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Ideas & Observations

The Big Question

Dr Gari Harris 


Teesside University’s Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre

The most positive aspect of the net-zero agenda is that there is now a broad consensus of people, businesses and organisations who not only recognise that something needs to be done and are prepared to act accordingly, but also see the inherent opportunities and benefits that net-zero offers.

Our experience as a region, built upon traditional, heavy industry, means we have the skills and infrastructure to take a leading role in the green industrial revolution.

Already, the East Coast Cluster is developing first in-pipe technology around carbon capture and storage, as well as green and blue hydrogen production, and we have the largest hydrogen storage capabilities in the country.

And as a university operating in the nexus between the public and private sectors, helping to put policy into practice, we established the Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre to tackle these challenges and develop an industry-focused approach to place the region at the forefront of the clean energy agenda.

Ultimately, the big challenge is ensuring nobody is left behind in the transition to a net-zero economy, and to foster a regional network of collaboration and co-operation, so future generations are equipped with the skills and expertise to maximise the opportunities offered by the green economy.


Stewart Dickson

Chief executive

Weardale Lithium

Tackling climate change must be a truly and equitable process, with collaboration across every level of government and industry.  

There is definitely an ambition to deliver net-zero, which is more than just rhetoric, but action isn’t at the pace that’s needed.  

The private sector is a hotbed for innovation and has the keys to unlocking a low climate future.  

The Government has recognised this in its Powering Up Britain plan to protect our energy security with programmes such as Great British Nuclear and the Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme, which will require creative, technology-led firms to step up and deliver effective solutions.

The Government also needs to go further in the field of critical minerals, with its strategy needing the scale of ambition and investment of the US Inflation Reduction Act or the EU Critical Raw Minerals Act.

We are seeking to recover lithium for electric vehicle batteries from naturally occurring brines beneath County Durham, which will contribute to the decarbonisation of transport. 

With almost a third of the UK’s emissions coming from transport, this is an essential challenge to overcome, which requires considerable public and private investment in a supply chain that can generate and sustain green transport.

The North East is well positioned as a hub for electrification, with the potential to create an integrated ‘borehole to battery’ supply chain, which can make a significant contribution to our environmental ambitions.

Anna-Lisa Mills

Managing director


The latest IPCC report follows a long string of ever-increasing calls to arms from the world’s leading body of climate experts. 

As yet, the world has not shifted off its trajectory of escalating emissions and it looks increasingly unlikely we will cap warming at the 1.5-degree threshold.

This is the limit scientists say gives us the best chance to avoid passing tipping points that are predicted to set off irreversible feedback loops and runaway climate change, leading to a climate, ecological and human catastrophe of unimaginable scale.

There is no question governments are not doing enough and are still failing to meet old promises made in the 2015 Paris Agreement, to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.  

In the meantime, I take some inspiration from the business sector, where a relatively small number of organisations are turning ambition into meaningful action.  

I am encouraged to see organisations set targets to reduce their footprint, in line with science, and especially those that include emissions from their supply chain and measure, monitor and report progress against a robust carbon reduction plan.

At SmartCarbon, we focus our efforts on educating, motivating and inspiring organisations to take a leadership position in addressing the climate emergency, by providing a range of courses, consultancy support and carbon calculator tools and resources to take on the most important issue of our time. 


Martin Crammond


Carney Consultancy

From a construction sector perspective, I believe both individual companies and the industry as a whole are looking to improve carbon footprints, while also looking at the design phase and where projects can reduce energy use and material overconsumption.

My concern is that there are very limited resources as to where new methods of construction work can be placed to reduce emissions and energy usage on a greater scale.

We have been erecting buildings in a similar way for the past 100 years, and trying to change the mould is proving to be a difficult transition for many clients, yet alone construction companies. 

Modern methods of construction (MMC) have not only increased productivity, but brought some significant environmental benefits, including a reduction in waste, due to precision cutting and measuring, further opportunities for recycling, maximising the use of space in vehicle deliveries to reduce carbon emissions, and reducing other elements of environmental nuisance such as noise and dust.

On large projects, which have greater resource available, MMC is considered.

However, when smaller builders, who make up a substantial percentage of construction companies, are involved, they actively do not monitor or consider their environmental output and are currently not held accountable. 

And until the monitoring effect takes account of all construction companies, the feeling is there will not be a huge improvement within the sector.