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By Lord Haskins, Chair of the Humber LEP

In early November the Humber welcomed 800 delegates to Hull for the Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse conference.

As the conference began, I set out one important question for the attendees to take into consideration as they listened to the speakers over the two days – how can we address climate change while maintaining economic growth?

The conference saw the publication of the NP11’s report into clean growth for the Northern Powerhouse, which set out the potential economic opportunities available if we pursue a clean growth strategy – including opportunities for the supply chain, new job creation and other economic benefits to the region.

The Humber is essential to the UK’s transition to a net zero carbon economy. As the biggest emitting industrial cluster in the country the onus on us to reduce our emissions is not just desirable – it’s absolutely non-negotiable.  However we must do that in a way that protects the thousands of jobs in the strategically-important industries we have in the region, such as steel and chemicals, and enables them to carry on producing the products that the economy depends upon.

No place in the UK can contribute more to reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions than the Humber.

Our region is already at the forefront of delivering clean electricity, with the largest offshore wind farm in the world under construction, and in future should be a leader in developing and deploying decarbonisation solutions across industry, transport and homes.  By being proactive at a local level we have a chance to protect what we already have, and ensure our businesses and residents can benefit from this transition.

One important step forward for the Humber region was confirmed last week – when plans for the £200m Yorkshire Energy Park development in Hedon were approved by East Riding of Yorkshire Council. This project has the potential for huge economic benefits and opportunities for local people.

At the Humber LEP, we have made our commitment to clean growth in the Humber the focus of our upcoming Industrial Strategy and through close consultation with organisations in the Humber we have developed a great understanding of what needs to happen and how we can best protect jobs and businesses and find new opportunities to capitalise on clean growth -while reducing our emissions and helping our own region – which is very much susceptible to flooding from rising sea levels.

What has come across clearly from the businesses, local authorities and other organisations involved in this consultation work is the level of ambition from the Humber and the desire to get on with this quickly.  There are a lot of exciting projects being developed that would accelerate the progress our region is already making.

With this in mind, we have created a White Paper focused on clean growth in the Humber – which sets out how in this region we’re ready to respond to what is a global challenge.

Of course, anyone can write a paper, and as well researched and encouraging as they may be – what we need now is the execution of these strategies.

We are entering a period of political campaigning ahead of the General Election on December 12th and in that time I imagine we will see three issues of major importance to voters: Brexit, the NHS and climate change.

While the former two issues will no doubt be divisive during this pre-election period, I hope the latter issue will be one that parties will choose for cross-party agreement – as there is already so much consensus on climate change and we need agreement on how to proceed in order to put a strategy for tackling our emissions into motion.

The Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse conference saw much collaboration and consensus on the issues we discussed across LEP regions right across the NP11 area.

One thing we all agreed on is that now is the time to act on this issue. Our speakers presented talk after talk detailing the catastrophic consequences of doing nothing – which were equally as drastic if we do not move quickly enough. Now we have decided what we can all do to reach net-zero – we need the next Government to support us in our aims.

Net-zero can be achieved by the next Government – whatever colour it may be – supporting measures such as research into solutions to tackle climate change; subsidies where appropriate; good regulation; collaboration with the rest of the world; and persuading the public to reduce their energy consumption and change their own daily habits. Only then will we see emissions begin to reduce.