#WM2041 West Midlands Combined Authority publish net zero plans

On Thursday  23 January the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) lanched an ambitious discussion document in relation to their target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2041. Interim targets of a 36% reduction by 2022, and 69% reduction by 2027 have also been agreed. The comprehensive report details 74 measures aimed at increasing the rate of greenhouse gas reduction each year from 3.8% to 13% each year to achieve the target. The WMCA plans to reach zero carbon 21 years into its 80 year carbon budget and so the paper estimates timescales for  suggested actions:

  • Within five years
  • Between five and fifteen years
  • In the final five years leading up to 2041

Building on our industrial heritage and new strengths in innovation, the document  highlights the opportunity to create a highly productive, low carbon economy. The paper sets out five principles for the West Midlands that underpin efforts to limit climate impact. They are:

  1. We will make the journey to 2041 without leaving anyone behind
  2. We will boost our resilience to climate change
  3. Our future will respect our heritage
  4. We will build more places and more connectivity between places
  5. We will save energy and resources without reducing prosperity

As one of many ‘fellow travellers’  on the journey to a more sustainable West Midlands we look forward to supporting the WMCA in the delivery of these measures.

How does it align with the WM Sustainability Roadmap to 2030?

In December 2019 we published our new Sustainability Roadmap to 2030 which focuses on eight priority areas. Here we highlight just some of the measures listed by the WMCA against each priority. We’re encouraged that each area is addressed and hope that following consultation, these measures can be given greater detail and quantifiable targets where relevant.

Clean and active travel

  • No fossil fuel powered vehicles  being permitted on the roads of the West Midlands in the final five years leading to 2041.
  • Accelerated transition of buses to low carbon, low pollution variants.
  • Approve electric vehicle strategy at WMCA Board in early 2020, which outlines a collective approach to installing charging infrastructure across the region.
  • Deliver at least one ‘electric bus town’ with Government investment.
  • Infrastructure to support the transition to electric vehicles will be complemented by the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre and ongoing discussions about creating the UK’s first Gigafactory in the region.
  • ‘Keep your car at home’ schemes to reduce emissions and reduce unnecessary travel.
  • Space will gradually  be allocated away from solo occupancy cars, and towards walking, cycling, and mass transit.
  • A behaviour change programme will  encourage active travel.
  • Working with the 5G Team the WMCA will support digital connectivity infrastructure to reduce the need to travel.

Sustainable energy use

  • Working closely with Energy Capital on the need for devolution of resources and responsibilities, for example securing devolution of Energy Company Obligation funding to the WMCA.
  • Develop a joint regional investment plan for renewable heating and cooling, including any planned expansion of existing district heating networks and introduction of technologies like anaerobic digestion.
  • Transition to more eco-friendly homes addressed through a new ‘green deal’ that learns from history and leverages devolution. The focus is on both financing of retrofit as well the introduction of a zero carbon standard for new builds, something that our partners at SHAP are supporting.
  • Using public sector anchor institutions to drive change including helping the shift to LED street lighting.

Natural environment

  • Delivering and expanding the Natural Capital Investment Plan
  • Advancing plans to establish a West Midlands ‘national park’.
  • Commitment to biodiversity net gain and the quality and quantity of our green spaces, canals, rivers, and lakes.

Adapting to climate change

  • Creating breathable places, including ambitions to plant one tree for each resident based on evidence around the need for cooling, exposure to flooding, and to achieve maximum carbon sequestration.

Clean air and water

  • Learning from Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, and the car exclusion zone pilots around schools in Birmingham and Solihull, places across the region will collaborate to plan how this can be expanded in line with upgrades to the transport network.

Resource efficiency

  • A move to a more circular economy  that ‘designs out’ waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerates natural systems. This encompasses the reduction, re-use, and recycling of waste.
  • The WMCA has already committed  to eliminating single-use plastics from all activities by 2020, and they will encourage other organisations and individuals to make similar commitments.
  • Our industrial processes will work in ‘symbiosis’, with waste from one part of production supplying another and commission a regional industrial symbiosis investment plan.
  • No putrescible waste to be sent to landfill or incinerated in the final five years leading up to 2041. It will be significantly reduced, with the remainder used in compost or anaerobic digestion.

Sustainable growth

  • Work with Government to broker new investment standards so that public spending is judged by the positive social and environmental outcomes it creates, not on GVA alone.
  • Investment to support re-skilling and employment as a result of sector transitions – including further work to scope a climate re-skilling workstream over time. An example of this is encouraging FE colleges, universities and other training providers to incentivise transition into careers linked with climate adaptation and the natural environment.
  • Incentives for business, including ‘clean growth challenges’ which boost the R&D capacity and pace of technological innovation of the region in support of its Industrial Strategy.
  • Launch a communications campaign to celebrate the pride and skill of ‘green jobs’.
  • Re-fresh the region’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) incorporating growth goals in line with climate ambitions.

Social equity and health

  • Ensuring that people who are economically and democratically excluded have a part to play – closing gender, ethnicity, and disability employment and activity gaps. Investments will be into the people who need them to thrive: tackling fuel poverty, giving people space to change career direction, improving skills, providing affordable connectivity, cleaning the air and ensuring the quality and availability of public spaces and assets.

Next steps

Consultation is open until 12 March to have your say! Full information is available on the WMCA website.