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  • Writer's pictureMark Morrin

‘Green East’ - The East of England can head the UK’s green economy



The green economy is characterized by a range of economic activity that is directly contributing to a low carbon footprint and more sustainable use of resources. It is a response to the combined threats of a growing climate crisis and the concerns over the sovereignty of energy generation, distribution and consumption. But the green economy is about more than the energy transition from fossil fuels to low carbon. It encompasses a complex supply chain across numerous industries, including construction and manufacturing, to bring about net-zero carbon emissions and sustainable development.

As a result a wave of new ‘green’ technologies has emerged that will help economies transition towards a more environmentally sustainable model of operation - including new sources of renewable energy, cleaner transport usage, organic waste recycling, decarbonisation solutions for homes and businesses - while generating new jobs and business growth.

The UK was the first major economy to commit to a target for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the East of England is a vital part of this ambition. The region is arguably unrivalled in the UK for its unique energy mix. The East has over 50 years of expertise in the oil and gas sector, specialisms that can help in the transition towards greener energy sources, including the world’s largest offshore windfarm. Renewables now make up a major part of the UK’s electricity generation (around 40%) and the East is a major contributor to this. However, 75% of our total energy use still comes from fossil fuels. This is below the 82% of energy from fossil fuels globally, but the UK clearly has a long way to go.

We believe policies for a green economy must respond and be tailored to the unique regional context, targeted towards technologies where the East has or must have strengths. Key short-term priorities should include removing policy barriers to investment (e.g. planning restrictions). The Chancellor’s autumn statement announced reforms to the planning process for infrastructure and significant projects, with guaranteed faster timelines. This will help. As will making the full tax deductibility of capital investment permanent.

The East is at the vanguard of the green economy particularly in relation to renewable energy, with specific strengths in the innovation of clean technologies such as offshore wind, biomass, solar and hydrogen. The region is a major green energy hub with a number of important assets across energy parks and research institutions. Yet despite this, green businesses represent a relatively small proportion of the wider economy. The Eastern Powerhouse would like to see a step change in the scale and speed of growth with a coordinated, regional approach to the development of the green economy. A regional net-zero institution ‘Green East’ connected to an Office for Net Zero Deployment, as recommended in Chris Skidmore's Net Zero review.

The Eastern Powerhouse firmly believes the East can support the UK’s overall Net Zero Strategy, to reach net zero emissions by 2050, by fully embracing the green economy, acting as the ‘first mover’ region and gaining the competitive industry advantage. The Eastern Powerhouse’s wider ambition of a Silicon East can support the regions green economy by integrating the ground-breaking technological advancements, develop economies of scale and investing in skills of the future.

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