A plan for our future energy must have Britain’s proud industrial regions at its heart
There is enormous potential for pioneering British innovation to help lead the world to green, write Andrew Percy MP and Lia Nici MP. | PA Images
The government's plan for green must unlock growth, jobs and skills opportunities in industrial constituencies like ours, who stand to shoulder the burden of the shift to net-zero.
We won’t have time to waste once Britain emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic – economic recovery will need to happen fast, turbo-charged by government action.
We need to support secure jobs and new growth in towns across the country to help people get back on their feet. We need to put ordinary working people at the centre of policy making and put Britain’s industrial regions at the heart of building back better.
The government’s Energy White paper published this week adds further detail on how the UK is going to reach net zero, following the Prime Minister’s ‘10 Point Plan’ last month. In putting more meat on the bones, we have key questions that need to be answered if this plan for green is going to unlock the growth, jobs and skills opportunities it needs to in constituencies like ours.
Our constituencies sit in the most industry-intensive region of the UK – East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire (Humber). The consequences of the choices we make now are particularly close to home. The huge opportunity from this change is clear – we can both decarbonise the economy and create new jobs and growth in Britain’s proud industrial regions.
The government’s ambitions are noble, but it can’t lose sight of its manifesto pledge to deliver real, tangible differences to ordinary working people. It was that pledge on levelling up that helped get this party elected with its biggest majority in a generation - now is the time to turn plans into actions.
Getting to net zero needs to mean more than just decreasing emissions. It needs to drive growth, opportunity and secure, skilled jobs right across the country
There are three key tests for the government’s plans for net zero if we are to make a success of it for Britain and for communities in constituencies like our own.
First, a green industrial revolution needs to remake British industry, and secure the skills, jobs and livelihoods of the people who stand to shoulder the burden of the shift to green. As a sector, industry and manufacturing makes up a quarter of the UK’s total emissions, yet is a significant contributor to the national economy – making up almost a fifth of our GDP. More importantly it employs over 2.7 million people, many living in working class towns across the country that for too long have felt left behind in our economy and neglected by government policy. We now have a real opportunity to remake these industries, powered by wind, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen. By building these technologies, proud industries such as steel in Scunthorpe and food manufacture in Grimsby can transition to clean production and secure high skilled employment across the region for generations to come.
Second, net zero by 2050 was an example of British leadership in action – we need to invest in our green technology, which promises to lead the way for the rest of the world too. Whether carbon capture and storage in the Humber or Teesside, small modular nuclear development in Derby and Sellafield, or battery gigafactories in the West Midlands and South Wales, there is enormous potential for pioneering British innovation to help lead the world to green. For example, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, being developed by Drax here in the Humber, could create 49,000 jobs for the region and add as much as £14bn to the UK economy. New innovations like this hold the keys to Britain’s future economic success including by creating export opportunities.
Third, we mustn’t get side-tracked by a global debate – now is the time for action and spades in the ground in Britain. The UK hosting COP26 next year will be critical to reducing global temperature in the long term. But there is much we can and need to do now if we are to reduce emissions and capture the significant opportunities leading the way on green presents. As Conservatives we are certain that business and the private sector hold the potential for the UK to lead and decarbonise at pace over the next 10 years. The next step the government takes needs to be setting out clear stable policies and investment frameworks for business and investors to act now. As an example, this year has seen investors inject a record $71bn into global sustainable investment funds despite the coronavirus pandemic. That money can be invested anywhere in the world, but we should want as much of it as possible to come to Britain, and soon.
The Prime Minister’s ‘10 point plan’ followed by the Energy White Paper is a significant moment in Britain’s journey to net zero. But there is work to do to ensure the government’s plan delivers for the ordinary working people the Conservative Party put at the core of its election manifesto in 2019. It needs to support British industry to reinvent itself for the 21st century, create investment opportunities for world leading green, British technology, and fire the starting gun for business and the private sector to act now.
Getting to net zero needs to mean more than just decreasing emissions. It needs to drive growth, opportunity and secure, skilled jobs right across the country if it is to become the new industrial revolution the government wants it to be.
Andrew Percy is the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole. Lia Nici is the Conservative MP for Great Grimsby.