The North East is well-placed to be the sustainable engine room of the UK’s transition to net zero, according to speakers at a summit in Newcastle.

More than 200 representatives of businesses, voluntary organisations, education providers and the public sector attended the second annual Net Zero North East England summit, hearing how the North East stands to gain a £1.9 billion annual boost to the economy as the UK transitions to net zero, supporting 27,000 green jobs in the region.

Heidi Mottram, co-chair of Net Zero North East England, and chief executive of Northumbrian Water, said: “Achieving net zero is the biggest challenge facing the UK today, but for the North East it’s a tremendous opportunity too. We have the right industrial strengths, the right skills, and – importantly – the right ambition to be a driving force for positive change on net zero, in a way which benefits our economy as well as our environment.

“With our rich heritage in innovation, and prominence in sectors like renewable energy generation, automotive manufacturing and the tech and digital space, there’s no better place to pave the way on net zero than the North East.”

Net Zero North East England is a collaboration between local government, business, education, the public sector, and civil society, which aims to drive a comprehensive regional approach to tackling the climate emergency.

Alongside Ms Mottram, the partnership is co-chaired by Cllr Graeme Miller of Sunderland City Council and Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, and counts amongst its board members representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses, engineering firm Mott MacDonald, Ryder Architecture and Northumberland County Council.

North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, said: “Climate change is real, and it’s happening now. If we get it wrong, our economy will crash with it.  If we get it right, we can create thousands of jobs and usher in an era of cheap, clean electricity and warm homes.

“Public transport is key. The North East invented public transport with Stephenson’s Rocket and Locomotion.  We need fully integrated public transport that’s clean, cheap and reliable, as part of a Total Transport Network, where one ticket can take you on the train, the Metro and the bus.”

Net Zero North East England formally launched last November, and the group’s combination of public, private and voluntary sector leaves it well placed to both help decarbonise and grow the number of green jobs in the region.

Councillor Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council said: “The partnership and spirit of collaboration which is at the heart of Net Zero North East England is crucial. There’s a clear environmental imperative, but there are economic and moral ones too which point to a positive future for everyone in the North East.

“It’s so heartening to see the progress that’s been made in the past year building that community and building the evidence base which will help us make the changes we need to make.”

Today’s summit heard from a range of regional and national speakers, including Dr Eleni Bougioukou of the Port of Tyne, Charlotte Carpenter of Karbon Homes, and Jonathan Oxley, Senior Manager for Net Zero at the CBI.

Reflecting on the summit, Mr Oxley said: “Across the country, we at the CBI are working to support the emerging clusters that can help the country address net zero. The North East is absolutely one of those, and it has all the right ingredients, from its business base, to its workforce and its regional leadership.

“The North East is already speaking with a common voice, it was great to hear that voice today and share my own perspective as part of the summit.”