North of Tyne Combined Authority launches new fund to help SMEs take climate action

Pictured: The Catalyst building in Newcastle

Announced today (30 November), the Fund is being delivered as part of a partnership between specialist investment manager Amber Infrastructure Group and the Combined Authority, which includes the local councils for Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

It will provide grants, equity and loans to SMEs and public sector bodies, supporting them with initiatives that accelerate climate action. Projects which are eligible for support include installing energy efficiency technologies; self-generating renewable energy; fitting low-carbon heating and decarbonising transport networks – for example, through the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) and investments in supporting charging infrastructure.

Projects which boost natural capital – either for the organisation directly, or for the wider community – are also eligible.

Amber Infrastructure Group has stated that it will use learnings from managing local green impact investment funds in partnership with the Scottish Government and the Greater London Authority to deliver the funding in the North of Tyne region. It claims that these two partnerships have mitigated at least 67,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions since 2011.

“This Fund will help to support growing businesses and develop talent in the low carbon sector, whilst also acting as a catalyst for inward investment in the region,” said the firm’s chairman Giles Frost.

The North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll added: “The world has accepted that we need to hit net-zero as soon as possible…. But what about the micro-solutions at a local level? How do we help organisations and communities install heat pumps and micro-generation and even basics like insulation?

“Our Green New Deal gives them access to the capital they need to reduce carbon emissions now. They will repay the fund over time, allowing more investment to help other people. The North of Tyne Green New Deal Fund will create jobs, reduce emissions, and save money – it’s the kind of innovation that’s needed for local areas to become net-zero.”

The Combined Authority does not yet have its own dedicated net-zero target with a pre-2050 deadline but is working to develop one, following its declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

Newcastle City Council was this month named as one of the ten UK cities on CDP’s Cities A-List on climate leadership. It has a 2030 net-zero plan for the city-region. North Tyneside Council also has a 2030 net-zero target, as does Northumberland County Council.

Local climate action

Urban buildings account for 40% of global carbon emissions each year and the value chains of cities are attributable to 68% of all global annual greenhouse gas emissions, by UN estimates.

This makes cities and other urban areas a key focus on the journey to net-zero.

Several UK councils have responded to the challenges of the net-zero transition and the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by issuing green bonds, including Eastbourne, Islington, West Berkshire and Warrington.

There have been calls for greater support from the central Government to enable councils to launch larger bonds, and to accelerate other methods for delivering decarbonisation, in recent months, around COP26. There is clearly the appetite from councils already; 91% of the UK’s local authorities have set at least one climate commitment, with more than one-third (38%) committing to reach net-zero for their operations or local area by 2030.

On an international basis, the UK Government used COP26 as a platform to launch an Urban Climate Action Programme (UCAP), which will provide £27.5m to at least 15 cities in developing countries across a three-year period.

Sarah George

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