How the Tees Valley is making its city deal a green deal

14560341_sThis is a guest post by David Rose, cabinet member for environment, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

Low carbon growth is top of the list for the Tees Valley’s city deal bid, both to sustain a world-leading process and petrochemical sector and drive new economic growth.

City deals are distinct to an area’s challenges and opportunities, and the environment and low carbon growth are central for the Tees Valley. This strategy is aligned to our work realising the potential inward funding from being an approved EU transition region.

Green Alliance found in the Green Cities report last year that the eight cities in the first wave of deals are driving low carbon growth opportunities including:

  •      growth of low carbon manufacturing sectors
  •      enabling growth via sustainable transport
  •      accelerating building retrofit
  •      expanding district heating
  •      creating new low carbon investment portfolios

Low carbon progress not just a ‘nice to have’
The report recommends that the second wave of 20 city regions embed low carbon growth opportunities across all aspects of their deals. Green Alliance says this is not because ‘low carbon progress is a nice to have’, but because ‘it offers towns, cities and regions a clear route to prosperous and resilient communities’.

The Tees Valley approach recognises this. We must sustain our UK-leading petrochemical and process industry and prevent it disappearing overseas; enhance our work to attract and retain investment and people; and help rebalance our business and employment mix, building on our emerging green technology sector.

We have two major themes,  both green, within our city deal bid. They build on the strengths, and tackle the frailties of our sub regional economy.

Industry in the Tees Valley gives £10 billion to the economy and must survive
The Tees Valley hosts the largest integrated heavy industrial area in the UK and contributes £10 billion to the national economy. More than 30 per cent of the UK’s process industry is sited here, with leading petrochemicals, steel, renewable energy and biotechnology bases and a major port. These are now transforming into advanced manufacturing clusters, but remain carbon intensive.

So our city deal recognises the need for carbon capture and storage (CCS) investment, and looks at decarbonisation opportunities. We want to develop a new integrated cluster of process and chemical manufacturing where byproducts such as syngas and biofuels move the sector to a zero waste position; and excess heat from intensive industries is channelled into large-scale district heating systems for public and private consumption.

Going for green economic growth
The other strand is also about green economic growth, learning from the first wave of city deals, and focusing on our differentiators and growth opportunities.

These include an energy from waste specialism, requiring integrated transport infrastructure. Partners such as INCA and Teesside Environmental Trust will help us develop green places to work, live and visit alongside major industrial sites. Investment strategies will focus on CCS development and low carbon growth.

In Stockton, we want to integrate environmental excellence with economic growth, opportunity and tackling social inequalities. We recently signed the country’s biggest ECO (fully funded Green Deal) deal, to retrofit more than 5,000 private homes with external wall insulation. Added to our 2012 CESP programme, it means £30 million of investment into the borough, 500 new jobs, thousands of people removed from fuel poverty, and the chance to develop new skills and apprenticeships in a vast, growing new sector. This is the joined-up approach we are taking across the sub-region.

A recent workshop event run by Green Alliance and Labour MP Alex Cunningham, brought together  Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) – which is funded by the five councils and leads our city deal work – with leading businesses, politicians, senior council officers and environmental third sector organisations to look at ‘greening the Tees Valley city deal’.

Greening our city deal requires no new strategy
I think we can do even more, including stimulating our underdeveloped small and medium sized enterprise sector; better linking further education and skills to green businesses’ needs; expanding innovative sustainable transport solutions such as the potential for a Tees Valley metro; enhancing green spaces and the natural environment; and widening Stockton’s electric vehicle strategy. We must encourage government to look at national energy and waste strategies that will enable appropriate local clusters to be formed.

But we have realised that we do not need a distinct new strategy for greening our city deal. We have a golden green thread running through it already, one that holds the key to the Tees Valley’s economic future.

David Rose tweets @roseynorth

A shorter version of this post was published on the Guardian Local Leaders Network.  The workshop in Stockton is one of three city deals workshops run under Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme for MPs. A write up of key messages emerging from the workshops will be published and shared with local and national decision makers in July. 

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