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Ciara Shannon

The Bulbous £28 Billion Distraction. Clean and Green – Don’t Write it Off

Guest Blog by Ciara Shannon, Director, Green Finance Community Hub

In the last few days, it’s been hard to ignore the flurry of commentary about Labour’s U-turn on their £28 billion Green Investment Pledge, first announced in 2021.

£28 billion a year in green capital investment, every year, until 2030 was going to turbocharge the green industrial revolution and spent on battery manufacturing, green hydrogen, offshore wind, tree planting, flood defences and home insulation etc.

Without a doubt, green investment and investing in local net zero economies is desperately needed. But Labour’s £28 billion Green Pledge was becoming a thorny distraction.

A bit like Boris’ £350 million a week NHS Bus Pledge – central to the election campaign in 2019 – but always destined to fail.

What’s been less newsworthy but announced by climate scientists on the very same day, is that the world has breached for a whole year, the warming limit of 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. An announcement that comes hot on the heels of UK investments in new oil and gas fields in the North Sea and the construction of homes and offices that are neither energy-efficient nor climate-resilient.

While a public spending commitment is of course important, the very real and urgent focus should be on the best route to market for private and public investments in green energy. For example, we need greater clarity on how public funds can leverage private sector investment, how public spending can support early-stage net zero business and risk financing (and at other stages, like the Valley of Death), developing of the ecosystem, and the success of the climate transition more generally.

We also need a clearer plan on how green infrastructure can be built faster, planning accelerated, and decisions made quicker. There is also more that local authorities can do with local investors. Just this week, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Community Municipal Investment (CMI) offer hit its £1 million target with a record number of investors. The CMI can deliver real change in communities, through local authority led net zero projects. Are we thinking about this in Cumberland?

As we said in our Green Investment Plan for Cumbria report, Cumberland as a centre of clean energy innovation, is well placed to lead the competitive race to build knowledge networks and supply chains for the net zero goods and services of the 21st century.

But first it needs to look beyond its nuclear offering and cheer on, just as loudly, its renewable energy potential and how its own supply chain companies can diversify their portfolio to support more local green businesses. Think green hydrogen projects at Carlisle, Workington, and Whitehaven or green steel opportunities in Workington (or its surrounds) etc.

Along West Cumbria’s coastline there are eight offshore wind installations bringing major business, investment, and job opportunities along with it. Offshore wind has been making an impact in Cumbria since 2006. Official data for offshore wind generation is defined by where the supply ‘lands’ – Robin Rigg (East and West) - is located midway between the Galloway and Cumbrian coasts in the Solway Firth in Scottish waters, but ‘lands’ in Seaton near Workington in Cumbria. This contrasts with Walney 1, 2, 3, Ormonde, Barrow, and West of Duddon Sands wind farms, which, though an important part of Cumbria’s renewable supply, reach land in Lancashire.

But If I was to walk around Workington or Whitehaven - how many people could tell me about how the offshore wind sector contributes to the local economy or its significant operational and maintenance (O & M) contribution? Possibly they might know about the Robin Rigg Community Fund, funded by RWE, that gives grants to community groups and organisations on both sides of the Solway area.

We should be making much more of Cumberland’s natural born windy coast, it’s bounty of nature-based solutions - positioning Cumberland as a leader in net zero, contributing to global innovation and sustainable growth and being competitive in the future. But to get there, we need strong public policies to drive innovation and help crowd in private investment to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.

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