The region’s drive for net zero can provide teeth to the levelling-up white paper

Kevin Whitmore

By Kevin Whitmore, head of North & Midlands at BECG – the UK’s only specialist communications consultancy for the built environment. 

Net Zero had a total of just 62 mentions in the Levelling-up White Paper when it was published earlier this month. But read between the lines and the building blocks are there for the region’s Net Zero drive to provide the teeth currently missing from the Government’s thinking.

As home to the largest emitting industrial sectors (manufacturing, aviation and shipping), with more than one in every two jobs in carbon-intensive industries, there is a real opportunity to demonstrate how investments being made now across the North and Midlands can level-up and help to deliver the goal of the UK being Net Zero by 2050.

Across the North and the Midlands, efforts are being made to demonstrate how an economy powered by clean energy can help in the fight against climate change whilst also delivering the green jobs of the future – many of them in the communities that need levelling-up the most.

At BECG we have been fortunate to support a number of projects that will not just cut carbon emissions but will deliver millions of pounds of investment, creating hundreds of new jobs and providing training opportunities for young people to work in new sectors of the economy:

  • Zero Carbon Humber: a partnership to build the world’s first net zero industrial cluster and decarbonise the North of England
  • Mersey Tidal Power: a project to use the power of the River Mersey to generate enough clean power for up to 1 million homes
  • The East Midlands Energy Re-Generation (EMERGE) Centre: a 49.9MW energy recovery facility on the site of one of the UK’s last coal-fired power stations
  • The UK’s first homes fuelled entirely by hydrogen: now open to the public to experience a zero-emission gas-fuelled home of the future
  • Electricity interconnectors: connecting the region’s electricity network to Europe to take advantage of green energy produced elsewhere
  • Green logistics hubs: providing the sector with more sustainable options powered by renewable energy and a focus on electric vehicles
  • The UK’s first carbon-neutral town: built on a former airfield, powered entirely by renewable energy and with modern methods of design and construction to reduce its carbon impact

From Hull to Liverpool, Gateshead to Nottingham and Carlisle to Worcestershire, it is projects like these which will have a real impact on the levelling-up agenda whilst also delivering on the country’s Net Zero ambitions.

And the economic potential is enormous. The Green Industrial Revolution will require up to £60bn of capital investment every year focused on less well-performing parts of the UK, with a strong manufacturing and engineering pedigree.

The Levelling-up White Paper’s welcome focus on skills and the role of the private sector collaborating with local government, presents an opportunity for a wider supply chain to be created in the region, further entrenching opportunity for our young people.

As we know from experience, where there is local and coordinated decision-making, business investment will follow. This is why the White Paper’s “new framework to extend, deepen and simplify devolution in England” is perhaps the most important building-block set-out in the 350 pages of the document.

You only have to look at the difference made by elected mayors like Ben Houchen, Andy Burnham and Andy Street to provide clarity of thought and whet the appetite of business, which in-turn leverages public sector funding into parts of the country previously overlooked. Imagine the difference a single voice for counties like Yorkshire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire could also make.

Over the next 25 years we have the chance to become the cradle of the clean growth revolution. That’s why beyond the headlines I’m optimistic about the impact that last week’s White Paper will have on the futures of my daughters.



Kevin is one of the speakers for Invest North and Invest Midlands later this month, where is bringing together business and political leaders in order to start the journey from rhetoric to realistic economic growth.

Find out more about Invest North and Invest Midlands and book your tickets today and follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_whitmore