Nick Hurd gives backing to UK cities 2050 clean energy shift

The UK's Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd has joined major businesses in signalling support for the commitment of UK cities and local authorities to shift towards 100% clean energy by 2050.

The proposals from UK100 – a network of 67 British city and local council leaders – have been welcomed by Hurd, who promised to collaborate on a transition to a low-carbon economy as the Government implements its Industrial Strategy.

Speaking at a Westminster roundtable in London yesterday (30 November), Hurd said: “Cities and communities are important partners for the Government as we transition to a global low carbon economy. Together we can demonstrate that cutting emissions is compatible with economic growth as we build a diverse energy system fit for the 21st century.

“We will continue working closely with the leaders of local authorities while we implement our industrial strategy to deliver the economy that works for all.”

Industries of the future

The UK100 platform formed last year, taking inspiration from the RE100 global initiative which unites the world’s most influential companies committed to 100% renewable power. Led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, the RE100 has attracted membership from the likes of Bloomberg, Google and Coca-Cola.

Among the UK100 cities to make the 100% clean energy pledge includes Oxford, Leicester, Newcastle and Leeds, with the latter aiming to become the UK’s “hydrogen city” hub by converting its gas grid to an all-hydrogen version by 2030.

Leeds City Council Leader Judith Blake welcomed the Government’s commitment to developing an industrial strategy. She said: “We want to work with Ministers to ensure that it is based on clean energy technologies, which will help to create new jobs and transform fossil fuel-dependent industries into the industries of the future. Having direct communication with the Minister to develop that dialogue is essential and we anticipate further conversations will be productive.”

RE100 members Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Land Securities spoke at the Westminster event about the importance of collaboration between the private and public sector, through projects such as feeding excess capacity generated on private sites into local heating districts.

The Climate Group acting chief executive Damian Ryan was also present, and said he was “thrilled” to hear that the RE100 is inspiring local authorities to sign up to go 100% renewable. “Scaling up demand for renewables is good for everyone,” Ryan said. “More demand means more supply and hence lower energy costs for businesses, councils and hard-working families. Going 100% renewable makes sense for communities and our economy alike.”

Low-carbon cities

A growing number of British cities and councils have stated their intentions to become low-carbon, sustainable business hubs, with many realising this can only be achieved through collaboration between the public sector and innovative green businesses. Glasgow City Council, for instance, has partnered with a number of businesses on diverse sustainable projects, which have provided job creation and green capital growth.

Glasgow recently ranked inside the global top 25 cities for environmental sustainability, alongside Manchester, a British city where local firms have saved more than £100m in energy efficiency through local initiatives. Manchester Council previously invited local businesses to provide advice on a long-term climate change strategy for the area, which culminated in a decision to create a zero-carbon city by 2050.

Bournemouth Council, meanwhile, has extended its climate change strategy beyond just delivering local efficiency improvements through to a long-term vision to become the nation’s green economy leader, attracting leading sustainable businesses in the process.

And in Swindon, the UK’s first ever council solar bond was launched earlier this year, offering business and local citizens the chance to raise capital for a 5MW community solar farm.

George Ogleby

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