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COP26 member blog: It’s now about pace, scale and full society engagement


In its recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that temperatures have now risen by about 1.1°C since the period 1850 to 1900, but importantly the report also stated that stabilising the climate at 1.5°C was still possible.

If this indeed remains a realistic possibility, then it undoubtedly requires actions on every level, accompanied by permanent global changes in attitudes, behaviours, culture and consumption. Is this what we are now witnessing?

Here in the North East it feels that actions are ramping up across all parts of society, and we all need to believe it is not too late, and that our individual and collective effort can make a real difference.

Working for a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) means that collaboration is in our DNA, and it is this collaborative approach that we have adopted at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) to assist our local authority partners to achieve their net zero pledges; to help large businesses invest in renewable energy technologies and manufacturing; and support local communities to instigate bottom-up initiatives that promote an inclusive green economy and sustainable living.

Managing capital funding programmes at the North East LEP, I have seen first-hand how our steely focus in adopting and delivering an Energy for Growth strategy since 2019 is making a real difference in our region:

• Our £2 million energy project development and innovation challenge initiatives are supporting local authorities, businesses and universities to bring forward innovative solutions, including Gateshead-based Otaski Energy Solutions, who have put forward an idea to use AI software to dim street lights when not in use.

• Strategic investment in employment sites and port infrastructure has helped to secure two new battery plant ‘giga-factories’ in the North East, supporting the transition to electric vehicles and between them up to 4,000 new jobs.

• Rejuvenated riverside Enterprise Zones have enabled subsea cable manufacture JDR Cables to invest on the River Blyth, and Equinor and SSE Renewables – the two companies behind the world’s biggest offshore wind farm Dogger Bank – to develop their Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Base at the Port of Tyne.

• Nationally important renewable energy technology and testing facilities are planned to open in 2022 at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Blyth and the Customer Energy Village in Gateshead, providing research capacity to support the testing and commercialisation of new and renewable energy products.

• At a community level, our COVID-19 Recovery Plan budget targeted community green projects, many of which have engaged young people in developing their skills, knowledge and aspirations.

The North East LEP, along with many other bodies, is backing the North East England Climate Coalition (NEECCo), established in 2019. With its roots in the voluntary sector, this broad coalition has adopted a vision for the North East to become England’s greenest region, with the ambition to ‘tackle the climate emergency, reverse ecological collapse and deliver an urgent and just transition’.

The North East LEP is also actively encouraging businesses to get behind the government’s ‘Together for Our Planet’ campaign by signing up to the SME Climate Commitment to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.

This month, in a bid to further drive the business community’s engagement with net zero, the North East LEP is supporting the #ZeroCarbonTour, which arrives in our region on Friday 22nd October before heading to Glasgow COP26.

If we are to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, then broad national and regional collaborative approaches such as these can play a vital role, but they will need sustained campaign budgets, along with networks of prominent business and community sector champions who can reach into and effectively influence us all to make immediate adjustments and to consume more sustainably.

Ray Browning is Programme Manager at the North East LEP, and a Fellow of the IED