My weekly column from 19 October
This week saw the first ever Green GB Week, a new annual initiative from the government designed to bring attention to the benefits of clean, sustainable and environmentally-friendly growth.
Green GB Week focused on areas such as promoting sustainable growth and the UK’s role as a global leader on the issue of tackling climate change. There were showcases on the roles played by the UK’s businesses and academics in inventing the clean, low carbon technologies we need for the future.
The UK is performing well internationally in many ways. Of the G7 – the most influential countries with large economies – we are leading on cutting carbon emissions. Fast growth in renewable energy, helped by £52 billion in government support, has allowed us to move rapidly towards removing the most highly polluting fuels like coal from our energy supply.
However, all this comes shortly after the publication of a deeply concerning report on climate change that underlined how urgent the fight to protect our planet has become. Simply, the world is not doing enough if we are to avoid some of the very serious dangers climate change threatens. Pendle Hill may be highly unlikely to be submerged by rising ocean levels, but all our livelihoods will be affected if major coastal cities are.
The good news is that the North West is playing a crucial role in developing the technology we need to respond to the risk. For example, the Northern Powerhouse programme is backing Manchester’s Sir Henry Royce Institute with £235 million to build on the region’s strength in advanced materials research, and the University of Manchester is leading a £13 million project on peat restoration to protect our uplands from erosion.
There are opportunities in responding to climate change and Green GB Week was about how we can benefit from them. The UK is an important player in manufacturing electric cars and we have more offshore wind than any other country in the world. There are already 400,000 ‘green’ jobs in the UK with more to be created in the coming years.
Risks to our environment threaten us all and go far beyond party politics. Whilst for some the focus is on negotiations with Brussels, I was glad that this week at least attention was paid to the bigger, longer term issues we need to face up to.