UK government invests in race to first net-zero emissions industrial zone

Six projects spanning the UK have received a portion of £8m in public funding, as part of a drive to establish the first net-zero emissions industrial zone by 2040.

The projects will see local authorities working with partners in industry to make plans for reducing carbon emissions. The six areas receiving funding have dense centres of industrial activity, located in the West Midlands, Tees Valley, North West, Humber, Scotland, and South Wales.

One scheme alone (North West England and North East Wales) will aim to generate more than £4bn of investment and over 33,000 new jobs in an ambitious bid to become the world’s first “net-zero industrial zone” by 2040. Four areas will bid to become “low-carbon industrial hubs” by 2030.

This will see all industries in the region adopting low-energy energy sources and technologies like carbon capture and storage in order to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions to as close as possible to zero.

“The UK is leading the world’s green industrial revolution, with ambitious targets to decarbonise our economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, the energy minister. “As we continue to level up the UK economy and build back greener, we must ensure every sector is reducing carbon emissions to help us achieve our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

“This funding will help key industrial areas meet the challenge of contributing to our cleaner future while maintaining their productive and competitive strengths.”

The funding comes from the latest phase of the government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, which will commit a total of £170m to deploying technologies like carbon capture in industrial heartlands. The six recipients of the funding will next produce detailed plans for cutting emissions across local areas of industrial activity.

Bryony Livesy, who heads the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge at UKRI, said: “Today’s announcement shows that the industrial clusters campaign is proceeding at pace. This second phase of the competition asks companies and partners to plan for comprehensive changes to industries, products and supply lines.

“This is a crucial step in the government’s plans to develop cost-effective decarbonisation in industrial hubs that tackle the emissions challenge UK industry faces. The move to low-carbon industry is a huge opportunity, with the chance for the UK to take the lead and seize a large share of a growing global market.”

The government aims to decarbonise the UK economy in order to meet its legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050 whilst also boosting employment.

In November, the government laid out a 10-point decarbonisation plan, from the ramping-up of hydrogen production, to an accelerated transition to electric vehicles, to advances in offshore wind and nuclear. The plan will be backed with £12bn in funding (including £4bn in new funding).

The Labour Party has warned that this funding does not “remotely” meet the scale of what is necessary to tackle climate change and unemployment.

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