by the Mayor in 2018 to explore new models of regional energy governance and delivery.
Cadent’s West Midlands Network Director, Kate Grant, said: “I am delighted to be supporting the West Midlands in its goal to reach net-zero by 2041 and Cadent is honoured to be the first invitee to join the West Midland’s Net Zero Delivery Board.
“We are already working closely with the Mayor, the WMCA team and Energy Capital on energy innovation and decarbonisation projects. Along with Cadent, I am personally fully committed to supporting the West Midlands as the UK’s first Net Zero Pathfinder region.
“It was great to be able to welcome the Mayor to Cadent to meet with the team and to talk about how we can work even more closely to deliver a net zero economy that works for everyone.”
The WMCA recently published its draft Five Year Plan which shows how the West Midlands can achieve its ambitious target of becoming net zero carbon by 2041 and create thousands of new jobs. Due to go before the WMCA board for approval for next week, if adopted it will also bring major improvements to the economy and people’s quality of life.
Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and WMCA portfolio lead for environment said: “This is an opportunity for Government to acknowledge and to help support the innovative work being done in the West Midlands to achieve our #2041 goal.
“If we can become the UK’s first Net Zero Pathfinder region and have more regional autonomy to decarbonise our economy, we will have the necessary tools to benefit the environment, create jobs, upskill our workforce and overall contribute to a greener, heathier and fairer region.”