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GW4 welcomes Mission Zero as an opportunity to deliver our strategic priority to accelerate the transition to Net Zero

Following the publication of Mission Zero, an independent review of the government’s approach towards Net Zero by Chris Skidmore MP, a plan for how South Wales and Western England could make the UK a global leader in Net Zero energy has been unveiled at the Hydrogen Gateway national conference.

In partnership with the Western Gateway, Hydrogen South West and the South Wales Industrial Cluster, GW4 led a national conference to turbocharge the development of hydrogen across the UK: ‘Hydrogen Gateway’ on 9 June 2023.  The conference facilitated collaboration across academia, industry, and government to accelerate the UK’s transition to using green hydrogen. The GW4 region aims to lead the way in developing hydrogen technology, to help achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Speaking at the conference, the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, chair of the UK Net Zero Review, said: “Last year the UK Government confirmed that Hydrogen is a key part of its plans to reach Net Zero, with aims to increase production to 10GW by 2030 and the announcement of a new national Hydrogen Champion. The Western Gateway has nationally significant strengths in hydrogen, from the South Wales Industrial Cluster to the hydrogen hub in Swindon, and I’m delighted to support their work to power the UK’s Net Zero economy.”

Chris Skidmore has also recently been appointed a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath focusing on Net Zero Policy.

The review highlights the opportunities and benefits to society and the economy from Net Zero as well as the risks and consequences of not meeting the UK’s Net Zero targets and tackling climate change. Incorporating evidence from public consultations and roundtables across the UK, the report highlights the need for a whole systems approach, comprising technological innovation, behavioural change, and investment in green infrastructure.

The report rightly acknowledges the importance of Research & Development, technological innovation, and a whole-systems approach in achieving Net Zero including developing more hydrogen consortium’s such as Hydrogen South West. It also points to the vital role the UK’s world-leading universities and research sectors can play in advancing these areas.

As the GW4 Alliance celebrates its 10th anniversary, we continue to push the boundaries of research and innovation to drive collaborations that help address global challenges. As a priority, we will focus on effective routes to accelerate the transition to sustainable Net Zero. The GW4’s Net Zero transformational programme brings together researchers, government, industry, and communities to place the GW4 region and the UK at the forefront of global efforts to reach Net Zero. The next five years will see the GW4 Alliance provide sector-leading opportunities, developing our people, and creating positive social impact within the region and beyond.

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director responds to the review:

“The Mission Zero report reflects an important step in the right direction towards Net Zero and I was pleased to attend one of the roundtables to input into the report. It must now be followed by action at a scale that reflects the urgency of the climate emergency and we must invest in innovative research, foster collaboration, and put people at the heart of the Net Zero transition. The GW4 Alliance is ready to deliver on these objectives and accelerate the UK’s transition to a sustainable Net Zero.”

As a regional alliance, GW4 is well placed to deliver targeted research and innovation to benefit the local landscape with national context. One key conclusion of the review was that there must be more place-based, locally-led action on Net Zero, this acknowledges that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Approaches to achieving Net Zero must be co-produced with communities to empower public action and deliver a fair and inclusive green transition. The GW4 area has unique capabilities and complementary assets in mobility by air, rail, road and sea as well as strengths in digital innovation, circular economy and skills development. We are exceptionally well placed to deliver technological solutions, provide an evidence base for positive social interventions, drive green jobs, and provide transformational place-based innovation with national impact. We urge the government to adopt the Mission Zero key recommendations for a greater place-based focus and involvement of local decision-making processes.

In terms of energy security, the review highlights the urgent need to develop and implement the scaling up of hydrogen production and infrastructure. The report makes specific reference to our partnership with Western Gateway, which aims to harness the research capabilities of the GW4 Alliance to support a Hydrogen Ecosystem and accelerate decarbonisation of our transport network. This includes multi-million-pound investments in green hydrogen capacity and academic expertise spanning the whole system, from hydrogen production, storage and distribution to energy system integration, policy and economics, public behaviour and acceptance.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said: “Our area has huge potential to deliver opportunities for the rest of the UK.  Using our combined strengths and skills, our leaders and businesses are ready to provide huge economic opportunity for both countries [Wales and England] finding world saving solutions for some of the toughest decarbonisation problems as the UK’s Green Energy Powerhouse.”

We welcome the review’s plan to develop and implement a 10-year roadmap for the scaling of green hydrogen production by the end of 2023 and were pleased to see that hydrogen is also a key aspect of the government’s amended Net Zero Strategy. At the same time, we echo calls for government to strengthen their long-term strategic plans, including for other renewable energy forms, to provide the security that industry needs to invest in green technology.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter