Retrofitting old and cold homes, electrifying the region's automotive sector, and boosting EV and active travel infrastructure are among region's top priorities as it attempts to recover from coronavirus crisis
A green recovery plan that sets out how the West Midlands can reboot its economy from the coronavirus crisis while meeting its climate goals has been approved by local government.
The blueprint, approved by the West Midlands Combined Authority's (WMCA's) board late last week, builds on an existing commitment to make the region carbon neutral by 2041.
Announcing the new plans, the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street stressed the region's Covid-19 economic recovery efforts "must be green and inclusive".
"We now need to come together as a region - including businesses, communities, and local authorities - to make this plan happen and help build a stronger, greener and more inclusive recovery for everyone in the region," he said.
Work will start on a suite of green initiatives immediately, according to the WMCA, which brings together 18 local authorities, including Birmingham City Council, Coventry City Council, and the City of Wolverhampton, and three business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Retrofitting old and inefficient homes and tackling fuel poverty, accelerating the transition of the region's automotive industry to electric vehicles (EVs), and rolling out car charging infrastructure are some of the priorities listed in the strategy.
The WMCA also confirmed it will launch a green innovation challenge for small businesses and increase support for active transport initiatives, such as pop-up cycle lanes. New programmes to develop "green neighbourhoods" and boost natural capital in order to reboot the economy in a climate-resilient manner are also set to be advanced.
Councillor Ian Courts, portfolio lead for the environment and leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said the pandemic had prompted regional leaders to reconsider their definition of prosperity.
"While the Covid-19 pandemic has been hugely disruptive and challenging for many of us it has given us a moment to pause and reflect on what kind of future we want in the West Midlands and what prosperity means in not just economic but also social and environmental terms," he said. "That's why this ambitious plan has been drawn up, which would benefit the region on a huge scale."
In related news, the EV subsidiary of French energy company Engie has won a contract to install 13 rapid EV chargers across Bromsgrove District in Worcestershire.
Engie EV Solutions and Bromsgrove District Council said today they intend for all of the 50kW chargers to be installed by the end of the year.
Bromsgrove District Council secured funding for the project through the government's Ultra Low Emission Taxi Infrastructure Scheme, which supports the decarbonisation of the taxi industry. As such, the chargers set to be installed this year will be free to access for registered taxi and private hire vehicles for a year. Taxis and private hire cars will also benefit from a discounted rate in the four years that follow.
Local councillor Margaret Sherrey said: "This is fantastic news for our district. Now we can get the ball rolling to develop and implement clean transport options for our residents as well as giving EV users from elsewhere in the UK the opportunity to stop or visit Bromsgrove to "recharge their batteries". This really is a win-win for Bromsgrove."
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