Hull has a growing reputation as a centre of green industries. Between Siemens’ wind turbine plant, Green Port Hull and innovative manufacturers such as Bio-D, Hull’s green business credentials look strong. Dig a little deeper, however, and you discover that despite such environmentally friendly organisations, Hull as a whole remains a deeply un-eco friendly city. A recent study by Forums for the Future ranked Hull 3rd from bottom of a list of the UK’s 25 most environmentally friendly cities. The survey was based on criteria such as recycling facilities, energy efficiency and local government environmental policies.
While this isn’t exactly great news – both from a health and sustainability point of view – it does present the city with a major opportunity. The so-called ‘green economy’ is growing three times faster than then UK economy as a whole and in 2018 it was worth over £42bn and that figure is set to soar in the coming years.
With Hull’s growing green industry sector and with public demands for clean air and a healthier environment growing, could becoming a green city give Hull a further business boost in 2019? And what measures would be required to make this transition? Let’s take a look.
A Clean Air Zone For Hull?
The United Nations estimates that 15% of all greenhouse emissions come from the vehicles. Given Hull is in the UK’s top 30 most polluted cities – no surprise given the higher than average number of lorries and HGVs owing to the port and the large number of haulage businesses that operate in the region – then something must be done.
There’s been plenty of talk of electric vehicles which would cut these emission levels at a stroke, but mainstream adoption is probably still some way off. So, if Hull wants to green there needs to be another way and one that could cut pollution quickly. One idea that has been considered by the council, and which has been adopted by other leading British cities such as London, Birmingham and Glasgow, is a Clean Air Zone (CAZ).
A CAZ charges drivers of the most polluting vehicles to enter parts of the city. In Birmingham, where the CAZ comes into force in January, the charges range from £8 per day for a car up to £50 for a coach or truck. Electric and other low and non-polluting vehicles are exempt from the charge and the idea of bringing a zone in is to both clean up the city’s air and reduce congestion.
Is a CAZ a good idea for Hull or would it choke the life out of the city’s economy? Only time will tell, and while plans for one have recently been ruled out by the council on the grounds that roads like the A63 make it impractical, as pressure mounts on councils to clean up their air so the chances of one coming in become more likely. Fear regarding the economic impact could be overplayed – London has continued to thrive since the introduction of the Congestion Charge, and while we do need ensure we back Hull’s high streets, a CAZ could pave the way for a green city.
Hull: A Smart City?
‘Smart’ cities are starting to pop up all over the world, with places like Singapore and Tokyo leading the way. A smart city is one that uses super-fast broadband – as currently being rolled out in Hull by the likes of KCOM and others – to connect various physical devices to an ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) network in order to make the provision of services more efficient. Hull City Council has already expressed their support for the idea and it does make a lot of economic and environmental sense.
With its ability to cut waste, cut pollution by control traffic flows in real time and deliver services on on-demand basis, becoming a smart city could help Hull cut its carbon footprint and deliver a better business environment too.
The drawbacks are twofold. The cost of rolling this infrastructure out are high and in these days of austerity it would be left to the private sector to provide much of the investment; a problem but by no means an insurmountable one. The other is privacy and security. Some fear that with everything from your bus to your bin being connected to the web that privacy could be compromised and that the more devices that are connected, the greater the chance of you being victim to a cyber-attack. This too is manageable so long as residents are cautious and businesses protect themselves.
Becoming a smart city would send a very positive signal to the world at large regarding Hull’s technological and environmental credentials. Yes, it wouldn’t be cheap but it would attract investment and, at the end of the day, what price the future?
Hull Green Port
The Hull Green Port project is a shining example of how environment and economy can make for good bedfellows. Based around the vision of establishing Hull and the Port of Hull as a centre for renewal energy – particularly when it comes to offshore wind power generation.
Bringing together a mix of important players including the University of Hull, Associated British Ports and East Riding Council and with funding from the Regional Growth Fund this is an important and exciting green project. The idea was given life, not surprisingly, by Siemens’ decision to invest £160m in the area to create their wind turbine plant and the siting of the world’s largest offshore windfarm just off the coast of Hull.
This multi-million-pound project is set to create thousands of jobs and provide a new industrial base for decades to come. Its success will draw more green businesses in and could well provide a catalyst for Hull’s future that is simultaneously green and rosy.
Could Hull Become A Green City?
In our opinion there’s no question as whether Hull could become a green city, it’s simply a case of when. The city has enjoyed a renaissance since becoming City of Culture and has enjoyed a sustained period of growth and investment. What is vital now is that the city looks to how it can sustain and build on this new-found confidence. We have seen to our considerable cost how in the past a reliance on traditional industries and ways of working can lead to disaster – remember the decline of the fishing industry? This cannot be allowed to happen again.
Yes, there will be challenges and disruption but if we, the people and business owners of Hull, embrace this change it could give us a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future – and surely that’s something to work towards?
Here’s to Hull: a green city with a golden future!
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