Britain has been a global leader in fighting climate change and reducing our greenhouse emissions. Only this week the Government announced that by 2024 no coal will be burned in order to produce electricity in the UK, instead we will have made the switch to renewable sources of electricity production. This will be a remarkable achievement.
This year marks a crucial moment in our collective endeavour to protect our natural environment and leave a planet for future generations to enjoy. Later this year, the UK is hosting the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, which will bring together world leaders to find solutions and set ambitious targets to fighting climate change. In my role as a Parliamentary champion for nature-based solutions, I am doing all I can to keep the protection of the natural environment on the agenda.
The drive I have to protect our environment extends to measures we can take locally as well as nationally. Last weekend I met with the Hastings Greenway to listen to their discussions and explore more about potential walking and cycling routes in the town - helping to encourage local residents to ditch their cars for ‘greener’ modes of transport when getting about in our area. Following this I travelled to the Orkney Islands, with the Scottish Affairs Select Committee (of which I am a member), to visit the amazing wave and tidal energy research and development being carried out there. In both visits, we discussed the need for ‘green skills’ in a future employment market that moves towards protecting our environment whilst delivering economic growth.
At the heart of the Government’s environmental agenda is the Green Industrial Revolution which has the potential to transform our lives across the UK and here in Hastings and Rye. By investing in clean technologies, such as wind, water, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and so on, the UK has the opportunity of leading the world in new technologies and into a new Green Industrial Revolution. When I was in Orkney, I learned how hydrogen can be separated from oxygen in water using electricity, and then used to power ferries, rather than using diesel, creating cleaner air, a renewable energy source and new jobs and employment.
Transitioning to a low carbon green economy will require a workforce with the right skills - ‘green skills’. But, what are these skills and how can local residents get training in them so that we can locally take advantage of these new employment opportunities? Well, green skills are the ‘knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society’. These include engineering and technical skills in, for example, renewable energy (sun, wind, water) and construction; operation management skills relating to the change in organisational structures required to support green activities; science skills stemming from subjects such as chemistry, physics and biology; and monitoring skills concerning the observance of technical criteria and legal regulatory requirements, as well as compliance with environmental laws and standards.
The recently announced Hastings Town Deal, with an offer of £24.3m of funding from Government (which will bring in match funding of a further £85 million of investment) has a number of exciting projects, including the creation of two regional ‘green skills’ bases; Plumpton College will be setting up a “new, pilot skills hub” in the town centre and East Sussex College Group is set to establish a “Green Technology Centre of Excellence” on its Ore campus. This really is a fantastic initiative enabling our town and our residents to be on the front foot in grabbing the opportunities of an emerging green economy.
To help encourage this move to a green economy, and to improve the efforts we are all making locally to protect our environment, I will be hosting The Clean Earth Show on 19th September in Hastings, in the run up to COP26, to highlight how we can all come together for the benefit of communities, far and wide. It will give residents and businesses the opportunity to explore ways in which we can all play our part to leave a greener, healthier planet for future generations to enjoy. So please do sign up and come along, because it is only with our collective will and drive that we can reverse the adverse effects of climate change on our natural environment.