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Net Zero Cities - sustainable infrastructure and the place-based approach

CGI of entrance to HS2 Curzon station in Birmingham (Grimshaw)

Future Cities Forum is holding its infrastructure event this week, looking at climate change concerns ahead of world leaders arriving at COP 26 in November.

The forum is being led by guest speaker Stephen Dance, Head of the Commercial Adviser Team at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority. The IPA stated recently its commitment to Net Zero by adopting modern methods of construction (MMC) across 170 construction projects, with £15.4 billion value of projects using elements of MMC.

It has written recently in ‘Transforming Infrastructure Performance – the Road Map to 2030’:

‘….to drive us towards our commitment to Net Zero by 2050, the government is committed to using its position as the single largest construction client to support and encourage the adoption of more productive and sustainable practices within UK construction.’

It has also put great emphasis on ‘place-based regeneration and delivery’, noting that it has not in the past put sufficient recognition behind the local context and the complexity and the relationship between the built environment and natural systems. The Oxford- Cambridge Arc is an important exemplar of this approach, which will include Local Natural Capital projects.

Stride Treglown, Cross River Partnership, Newcastle City Council, RSHP and Grimshaw are among the contributors to the event, which will discuss how to ensure sustainability of construction, innovation in materials, levelling up the North of England, greener transport plans, achieving sustainable and climate conscious airport development and the future for MMC.

Newcastle City Council is part of a collection of Northern leaders offering to work with the UK government to level up the North. Civic and business leaders are putting forward a collective partnership offer, setting out how the North can lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and deliver on the levelling up promise. Leaders have invited the Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, to join them for a working Convention in Liverpool in January 2022.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council and Chair of the Convention of the North said:

'We want to develop skills within our communities, tackle the health inequalities that have been laid bare by the pandemic, attract greater investment into our towns and cities , and lead on the Net Zero transition.'

Meanwhile, a new approach to reusing and repurposing the West Midlands Combined Authority's precious resources has been launched alongside a £240,000 fund to help local manufacturers cut waste and their use of raw materials.

The region's first ever Circular Economy Route-map has been drawn up by the WMCA to show what can be done to make sectors such as manufacturing, construction and food more efficient in the way they use resources.

The Route-map was announced to businesses attending the launch of the new West Midlands Low Carbon and Circular Economy Fund in Birmingham recently. The Fund has been set up by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise (GBSLEP) specifically for firms in the low carbon and food and drinks manufacturing sectors.

To apply for a grant, food and drinks manufacturers will need to work with low carbon innovators to develop more eco-friendly production methods that can either cut waste or carbon or drive the use of sustainable food and drink packaging.

The transition to a circular economy - one which encourages the repair, reuse and regeneration of resources and materials as well as the use of renewable energy - is seen as critical if the West Midlands is to achieve its #WM2041 target of becoming a net zero carbon region within the next 20 years.

Cllr Ian Courts who has previously spoken at Future Cities Forum said:

''It's an important initiative that provides that provides funding for businesses to lower their carbon emissions. This is critical in achieving our local and national net zero targets and most importantly mitigating the impact on our environment. Low Carbon is a key growth sector and GBSLEP is committed to helping SME's to create solutions that will help deliver the government's Plan for Growth and Green recovery.'

The Route-map has been drawn up by the WMCA to understand the flow of resources and materials across the region and identify opportunities in both the private and public sectors that can grow the circular economy, creating new business opportunities and jobs, whilst supporting the environment.

It outlines how innovative approaches to manufacturing products can be supported at a regional level including newly created hubs dedicated to zero waste construction of buildings and infrastructure and the exchange and recovery of materials.

The Route-map has identified three initial priorities for focus:

- A Circular Battery Partnership to promote circular battery manufacturing in the West Midlands;

- A Circular Construction Repurposing programme to refurbish and repurpose residential and commercial properties;

- A Circular Hubs Network to encourage the sharing of food, products and skills in communities.

The circular economy is already strong in the West Midlands, with Wolverhampton City Council being the first English city to sign the European Circular Cities declaration and world-class industry and research activity across the region. The Fund will build on these capabilities and be a tangible first step on the region's route to a circular economy.


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