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World-first carbon ‘net-zero’ heavy industry hub to help UK cut emissions and spur growth

The UK could have the world’s first ‘net-zero carbon’ cluster of heavy industry by 2040, thanks to up to GBP170 million (≈ EUR 189.2 million) of new funding announced at COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland."Demonstrating climate action and growing the economy go hand in hand is key to building momentum behind global action on carbon," said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry.

In Katowice, Poland, the UK Minister of Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry set the “world-leading ambition” alongside plans for at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030 at COP24. Using cutting-edge technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), the UK is aiming to become a world leader in clean technology and services that will be needed as the world tackles climate change.

The UK’s low carbon economy has the potential to deliver export sales of low carbon goods and services around the world, by 2030 annual exports could be worth up to GBP170 billion (≈ EUR 189.2 billion) and could support up to 2 million ‘green collar’ jobs by 2030 – a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

The UK is a leader in both, cutting our emissions by more than 40 percent while growing our economy by two-thirds, but to sustain this track record we need to tackle emissions from energy-intensive sectors and bring clean growth to our great industrial centres. That’s why today I’m launching a mission to create the world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon cluster by 2040 in the UK with up to £170 million of new government funding. This will help to develop the technologies of the future to transform industry around the world, ensuring the UK seizes the global economic opportunities of moving to greener, cleaner industry – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, said Minister Perry.

Targetting heavy industry

Currently, industry accounts for around 25 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK, with more than two-thirds of these industrial emissions coming from energy-intensive industries which are often located next to each other in clusters.

These energy-intensive clusters include Grangemouth, South Wales, Merseyside, Teesside, Humberside, and Southampton. They are recognised as key to the UK economy but also as significant contributors to the UK’s emissions.

This new funding of up to GBP170 million (≈ EUR 189.2 million), which is expected to be backed by industry, will help heavy industries like steel, ceramics, cement, chemicals, paper, and glass to share expertise and innovative low-carbon solutions to clean up the air as well as move to a greener, cleaner economy.

Funding for industry will be provided through a competitive process for clusters to research, develop and demonstrate at scale, the innovative solutions to lead the way to a decarbonised industrial future. Both the GBP170 million (≈ EUR 189.2 million) £170 Decarbonising Industry and the GBP66 million (≈ EUR 73.5 million) Transforming Foundation Industry investment is subject to industry entering into a partnership with government and providing significant co-investment to this challenge.

Powering past coal

By investing in world-leading innovative technology, such as carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS), climate change can be tackled alongside creating highly skilled jobs and generating export opportunities. In 2017 the government committed to phasing out unabated coal power by 2025 and launched the international Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) – a voluntary coalition of governments, businesses and other organisations committed to ending the use of dirty coal power.

A view of the wood pellet storage silos at Drax Power.
A view of the wood pellet storage silos at Drax Power. Globally, coal-fired power plants account for almost 40 percent of global electricity whereas the UK is on track to deliver less than 5 percent of its electricity from coal for the first time since the first Industrial Revolution. A view of the wood pellet storage silos at Drax Power.

Today’s announcement comes as the UK-Canada led Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) celebrates one year of success, now with over 70 members. As part of this, the UK has committed GBP20 million (≈ EUR 22.3 million) for a World Bank programme (ESMAP) to help developing countries move away from coal power and embrace renewable energy.

To make a real impact on the reduction of coal power, the UK government has established the Utilities Taskforce to become influential advocates for the PPCA. The UK and Canada will announce new members of the PPCA, committing to eradicating coal power while redirecting resources to renewables. Around 3.5 billion tonnes of coal is used annually for power generation contributing to 45 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

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