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electricity pylon in Cornwall by the sea at sunset

Cornwall: a leader in the UK’s journey to net zero

Cornwall is widely known as a visitor destination, with miles of coastline and green open spaces, but it’s these natural assets that have led the region to assert itself as a leader in the UK’s journey to net zero, and take on a new identity.

Cornwall’s natural capital provides a wealth of resources capable of powering the UK’s green industrial revolution. The region’s rich heritage and experience working the land and sea has led to world-leading expertise relevant to many of today’s new global industries.

From critical minerals to biofuels, and floating offshore wind to geothermal, Cornwall offers the UK a robust domestic supply chain of raw materials and clean energy to fulfil its net zero ambitions. There are few other locations in the world – let alone the UK, where so many investment opportunities exist in one place.

Since 2009, Cornwall has increased the quantity of electricity it generates, from 90mw to over 800mw. Around 40% of the region’s electricity comes from renewable sources, and this figure is set to rise significantly with the onset of floating offshore wind projects.

In many ways, Cornwall has taken on a new identity: awareness of and responsiveness to the global climate crisis is deeply embedded in its culture.

The landscape and culture in Cornwall have attracted purpose-driven companies, and many have relocated or set up a second office in the region.

Cornwall has more B Corps than any other region outside of London, and is leading on events like Anthropy and GoodFest that demonstrate the breadth of its capabilities and understanding in bringing the green agenda into every organisation, regardless of sector.

Once a mecca for companies dreaming of a surf at lunchtime, Cornwall is now a hub for green innovation and the Triple Bottom Line of profit, people and planet.

London-based Brand Activism Agency, Don’t Cry Wolf, set up a second office in Cornwall in 2021. CEO and Founder John Brown told Cornwall Trade and Investment:

“Cornwall is a thriving hub of sustainable development. I think it’s one of the most incredible counties in the UK for actually focusing on this net zero target, and investment in that is extraordinary.”

The region’s universities – Plymouth, Falmouth and Exeter, and colleges – Truro & Penwith, and Cornwall College have responded to the region’s growing authority on climate change and capabilities in combatting it, with innovative research projects and new, trailblazing courses.

Ground-breaking pilot projects spearheaded by SMEs have been embraced and funded by Cornwall Council on its own farm estate. Projects include geothermal electricity generation, and biomethane capture from its dairy farms – used to fuel some of its vehicle fleet, as well as generate on site green electricity.

In 2019, Cornwall Council declared a climate emergency and launched a Climate Change Action Plan. This has informed all its policies and projects since, including the criteria for Shared Prosperity Fund applications – part of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

In 2021, it was hailed the nation’s leading local authority in tackling the climate crisis, in the MJ Local Government Achievement Awards. The award has led to the sharing of expertise with local authorities across the country.

Martyn Alvey, Cornwall’s cabinet member for environment and climate change said of the award:

“It’s a shining example of how we are gaining national recognition amongst local authorities across the country for our pioneering work in lowering carbon emissions and engaging our residents and partners in the fight against global warming.”

One of the Climate Change Action Plan’s key projects, the Forest for Cornwall, aims to ensure tree planting across 8,000 hectares – equivalent to up to 15,000 football pitches – this includes everything from planting woodlands to individual trees in gardens.

The council has also initiated a reduced bus fares pilot to make it cheaper for residents and visitors to swap car for bus, and has invested in pay as you go electric ‘Beryl’ bikes in six of its towns.  

With the adoption of a Climate Emergency Development Plan Document, Cornwall Council can better control how the region grows and changes, addressing the impacts of climate change with flexible policies that can respond to changes in technology.

The next 10 years will see transformative projects realised, and the power of Cornwall contributing significantly to the UK’s net zero target.

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