This month, the Green Investment Plan Cumbria (known as the GIPC to their friends) launched its new green investment report. The report outlines a series of projects that are set to pump billions of pounds into the local economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tonnes every year. The projects intend to make the most of Cumbria’s wealth of renewable and natural assets and take in a range of sectors and range across nature, transport, buildings and the energy sectors. They each involve various mechanisms to help with their financing. The report also identifies actions which should ensure that local interest is maintained in the investments so that the projects can be shaped to meet local environmental and community needs & priorities.

One of the major projects identified include a community owned offshore wind farm named “Collette”, which could power 1.7 million homes with clean energy and bring hundreds of jobs to the west coast of Cumbria. Not bad.

Another proposal is for a large-scale facility at Harker which could produce hydrogen gas from renewable energy, to be used for the hard to abate sectors such as steel, cement and heavy road transport.

An agri-innovation hub is also suggested to develop skills in innovations such as agri-forestry, agri-Voltaics, livestock management and nature-based solutions opportunities by combining public payments with private investments, to scale up to many of the catchments in Cumbria.

Also on the cards is a retrofit skills hub and a retrofit delivery organisation. this would train Cumbrians in retrofitting skills and encourage consumers to undertake projects by increasing their understanding of options available to them. It would also build confidence that works will actually be professionally carried out. The skills hub could be delivered by the Cumbrian network of further education colleges, the Ecological Building Systems, based in Carlisle, and others.

The report comes as a commitment to net zero is growing across the financial system. While there is no shortage of capital, how this is delivered needs to be urgently addressed. –  in particular locally where there is a large demand for cash, alongside a struggle to attract investment.

Recent polling from YouGov has suggested that two-thirds of the UK public think it’s important that the UK invests in transitioning traditional industries such as steel to low-carbon production.

The report is the first step to attracting more funding to Cumbria and it seeks to illustrate what a green investment plan for Cumbria might look like. While Cumbria’s reorganisation into two new unitary authorities will take some time to fully bed down, strategies for investing in net zero projects need to start now to meet national 2030 deadlines and the 2037 net zero local target.

We hope that common net zero ambitions, green investment and jobs plans can be a bridge between the two unitary authorities, to build from all that has already been achieved, and with an accelerated pace of delivery.

Prof Nick Robins, LSE and chair of GIPC, commented:

“What is so inspiring about the proposals from Cumbria’s Green Investment Plan is the focus on how financial innovation can not only enable urgent climate action, but also create good quality jobs for local people and strengthen communities through a focus on delivering a truly just transition.”

Ciara Shannon, Project Lead of GIPC, said:

“With Cumbria’s wealth of green assets, there is a great opportunity for local and national investors and the government to come together and create something truly pioneering. If all of the ideas in the report are acted on, Cumbria can go beyond achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be one of the UK’s first climate positive counties (that is, to remove more GHG emissions than it puts into the atmosphere”.

Ingrid Holmes, Executive Director, Green Finance Institute, commented:

“Net zero investment must scale up as soon as possible. The UK Infrastructure Bank – which has a joint focus on delivering and supporting local and regional growth for a net zero economy – is likely to be an important partner for Cumbria in its efforts to unlock private capital to create future-fit, resilient infrastructure that meets local needs.”

Suzanne Caldwell, Managing Director, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said:

“I hope that this report will be read far and wide and that it will lead to a competitive investment strategy for Cumbria. An investment strategy will help Cumbria’s businesses make the right decisions to seek out social and environmental opportunities, alongside financial returns.”

Michael Osbourne, Arup, commented:

“Harnessing Cumbria’s natural forces of wind, tide, solar and water for renewable power will drive a green industrial revolution, decarbonising industry and transport, creating new raw materials of hydrogen and oxygen, for new industries, jobs and export opportunities in the future.”

Ian Callaghan, finance adviser to the project, noted:

“While the raw materials for sustainable prosperity are all present in Cumbria, we need to find ways of making sure that promising projects and business ideas consistently get access to the finance they need. This will mean creating an approach that brings all the parties together to get finance over the line, and this investment plan is a great start to that process.”

You can view the report here.