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Expo aims to put North East at centre of net zero jobs drive

The head and shoulders of a woman in a dark dress with red and white collar speaking into a clip-on microphone

When Morpeth was hit by floods in 2008, it was said to be a once-in-a-century event. Unfortunately the town flooded again just four years later.

As well as leading to better flood defences in the town and new ways of insuring properties in flood-prone areas, those events are said to have helped change the opinion of Northumberland MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who just a few years earlier had been tweeting her scepticism of climate change.

It has been quite a transformation and last week Ms Trevelyan – in her role as International Trade Secretary – could be found telling business leaders about the need to “decisively turn our backs on the era of dependence on polluting fuels”. As well as helping to “de-Putinise the world’s economy”, the Berwick MP said, shifting from fossil fuels to renewables could help British firms export their expertise and become major players on the world economy.

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Her words came as the UK’s green economy is projected to grow by 11% per year to 2030, leading to a six-fold jobs boom in the low-carbon sector. It’s hoped that m good number of those jobs will come to the North East, with a combination of ports close to some of the world’s largest wind farms in the North East and the region’s engineering heritage meaning this region has already taken a lead in creating thousands of green jobs.

To help with that push to grow the low carbon economy, the North East will host a Green Trade and Investment Expo in the North East this autumn that is hoped will capitalise on the commercial opportunities that arise as countries around the world seek to cut emissions.

Ms Trevelyan said: “The financial case for green trade is very clear. The global market for low-carbon exports is growing rapidly and by 2030 it is projected to be worth almost two trillion pounds.

“With a potent combination of ambitious entrepreneurs, high ambitions and steadfast and determined Government backing, the UK is now in a leading position to take first move advantage.

“This translates to some exciting opportunities for us because, quite simply, green trade spells green jobs. In fact, by 2050 over 1.2m could be directly employed in low-carbon goods and services sectors, a six-fold increase from today.

“That is a really extraordinary figure and will be critical to achieving our domestic goals of levelling-up across the whole of the UK too. Our challenge now is to turn this potential into firm reality.”

The Green Trade expo, Ms Trevelyan said, would “bring the world to my little corner of the UK”, as well as bringing together “UK businesses and global investors, joining forces so that we will be able to capitalise on the commercial opportunities from our drive to net zero.” She added that the Department for International Trade would also support the Port of Tyne in raising capital to create a centre for the North East’s growing renewables sector.

The announcement of the expo has been welcomed by Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, who said: “One of the original missions of the Northern Powerhouse was to create an international brand and this expo will put the North on the map for our world-leading green capabilities.

“The green industrial revolution is a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for the North to reindustrialise, boosting our flagging productivity and creating thousands of skilled jobs in emerging sectors. We’re looking forward to working with Anne-Marie Trevelyan to showcase the north of England’s green opportunity, attract investment from across the world and cement our position as a global leader in the path to net zero.”

The North East LEP has identified the energy sector as an area to bring well-paying jobs to the North East. Projects such as the maintenance base for the Dogger Bank wind farm at the Port of Tyne and the planned JDR Cables plant at Cambois are showing the success of that drive. The LEP’s annual report highlighted more than £600m of low carbon projects that are in the pipeline in the North East, around a quarter of which are supported by its Energy Accelerator.

And as Andrew Clark, energy programme lead at the LEP, points out, the jobs being created in green energy mean that “the region played a critical role in the industrial revolution and is now leading in the clean growth revolution.”

That switch from coal to clean energy will take many forms, with a number of North East companies that once relied on the oil and gas, and even the coal, sectors now seeing opportunities in renewables. It will even see former mines used so that the geothermal heat from them can be used to heat homes nearby.

The big hope is that the drive to net zero can help transform the region’s economic fortunes, creating highly-skilled, well-paying and meaningful jobs for the generation that will face the biggest challenges of climate change.


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