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Ian Courts: How the next PM can deliver for the West Midlands

Cllr Ian Courts (West Midlands Ambassador for CEN and Leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council)

Mitigating and adapting to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges we are facing. Finding solutions, and becoming more resilient to its effects, are priorities for us all.

The leadership contest has drawn support for our net zero target, but there has been a lack of detail over specific actions, which embrace much more than just decarbonisation.

The West Midlands Combined Authority and individual councils such as Solihull have highly-developed climate change plans but do need support for their programmes.

Taking action on climate change carries many benefits: retrofitting and improving the energy efficiency of our buildings will reduce fuel poverty at a time of rocketing energy costs; the decarbonisation of transport will reduce pollution; better energy planning will help meet local demand and improve resilience; a better natural environment is good for health and enhances biodiversity. These are all part of the current devolution deal that the West Midlands is preparing for negotiation with the government.

Domestic carbon emissions account for over one-third of the total, and tackling these is key. In the next five years, 292,000 homes in the West Midlands need to be retrofitted to stay on course for net zero. The West Midlands Combined Authority has set up a SMART Hub and Neighbourhood Pilot to enhance delivery, but there are issues with the consistency of funding. Our devolution ask is that the challenge of multiple and short-term funding programmes be addressed to give confidence to the supply chain to invest in jobs, training, and increased capacity.

Energy planning needs to be more integrated and localised. Taking a whole systems approach (generation, distribution and demand), £720m of net present value over 30 years was proven to be provided by one of our recent projects. We need to change some policy and regulations to be able to harness this.

Recent heat waves, wildfires, drought and flooding illustrate the need for a more coordinated and proactive approach to adaptation and resilience. The West Midlands Combined Authority is asking for clarity on this through the next devolution deal with the government and is seeking support for medium to long-term community resilience programmes.

Nature-based solutions will be a key part of the response for mitigating carbon and improving biodiversity, with 10% of species currently being threatened with extinction. Mitigation measures require carbon sequestration and adaptation measures like urban cooling and flood attenuation, alongside a programme of nature recovery and tree planting. Identifying new routes to investment in this area will be critical for its success. We have proposed a Natural Environment Investment Fund in our Natural Environment Plan as a vital tool to scale the investment required.

Finally, investment in low carbon industries, decarbonisation and technology will create jobs, improve skills, and increase export potential– our Five Year Plan indicates that net zero could create 21,000 new jobs by 2016 and an additional 71,000 by 2041.


Views expressed in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of the Conservative Environment Network. If you are a CEN supporter, councillor, or parliamentarian and would like to write for the CEN blog, please email your idea to


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