Report calls for UK Government to devolve carbon budgets to regional levels

The UK Government has been urged to devolve national carbon budgets down to regional levels in order to create socioeconomic benefits that can be captured by promoting low-carbon job growth across specific areas of the UK, a new report has suggested.

The Net-Zero North report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) focuses on how the North of England can decarbonise key sectors and industries. The North’s economy is more carbon intensive, 0.51 ktCO2 per gross value added compared to a national average of 0.44ktCO2, and the report believes that devolving carbon budgets would enable regions to transition to a low-carbon economy while reaping economic and job-related benefits.

“Full decarbonisation is a significant opportunity for the UK economy, as well as a profound challenge,” IPPR’s senior research fellow Laurie Laybourn-Langton said. “The recent Clean Growth Strategy and ongoing Industrial Strategy have signalled the government’s intention not only to meet domestic commitments at lowest cost, but to maximise the social and economic benefits of the decarbonisation transition.

“But more needs to be done to drive demand for low carbon goods and services and support firms in supplying them. Action at the regional level is key, and so we recommend regional carbon budgets so regions can take ownership of the rapid structural change needed to reach net decarbonisation by the midpoint of the century. This would enable their leaders, particularly mayors, to sit at the forefront of the climate effort – but, in return, more money and powers need to be given to them by Whitehall.”

Northern Powerhouse

The North of England accounts for more than a third of low-carbon jobs in England and generated 48% of all renewable energy in 2015 – the largest of any region. The report calls on the UK Government to give powers to UK regions to adopt regional carbon budgets over a five-year period.

As the North is suffering from a lack of investment compared to areas like London, the report notes that regional carbon budgets would reduce the investment strain on certain areas, enabling them to create more low-carbon jobs as they push towards targets.

Specifically for the North, the reports calls for the creation of a Hydrogen Catapult , funding for the Teesside Collective’s proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, and for BEIS and Innovate UK to carry out a feasibility study for a CCS Catapult. In fact, the report notes that partnerships between industry and Northern local authorities should aim to generate 15TWh of recovered heat by 2050.

The report also calls for the Government to create an “explicit decarbonisation mission” in the Industrial Strategy. This mission should seek to generate the “greatest socioeconomic benefit to the UK from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050”.

In 2016, more than 80 organisations across Northern England signed up to a declaration, calling on the Government to back renewable energy across the regions. So far negotiations about the Northern Powerhouse have ignored the need for new energy infrastructure.

Matt Mace

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