Net Zero...the economic opportunity of the 21st century!
In this special green edition of Warwickshire Means Business, Warwickshire County Council’s Head of Economy & Skills, Kim Fraser-Bell, outlines why moving to Net Zero makes abundant sense not just for the climate but also for the local economy.
"With change always comes opportunity...Warwickshire is well placed to exploit these opportunities."
The move to Net Zero is often talked about as a moral obligation - something we should all be doing to protect the future of our world for us and the generations that will come after us.
There are certainly convincing arguments behind the need to protect our environment and the planet we call home, but there is also a strong economic case for businesses to reduce their carbon output and often their consumption. The economy and climate change are inexorably intertwined in a future where high emissions will impact on resource availability and disrupt the economy.
The County Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and since then has committed to Net Zero carbon for County emissions by 2050. In 2022 we published our first Sustainable Futures strategy which sets out our vision for reducing carbon emissions as a local authority and as a county. Ensuring that we have a thriving, low-carbon economy is a big part of that vision, and the public sector has a major role in incentivising and supporting businesses to grow in a sustainable way that benefits local communities.
Earlier this year, Chris Skidmore OBE released a report entitled Mission Zero. This report was the result of extensive engagement with businesses from every corner of the UK who were able to share their views on the move to a Net Zero economy.
One message came through loud and clear…that Net Zero is the economic opportunity of the 21st century! The consulting group McKinsey estimates that the global market opportunity for UK businesses from Net Zero could be worth more than £1trillion in the period 2021 to 2030. It is possible to have a pro-growth and pro-business transition. With change always comes opportunity.
Warwickshire is well placed to exploit these opportunities. We have the West Midlands Gigafactory whose mission is to create the UK’s largest battery Gigafactory, securing the future of our automotive industry as it transitions to an electrified future. We are also home to a wealth of research and development institutions such as those situated on the Mira and Wellesbourne campuses. These campuses are researching everything from electric car design to Agri-tech. They are internationally renowned and bring huge scope for Net Zero technology adoption across our County.
Alongside the opportunity which Net Zero presents now, we must also recognise and support our existing and new businesses to capitalise on the future opportunities that a carbon neutral economy will bring - whether that is using waste products to generate heat, or even new products, to retrofitting homes.
I have spoken a lot about the opportunities that Net Zero brings, but I also recognise that our businesses will require support. The Council has provided a variety of support so far in supporting businesses to transition to a low carbon economy through the Green Recovery Grants and our partnership with Coventry City Council and the Coventry University through the C&W Green Business Programme. Looking to the future we are actively working on new programmes to support our businesses in becoming net zero.
Currently we are working on drafting our new strategic economic plan for Warwickshire (we will be carrying out some engagement work soon, so watch this space). A key strand of this strategy will be the identification of actions that we and our partners can take to ensure an affordable and cost-effective transition to a low carbon economy - from ensuring that our residents have the right skills to be able to take advantage of well-paid, low carbon technology roles to providing information on how a Circular economy can reduce costs and improve supply chains.
This is a journey that we will all take together and one from which we at Warwickshire County Council are committed to ensuring that everyone will benefit.