West Midlands takes significant step towards net zero

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, which has approved its first five-year-plan as the region gears up to be net zero by 2041.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved its first Five Year Plan (FYP), which will set the region on the path to be net zero by 2041.

WSP was appointed by WMCA in September to produce the first plan for 2021-26. As the first of four FYPs, it identifies where and how the region needs to invest in carbon cutting projects and what new policies will be needed to reach the 2041 net zero carbon target.

The plan states that an ambitious carbon reduction of 33% by 2026 (against a 2016 baseline) needs to be achieved to keep the region on track for its 2041 target.

WSP’s research shows that more than 21,000 new jobs could be created over the next five years, and 92,000 by 2041, mostly in new carbon cutting green industries and technologies.

It also states that approximately £4.3bn of investment will be required in the 2021-26 period to support the transition to net zero, rising to £15.4bn in total by 2041.

The plan builds on projects and proposals already drawn up across the West Midlands, including retrofitting thousands of homes to make them more energy efficient, a ‘Zero Carbon Homes Charter’ and the upgrade of the region’s bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

WSP’s plan also focuses on the importance of giving local people the skills to work in new green industries, so suggests working with businesses and education and training institutions across the West Midlands.

Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This marks a significant step forward on our journey to net zero as we back our #WM2041 plan with investment in critical projects. The funding unlocked today will allow local people to start regreening their own neighbourhoods, reintroducing that nature we’ve all craved during lockdown. We’ll also be taking a new approach to net zero living, with a street-by-street approach to retrofitting and clean energy.

“Taken together these schemes amount to a powerful climate package, setting us on our way to tackling the West Midlands’ climate change emergency and reaching net zero by 2041.”

Barny Evans, head of sustainable places, energy and waste at WSP, said: “The West Midlands is well positioned to take a lead role in showing how a region can move as one towards a net zero future. The carbon reduction targets within the plan are tough and it makes clear that everyone has a role to play in achieving them, but the ambition and support within the WMCA gives confidence that their 2041 goal will be successful.”

Jim Coleman, head of economics at WSP, said: “WMCA has been very bold in its approach to achieving net zero by 2041 and the decision today to approve the first Five Year Plan is a significant step for both the region and the UK. The big challenges in transitioning to a net zero society revolve around the financial investment required to drive innovation and building the skills base to support delivery, factors that WMCA has acknowledged throughout the process.”

In October 2020, WSP committed to halve the carbon footprint of all designs and advice provided to clients by 2030.

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