Ready, steady, green

Author - Courtney Hiles

Date published:

The Chamber’s latest column for The Journal by Tim Marsden, knowledge manager.

Like many businesses in the North East, the Chamber is looking at how we, as a region, can work together to cut carbon emissions and achieve net zero.

The UK has a strong track record of action on green issues. In 2022, the Yale University Environmental Performance Index ranked the UK 2nd in the world on climate change mitigation, and 2nd overall for sustainability. UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2022 were 46% below 1990 levels.

The North East in particular has a strong track record of developing net zero technologies – businesses up and down the region are active in this field, from carbon capture and storage and hydrogen in Tees Valley, to wind farms in the north. Not only has this enabled clean growth, but it has also brought investment to the region, together with skilled and specialist jobs.

Nationally, we have been successful in reducing carbon emissions through our electricity supply. As I write this, ca. 10% of our grid supply comes from nuclear, 31% from wind and 5% from solar. Natural gas still provides nearly 31% of current demand.

County Durham Council has been successful in reducing its carbon emissions (from a 2008/9 baseline) of more than 105,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent to around 45,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2021/22. It is perhaps no surprise that the biggest gains have been from the supply of electricity. By their own admission, emissions from heat and transport have been somewhat more “sticky”.

Challenges are many. More than a third of homes in England were built before 1945, including a fifth before 1919. This alone presents challenges regarding heating and insulation, and the significant potential costs of retrofitting thousands of homes, both public and private sector.

We do see businesses investing heavily in this space. Take Lanchester Wines, who has invested around £13million in renewable heat and energy generation at sites across the North East. They are also utilising heat pump technology to draw heat from disused coal mines. A modern twist on the North East’s rich industrial heritage.

In a recent British Chambers of Commerce survey of more than 1,000 businesses, it found that nine out of 10 SMEs “don’t fully understand what the government’s target of making the UK net zero by 2050 means for them”.

We are keen to accelerate the North East’s leadership of the net zero transition. To help businesses, the Chamber is running an educational series to support organisational understanding of what net zero actually means and how we can ultimately achieve a just transition, ensuring we can all play our part in reaching that net zero target.

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