The Year is 2060…

November 13, 2022

The year is 2060. My younger son is the same age I was back in 2022.

Global average temperatures are 2 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels.

London is 6 degrees hotter in its warmest month. The summer heatwave of 2022 is now an annual event.

Much of the Northumberland coast is under attack by rising sea levels. Blyth is underwater. Jarrow and Gateshead are regularly flooded.

400 million people in China have been displaced by flooding and are now experiencing starvation. The 2020 floods there look like puddles by comparison.

The remaining Amazon rainforest – half the size it was at the end of the twentieth century – is on fire.

Arctic summer sea ice hasn’t been seen for two decades. The world’s refrigerator is on its last legs.

Global trade has broken down. Global cooperation is strained as new pandemics emerge in hot spots around the world. The 2020 Covid pandemic now looks like a drill.

An eighth of the world’s population now live in refugee camps.1.2 billion people. 200 times more refugees than 2022.

And that’s what kills us.  Not the weather.  The entire world’s supply chains have collapsed.  Failed states are the norm in the global South.  Our industrial capacity to build a zero-carbon future is gone. 

That’s one version of the future – the one we’re on target for.  And 630 lobbyists from fossil fuel companies are at COP27 in Egypt right now, with the express purpose of making sure we keep burning fossil fuels. 

How about an alternative?

That’s why we’re launching Net Zero North East England this week.

The climate emergency won’t wait for the Government to get its act together. So we’re not waiting. Big businesses. Small businesses. Voluntary sector. Public sector. Private sector. Everyone around the table. Everyone with the will to take action.  It was also a commitment in my manifesto to bring the region together like this, and it’s happening. 

In the North of Tyne we’re taking action every day.

We’ve put our own house in order. Our offices in the Lumen emit 364 fewer tonnes of carbon than similar office blocks every year.  We’ve planted trees to offset the remaining emissions. 

We’re investing in our future energy system so we’ll never again face the kind of energy price crisis that’s crippling family budgets today: £25 million in offshore wind – 15% of our budget. If the Government matched that percentage it’d be spending £169 billion a year. It’s actually spending £285 million.

We’ve launched a £2 million programme to equip people with green skills: retrofitting homes, maintaining electric vehicles, battery storage, wind turbine engineers.

We’ve launched a Green New Deal Fund to cut emissions and create jobs. £18 million for schools, nurseries, councils, small businesses, NGOs, housing associations.  28 projects already on the stocks. 

We’ve audited our region’s housing stock.  We’ve developed a plan to decarbonise homes through low-carbon heating and better insulation.  As soon as central Government makes funding available – and it will eventually – we’ll be ready to move without delay. 

We’re bringing new green employers to the region and helping the ones who are already here.

4,685 new jobs being created. 3,546 more than our target set by Government. 14 years’ progress in 3 and a half years.

We’re taking people with us and leaving no behind on our journey to net zero.

That’s why we commissioned a Citizens’ Assembly on climate change. A cross-section of the community looked at the issues in depth and told me what they thought we should do. 30 hours of their time, 30 recommendations. We’re implementing them. That’s democracy in action.

We’ve run the Mayor’s Climate Challenge in schools across the region. Giving kids the opportunity to grapple with the climate science and gain practical skills.

And we’ve created Crowdfund North of Tyne for small-scale community projects that make a difference to people’s everyday lives.  We’ve helped community gardens, rewilders, community kitchens, orchards, beekeeping, bicycle repair and more.

We’re just one Combined Authority with a tiny budget.  Imagine what the whole country could do led by a government that takes this seriously.

Well we’re not just imagining – we’re getting on with it, and building a fairer, more prosperous world at the same time.