The UK government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution has set out a blueprint to reform and rebuild the UK economy in line with its 2050 net-zero carbon targets. The country’s regions are putting this into action in ways that build upon their strengths.
In Duncan Baker MP’s North Norfolk constituency, offshore wind is an already growing sector, which has the world’s largest offshore wind farm. The plan is to build on that existing progress with an expansion of offshore wind energy production in the region.
“We’re working very hard to shift all of the environmental damage that is done by digging up the land,” he says. “It's a huge area for North Norfolk.”
Agriculture is also a big sector for the region, and a big source of carbon emissions. The aim here is to provide farmers the opportunity to take on the role of custodians of the land, says Baker. Last year’s Agriculture Bill incentivised farmers to take a more environmentally sustainable approach to land management, through reforestation and rewilding schemes, for example.
“Most farmers I talk to are delighted about that,” says Baker. “Some have said it's what they’ve been doing anyway. The fact that they’ll get rewarded and recognised for it is even more important.
“Statistically, something like 71% of all of our landmass is farmed. It's extraordinary when you look at it. If they improve the air quality, water quality, the soil quality. Plant more headlands, plant more trees to try and capture carbon, that will all start to play its part.”
Baker has a particular interest in the built environment, and has launched an inquiry through the Environmental Audit Select Committee (of which he is a member) to look into the materials used in UK new build projects.
The current focus is predominantly on retrofitting better insulation and renewable energy systems in existing buildings, but more work needs to go into transitioning out of carbon-intensive building methods and materials.
“If you take things like insulation in your walls. Why are we not using lamb's wool and natural fibres? Demand for these products are growing quite a lot, particularly engineered wood, which is used far more in the continent, but is hardly touched here. Laminated wood is fantastic for the environment because of its embodied carbon. It's important because in places like North Norfolk, we get an awful lot of passive house building around this area because people can afford to do it.”
It’s one of the lessons that the UK can learn from elsewhere in the world. Countries such as Finland are ahead with sustainable building, for instance, while the UK is ahead when it comes to decarbonising its energy grid. Events such as COP26 provides the opportunity for different economies to share ideas and collaborate.
“For example, what are they doing in the Netherlands automotive sector to push EV? They are further ahead in this area than we are. It’s that sort of joined up thinking that we need to move things forward.”
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