West Midlands looks to become UK’s first Net Zero Pathfinder region

Plans unveiled by the West Midlands would enable it to lead the way in establishing clean energy systems ahead of COP26, becoming the UK’s first Net Zero Pathfinder region.

On 9 March, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) made the case for a greater level of local control over energy policy, publishing its Net Zero Pathfinder document. Despite notable achievements in clean transport, industrial decarbonisation and pioneering energy systems projects, WMCA’s energy experts, Energy Capital, said with more support and devolution from central government the region could go “further and faster” in tackling climate change and driving towards net zero.

Calling for a “local first” approach, the WMCA set out 10 asks for government, including a statutory role for the WMCA in the energy network price control process, the power to designate Energy Innovation Zones, and support in developing a model for a regional energy infrastructure investment fund. It also called for the power to design Energy Innovation Zones, to keep control of energy levies raised in the region, local retention of the Energy Company Obligation which is worth over £50mn to the region, and to work with the Committee on Climate Change to trial a regional carbon budget process.

Confirming the West Midlands as a pathfinder region, it continued, would boost the UK’s claim of becoming a leading investor in innovative net zero technologies and support the “Global Britain” agenda to be showcased at COP26.