Business leaders hail Sunak’s carbon capture plan

Big names including Drax, Siemens, Peel, Manchester airport, the CBI and all 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in the north signed a letter urging the government to prioritise green growth…reports Asian Lite News

Business leaders in the north of England have written to the prime minister, chancellor and energy secretary asking for help to reach net zero.

Big names including Drax, Siemens, Peel, Manchester airport, the CBI and all 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in the north signed a letter urging the government to prioritise green growth in the north.

The letter called for a meeting to discuss investment that would close “regional disparities by creating hundreds of thousands of highly skilled new jobs and building healthy, resilient communities”.

The north already generated 50% of England’s renewable energy and was decarbonising 13% faster than the country as a whole, the group said.

The business leaders signing the open letter were ambitious to go even further, they added, arguing that the north of England could help the UK take advantage of the huge economic opportunity the global transition to net zero represents.

A report last year by the 11 LEPs in partnership with Nature North, Transport for the North and the N8 research group found that green investment in the north could unlock £6bn of prosperity. It identified areas that could be further developed, such as offshore wind capabilities in the North Sea and the Mersey Tidal Power project, as well as nature projects such as the Great Northern Forest, which will ultimately plant at least 50m trees across the north of England, and the Great North Bog, an ambitious peatland restoration initiative that will restore nearly 7,000 sq km of upland peat.

The business leaders welcomed a £20bn commitment to carbon capture, utilisation and storage outlined in the budget and in the Powering Up Britain policy paper released last week.

The paper, setting out how the government would enhance the UK’s energy security and deliver on its net zero commitments, was published by the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which was established in February and is headed up by Grant Shapps.

The letter read: “Our region has an industrial heritage like nowhere else in the world. A driving force of the original Industrial Revolution, the north continues to produce innovations that are central to UK competitiveness and are changing the world. Nowhere is this clearer than in green and low-carbon technologies.

“Half of all renewable energy generated in England comes from the north. There are exciting plans to use carbon capture and hydrogen to decarbonise our major industrial regions. Although we have traditionally been a large carbon emitter, thanks to these new low carbon opportunities, the region is now decarbonising significantly faster than the UK as a whole.”

It added: “Just as the north led national growth in the first Industrial Revolution, and transformed the future of the country, we can and will lead the transition towards low-carbon energy, generating a surplus of secure clean energy and reaping economic rewards.

“We have the skills, the desire, and the drive to take this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We are ambitious to capitalise on the huge international demand for the technologies northern business are developing.”

However, environmentalist groups have slammed the decision as a form of ‘greenwashing.’

In a statement, Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaign, Mary Church, said: “By ignoring the huge harm caused by fossil fuel company greed and doing bidding of the industry, the UK Government is blatantly in denial about climate breakdown.

“By committing to future licensing rounds on the same day, it’s clear to see that carbon capture is little more than a greenwashing tactic by big oil to try and keep their climate-wrecking industry in business.

“CCS (carbon capture storage) has a long history of over-promising and under-delivering yet both the Scottish and UK Governments have fallen for the snake oil salesmen rather than face reality that the only solution to the climate crisis is a fast and fair phase out of oil and gas.”

North-east politicians had a mixed reaction to Sunak’s announcement.

SNP Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart, tweeted: “At last! While this is good news for the north-east and the fight against climate change, this project should have been given the green light by the Tories years ago.”

Similarly, SNP Westminster leader and MP for Aberdeen South, Stephen Flynn, commented: “A green light for the Acorn Project is very good news.

“Important point – huge admiration for the individuals involved in the project and their efforts to see it delivered in the face of many false-starts over many years. Looking forward to seeing their vision turn to reality.’

Ex-oil and gus worker, Guy Ingerson, co-convener of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party, added: “The evidence suggests that [carbon capture] doesn’t work as promised… I’m not sure we should praise huge sums of public money going to oil & gas giants (again) whilst they make bumper profits. We should be investing in proven technologies.”

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