West Midlands CA has warned that it will struggle to meet its goal of achieving zero net carbon emissions by 2041 without an energy decentralization agreement with the government.
Ed Cox, Director of Inclusive Growth and Public Service Reform at the West Midlands Combined Authority spoke to LGC about WM2041, the region’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions and achieve net zero.
Since declaring a climate emergency in June 2019, the West Midlands have focused on developing and implementing a ‘clear action plan’.
Mr Cox explained that an energy decentralization deal would align with the 80-year carbon budget set by the West Midlands, which set a limit on how much carbon the region can use in order to stay safe. the goal of net zero.
Meanwhile, the government’s sixth carbon budget will see the country attempt to reduce its carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, from 1990 levels.
“[It’s] fully in line with our feeling that locally and regionally, we can make very strong commitments in favor of decarbonization, and that the notions of budgets and carbon targets should not be solely national ”, explained Mr. Cox .
“Part of our thinking is that we could make some kind of decentralized energy deal with the government to take responsibility for the carbon budget.”
As part of any energy devolution agreement, the West Midlands would like “greater responsibilities over different aspects of the energy system”.
This would include local energy planning with the combined authority developing a closer relationship with some of the energy system operators, allowing them to work more closely on energy infrastructure planning for the region.
The West Midlands would also like to see delegated authority over some of the finances that are currently tied to the energy system, including a longer term deal on how the region finances home renovations “rather than having to compete for relatively small amounts of money. on several rounds of financing.
“There is no doubt in our minds that we could go much further and much faster on net zero if the government committed to longer term and more strategic funding streams than we currently have.” , did he declare.
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult to reach our net zero goals… where I think we could improve is in a closer relationship with the central government, with the central government giving us the extra powers and the extra funding we need. we really need to move the agenda forward. “
Mr Cox described decarbonizing home heating as “one of, if not the greatest challenge we face as a region or as a country”.
To achieve its 2041 target, the region must renovate 290,000 housing units by 2026.
In addition to helping their local government partners to ‘pull out the limited amounts of government funding available’, the West Midlands are also looking to develop more innovative ways to undertake renovation.
“We have currently launched a net zero neighborhood program, where we seek to work closely with partners from local authorities and housing associations to renovate an entire neighborhood at a time,” said Mr. Cox.
It worked as a “demonstration project” for the whole of the common authority, to “show how [they] can create a financially scalable model to be able to renovate entire streets or entire neighborhoods at once ”.
Another key element of the West Midlands 2041 net zero strategy is the inclusion of young people in the development of decarbonisation policies.
“We have a fantastic young authority combined and they have really been champions, in so many ways, of our work around energy and the environment,” said Mr. Cox.
“They often spoke at joint board meetings, for example, they made the point to local leaders that they had to take these issues very seriously.”
The combined authority is responsible for the budget for adult education in the region, and Mr Cox said it works “closely with colleges and other educational institutions to help them develop [courses which] support the net zero program ”.
As COP26 approaches, the region is preparing to use the conference as an opportunity to showcase the work it has done on net zero.
Andy Street, the mayor of West Midlands CA, will be in attendance in November alongside several other regional representatives.
“We are truly delighted that COP26 is now so close … and that it truly galvanizes partners across the region to demonstrate what a fantastic opportunity the net zero program presents for the West Midlands as the home of the Green Industrial Revolution,” said Mr Cox said.