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GEPs: showing the way to a greener future?

October 2013

With the global population heading towards nine billion and consumption at around three times the planet’s resources, there’s no doubt that action is needed for sustainable growth in the development of low-carbon and environmental goods and services.

One organisation is leading by example. In East Anglia the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has made the green economy the heart of its work and is pioneering a way forward that could be followed by the whole of the UK, and even globally.

New Anglia is one of 39 LEPs in the country and operates in an economy worth £27bn. At the heart of the New Anglia LEP’s operation is the Green Economy Pathfinder (GEP), a project undertaken at the invitation of government to develop a vision to lead the transition to a green economy, delivering benefits across East Anglia with examples of best practice to be shared with the rest of the UK.

Mark Pendlington, chairman of the GEP and group director of Anglian Water, explains the thinking behind the GEP: “New Anglia is the perfect place to pioneer a project like this. This is the driest, lowest-lying part of the UK, with around 30% of land below sea level. We have an extensive coastline which is vulnerable to rising sea levels and the fastest growing population in the country. We are literally on the front line, and will be among the first to feel the impacts of climate change. So developing a low carbon sustainable economy is essential if we are to live within our resources and continue to make this a great place to live and work.

“Our priorities are low carbon: innovation, resource efficiency and energy; natural capital: that focuses on landscape, farming, tourism, wildlife and quality of life; and social capital: employment skills development and community cohesion. And we have developed a strategy and action plan with five key objectives and 25 goals to fast-track green economy growth.

“To enable this, we have also created the GEP Board, comprising 23 experts in a broad range of fields, who are dedicated to driving the scheme forward.”

Iain Dunnett, operations manager for the LEP said: “Our GEP manifesto showcases local businesses that are demonstrating a cutting edge approach to the green economy.”

One of the businesses featured in the GEP manifesto is Adnams Bio Energy, a partnership between Bio Group and Suffolk-based brewery Adnams plc. It is the first bioenergy plant of its kind in the UK; built to inject green gas to grid, producing biomethane from food and brewery waste.

Bio Group seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a diverse network of facilities that turn organic waste into renewable energy. It has also been working with some of the UK’s leading energy providers to develop the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS). This tracks commercial transactions of biomethane through the supply chain, reassuring customers that the gas they buy is totally ‘green’ and incentivising gas producers to inject green gas into the grid.

Steve Sharratt OBE, GEP board member and Director of Adnams Bio Energy, said: “This project is a clear example of how a commercial production operation can be linked to a source of energy from local waste. Future developments such as this will be central to sustainable growth.”

At the University of East Anglia (UEA) the Adapt Low Carbon Group has been formed to promote the generation of enterprising low-carbon concerns. The Group incorporates the InCrops Enterprise Hub, the Low Carbon Innovation Fund and the Low Carbon Innovation Centre, which was formed in 2008 as the hub for all the UEA’s low-carbon and climate change innovation activities. This centre seeks to accelerate the uptake of carbon-reducing technologies and stimulate economic growth.

The high quality of Norfolk and Suffolk’s food and drink is also an important feature of the GEP manifesto because the area is the ‘breadbasket’ of the UK. Some 327,000 people work in the region’s food supply chain, with an additional 37,000 in food processing and more than 47,000 on farms. East Anglia’s predominately arable farms produce over a quarter of England’s cereals.

Many small food and drink producers, whose brands are well known outside East Anglia, are creating jobs, attracting tourists and protecting the environment. The East of England Co-operative Society has recently won a BiTC award for sustainable production. It is the largest independent retailer in the New Anglia area. Through its Sourced Locally initiative, 114 local suppliers sell over 2,000 products in its stores; most sourced from within a 30-mile radius.

One of the first tangible outputs from the GEP is Wild Anglia, an independent organisation whose aim is to think differently about nature – how nature can contribute to and at the same time be invested in, by society and our economy. Wild Anglia was awarded Local Nature Partnership status by Defra in 2012, along with a broad remit to find local solutions to strengthening nature – so that it can continue to serve society.

“This is far more than just being nice about nature. Nature underpins our society and economy,” said Richard Powell, OBE, who chairs Wild Anglia and is also a GEP board member and former director East of England – National Trust. “It is not optional, an add-on, or a ‘nice-to-do’ and it will not support us forever if we fail to invest in it.”
Richard Powell added: “Through the GEP, our aim is to use all our energy and resources, across local and central Government, business and other organisations, to devise new solutions and tap into existing programmes and initiatives, as we continue to fast-track the green economy in our region. We hope that all parties involved will be thinking differently and looking to be a champion for the economic, environmental, and social agenda’s to create new and innovative solutions. Business as usual isn’t really an option.”

Further information:

East of England Co-operative Society | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability


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