A Climate Radical Region
There is a future for both the planet and our people. They are not at odds, in fact it is only in thinking of them together that we will bring about the radical change, that they both so desperately need. Our whole energy system needs overhauling as we transition away from fossil fuels. We can’t wait to deal with these shifts tomorrow, we have to start today. This means joined up planning for housing, transport, employment and skills.
Here are my top four ideas for how we tackle the challenge in front of us.
People and Planet
Develop A Green Jobs Hub
We need to champion climate transition careers across the Tees Valley. Adjusting from oil and gas to renewables will take strong political leadership. We need to build a broad coalition from all sectors to create a Green New Deal for Tees Valley. Let’s start with a transition for workers, using our adult education budgets and learning, skills and employability support budgets to train people in climate transition careers, providing hope for workers in the security of a good job and hope for the planet as we transition away from fossil fuel.
Biodiversity and Green Spaces
Biodiversity must be a huge priority to any mayor if they want to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. It will be a priority to improve green spaces that offer a home to wildlife of our region and provide healthy outdoor community spaces for all to enjoy. Let’s create small urbans farms and kitchen gardens and work with local authorities to plant 100,000 new trees, creating a continuous Tees Forest habitat in the Tees Valley. This will not only provide valuable spaces for wildlife but also create uplifting walks for the community to enjoy.
Energy Generation Infrastructure
It’s going to be vital to partner with renewable energy firms to increase employment in the sector and encourage more research into sustainability. Capital grants will be needed to fund renewable energy systems such as solar and wind farms across the region. Let’s also explore updates to planning rules to require installation of solar PV panels on new developments. More investment in offshore wind power out in the North Sea would create jobs as well as generating power. I’m also excited by the way other city regions have developed community-owned renewable energy companies that are saving households money on their bills.
Reducing Plastic Use
I think the Mayor has a duty to work with local businesses to drive down the use of single use plastics and drive up the use of environmentally friendly alternatives. Alongside this we could be rolling out water fountains in our public spaces to reduce water bottle usage, together with plastic recycling schemes to divert single use plastic waste from our local environment.
Expand Carbon Capture and Storage
Let’s make the Tees Valley home to Europe’s first Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) equipped industrial zone. The technology is available to capture up to 90% of emissions which would make a huge impact on our region’s carbon footprint. In achieving success in CCS we could begin to export this innovative technology around the world.
Rapid advances in battery technology have left the internal combustion engine looking like a relic from a bygone age. Let’s move into the fast-lane of sustainable transport by working with energy network providers and transport organisations to eliminate the harmful gases from our roads, partnering with other local authorities to bring about a thought-through, long-term plan to reduce our emissions across the region.
Owning Our Energy
The big energy firms aren’t moving away from fossil fuels quickly enough. It’s therefore going to be important to get together right partners to work on creating a community-owned energy company. ‘The Leccy’ in Liverpool is a fantastic example that we can look to and learn from. It saves households money on their bills as well as creating well paid local jobs.
Local Energy Infrastructure
The costs of generating renewable energy have been tumbling in recent years. Plus, low interest rates mean that money borrowed to fund capital projects such as solar and wind farms can be repaid more quickly bringing forward return-on-investment. I’d like to see us using the acres of roof space on existing buildings for solar (PV) panels. Also, with a high-skilled tech workforce what’s to stop us making those solar panels right here in the Tees Valley?