An ambitious plan to put the West Midlands on track for net zero by 2041 has been given the green light.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) board has agreed to back the first Five-Year Plan with investment of more than £5 million, helping to drastically cut emissions by retrofitting homes, expanding greenspace and creating thousands of new green jobs.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Today 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.”
The approval will allow the WMCA to build on existing work to accelerate the region’s push towards net zero by pioneering a Net Zero Neighbourhood concept, linking with plans to push forward the retrofitting of thousands of ‘old and cold’ homes to make them more energy efficient. This will complement the WMCA’s Zero Carbon Homes Charter setting out how all new homes built in the region from 2025 onwards can be carbon free.
The approved plans will also launch a new Natural Capital Programme, creating a £1 m Community Green Grants fund and bringing together existing initiatives around tree planting to create better access to green space for communities. This work will complement plans for the West Midlands National Park concept being championed by Birmingham City University and the WMCA.
On the roads, the plan shows that all the region’s bus fleet will need to be upgraded to zero-emission vehicles, just as Coventry has committed to becoming an all-electric bus city by 2025. Twenty new hydrogen-powered double-deckers are being prepared to run on the new Sprint route from next year.
The detailed plan for the next five years outlines the actions needed to cut carbon emissions by around 33% by 2026, necessary to keep the region on course to meet its 2041 target and accelerate a green and inclusive economic recovery. The target will be tough to reach so the WMCA will be calling on everyone in the region to play their part. This could range from residents making small changes to their everyday lives to financial support from businesses and government. Significant investment will be required, approximately £4.3bn in the first five years and £15.4bn by 2041. One way in which the WMCA is encouraging this is with the Net Zero Business Pledge, launched earlier this week.
The plan was drawn up by independent consultants WSP who found 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. A proposed Green Skills Strategy will outline the support required to give local people the skills to work in new green industries.