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Green growth: devolution driving regional renewal

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Ben Houchen

4 min read

Ben Houchen, the Metro Mayor of the Tees Valley, discusses how devolution can play a role in achieving the United Kingdom’s net-zero goals

As the Mayor of Tees Valley, I have seen how devolution has become a powerful catalyst for economic transformation in our region. It has provided us with the tools and autonomy needed to attract significant investment, particularly in the net-zero sector. The story of Teesside’s revival is one of local empowerment, strategic vision, and a relentless commitment to building a sustainable economy that can provide generational job opportunities.

Devolution has given us the flexibility to tailor our approach and match this to our unique strengths and challenges. Unlike a one-size-fits-all approach often seen with centralised government, devolution allows us to be nimble and responsive to local needs. This has been crucial to attracting net-zero investment, as we can offer bespoke solutions and incentives that directly address the specific requirements of green industries.

A prime example of this is Teesworks, part of the UK’s first, largest, and most successful freeport. Devolution enabled us to establish Teesworks as a strategic site for the industries of the future. By having local control over development, and investment decisions, we were able to create an environment that is highly attractive to investors. The establishment of the world’s first industrial-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) facility at Teesworks is a testament to our ability to leverage devolution for ground-breaking initiatives.

This facility not only positions Teesside at the forefront of global CCUS technology but also promises to significantly reduce carbon emissions while creating thousands of high-quality local jobs.

Moreover, devolution has empowered us to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for hydrogen production. Teesside is now set to become a major hub for hydrogen, with projects aimed at producing and utilising this clean energy source at scale. The flexibility provided by devolution has allowed us to pioneer these initiatives, positioning Teesside as a leader in the hydrogen economy. This has attracted substantial investment and interest from companies looking to be part of the hydrogen revolution.

“Unlike a one-size-fits all approach often seen with centralised government, devolution allows us to be nimble and responsive to local needs”

Another significant benefit of devolution is our ability to invest in and upgrade local infrastructure to support net-zero goals. For instance, we have been able to develop transport networks, most notably our railway stations, to create the capacity for the significant investment that is coming. By having control over our transport and infrastructure policies, we can ensure that these projects are aligned with our broader investment strategy and are implemented efficiently.

Devolution has also facilitated stronger partnerships with local businesses, educational institutions, and community groups. These collaborations are vital for creating a skilled workforce ready to meet the demands of the green economy.

By investing in education and training programs tailored to the needs of our net-zero projects, we are ensuring that our residents are equipped with the skills needed for the jobs of the future. This not only supports our economic goals but also fosters a sense of community ownership and participation in our region’s transformation.

Critics may question whether such localised control can deliver on ambitious national targets. However, the success of Teesside demonstrates that when local leaders are given the authority and resources to drive change, they can achieve incredible results. Our progress in attracting net-zero investment and developing cutting-edge green technologies shows that devolution is not just a political tool but a practical strategy for regional growth and sustainability.

Devolution has been instrumental in transforming Teesside into a global centre for net-zero investment. By granting us the autonomy to develop tailored strategies, fast-track developments, and foster local partnerships, devolution has enabled us to attract significant investment and drive economic growth. Teesside’s journey is a powerful example of how local leadership can lead to national and global impact, setting a precedent for other regions to follow. As we continue to lead in the green economy, the lessons learnt from our experience with devolution will be invaluable in shaping future policy across the country.

This article was originally published in The Path To Net Zero supplement circulated alongside The House magazine. To find out more visit The Path To Net Zero hub.

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