Hot days and steamy nights
By Simon Collingwood - Director of Quatro (North)
Most weeks I - and a team of wonderful colleagues, friends and contacts - jot a few words on a story or thought about the North which goes out as part of our Northern Powerhouse Round Up each Friday. The guidance we tend to live by and give to our contributors is: keep it relatively short, keep it positive and make it about the North in its variety. The Northern Powerhouse Round Up goes to about 5000 people and has gained a respectable click rate of 20% or thereabouts. We tend to get really strong, positive feedback, and it is one of the real highlights of the week for me. If you want to sign up to receive it, you can do so here.
This week I wanted to write a little about the amazing weather we have been enjoying and reflect on some wider thoughts it raises and have been raised with me over the last few days.
Whilst it’s only been a few short months, it feels like a lifetime ago that the ‘Beast from the East’ struck our shores and brought us unseasonably cold weather and snowfall well into March. While what feels like a never-ending heatwave and dry spell might make for great day trips to the beach, pleasurable festival times and ice creams in the park, it also serves as a powerful reminder of the effects of climate change.
The older amongst us may remember equally hot summers and hosepipes bans, such as the legendary summer of 1976. However, in 1976 the UK was unusual in being hotter than average in that year, whereas today, most of the globe is experiencing above average temperatures. This has led to the devastating wildfires in Greece and even as far north as the arctic circle in Sweden. Moreover, we are being warned that this could become the new normal. Each of us has seen the yellowing and shrivelling fields, gasped for better air conditioning or been delayed by train delays due to overheating rails.
Climate change poses an existential threat to the planet and life as we know it. We cannot turn back the clock on hundreds of years of human activity that has led to this new reality, but it is within our grasp to make changes and mitigate the impacts. I recall from my time in Government, the UK taking a leading global role in advocating for climate change and recognising that a global shift in behaviours was required. I recall colleagues at the Treasury working with the Chief Economist Nick Stern to detail the costs of mitigation. We had a Government department with climate change in its name, sponsoring new industries to support a transition to a low carbon growth. The Government sponsored legally binding targets for reductions in climate-harming emissions. We had a Green Investment Bank to champion projects that could deliver positive, sustainable benefits. The volume and urgency appear to have left the Government’s policy. We still have a UK Climate Change Envoy and an Industrial Strategy championing low carbon futures, but it feels weaker and in the noise of Brexit is part of the side salad. Perhaps unsurprising given the flux around global discussion.
The north of England will continue to play a key part in sustainable opportunities. Our little island is surrounded by relatively shallow seas, making us an ideal candidate for off-shore wind farms. Indeed, the UK currently has 27 windfarms, the majority of which are situated in the North Sea, along the North East coast. Just this Monday even, Theresa May announced as part of a package for the Northern Powerhouse £180m to fund two research centres in offshore renewable energy and advanced manufacturing to be based in the North East. We are unequivocally world leaders in this important global industry, and the expertise lies in the north. The National Infrastructure Commission has further championed the long-term benefits of renewables. The important role for new nuclear, located predominantly in the North West, should continue to provide a contribution to our electricity supply to provide the necessary base load as we transition to electric cars and place new demands on the grid.
With the North's great history of innovation, it is no surprise that our region is swiftly becoming a world leader in this most important of industries – whether in materials, energy storage, renewables or the data analytics which will feed a low carbon future. Research and new technologies will go a long way to helping the climate crisis, but we can also all do our little bit to make a difference by consuming less to make a greener future.