The West of England attracted a record audience when it welcomed the national #ZeroCarbonTour on Friday, on its way to the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.
Nearly 200 business leaders and entrepreneurs gathered at the University of the West of England (in person and on live stream) to hear from Metro Mayor Dan Norris, University of the West of England Vice Chancellor Steve West and from businesses that have started their own journey to net zero.
The aim of the tour is to share the net zero message with the business community and raise awareness of the campaign, ahead of COP26 in November.
West of England Mayor Dan Norris and UWE Bristol Vice Chancellor Steve West opened the event, urging businesses to take action to tackle the climate emergency.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “The University of the West of England was a perfect place to officially welcome the Zero Carbon Bus Tour to our region. Many of our brilliant local researchers, scientists and engineers hold a key to addressing the global climate emergency.
“The high turnout reflects the enthusiasm and commitment in the West of England to meet our ambitious goal of net zero carbon by 2030. The bus tour was an innovative way to drive home the important message that we can all play our part in beating the global climate emergency.”
Speakers from several local businesses also shared stories of what they are doing to work towards zero carbon. Neil Douglas from Viper Innovations described the development of a 31-acre woodland they are creating to support carbon sequestration. Keri Andriana, founder of Amschela fashion brand talked about their move to making vegan handbags.
Keri Andriana from Amschela said: “I think that we can no longer wait to see what the next business is doing in terms of reaching net zero. We all have to take business responsibility and actively work towards saving our environment. That may mean looking at your business and facing uncomfortable truths. However, it is an overarching obligation that we must take seriously to save the future of the environment we live in.”
The West of England Combined Authority is already helping businesses on their journey to net zero through its Green Business Grants scheme, funded by the West of England Recovery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. Over 50 businesses have already been awarded grants totalling £500,000 to make energy saving improvements – including some of those speaking at the Zero Carbon Tour event. A free carbon survey offer is currently available to any business wanting to understand their energy use and how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Professor James Longhurst, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at UWE Bristol, said: “UWE Bristol was delighted to host the West of England leg of the Planet Mark Zero Carbon Tour.
“Climate change presents a significant challenge to each and every one of us, one we must not and cannot ignore. UWE Bristol has set itself the ambition of becoming at least carbon neutral for all of its emissions by 2030 and is working to support businesses and local authorities such as South Gloucestershire and Bristol to meet their own ambitious carbon goals.
“Through our teaching we are helping our students to become carbon literate and ready to play their part in the green economy of tomorrow whilst our research is addressing key questions of mitigating emissions and adaptation to a changing climate.”
Further examples of sustainability action gathered during the Tour will be showcased at COP26 to inspire others to create similar initiatives around the world.
Attendees also picked up advice from zero carbon experts including the South West Energy Hub and found out about support available to help them on their zero carbon journeys, such as the West of England Low Carbon Challenge Fund.
The West of England Combined Authority’s new group-buying scheme, ‘Solar Together West of England’ is open until 28 September and may be suitable for some businesses as well as homeowners across the region. For more information visit www.solartogether.co.uk/west-of-england.