THE West Midlands can become carbon neutral ‘far sooner than 2041’ if it receives backing from the government, Mayor Andy Street has said.

Writing for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Mayor has once again called on the government to extend devolution to the regions even further, allowing them to tackle climate change from a regional point of view.

He added that the establishment of a battery ‘gigafactory’ in the West Midlands is the important first step toward that, allowing the region to fully realise its potential in tackling the ‘climate emergency’.

Earlier this year both the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Birmingham City Council declared ‘climate emergencies’, with the latter setting itself an ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The WMCA’s own target is the same as the government’s, which aims to become carbon neutral by 2041.

However, Mr Street said that such a target can be improved on, and challenged the government to use devolution to speed up the transition to a zero carbon economy.

He said: “Back us and we can scale and speed up our plans, ensuring the West Midlands becomes carbon neutral far sooner than 2041.

“Becoming carbon neutral is not only imperative to safeguard the future of our younger generations, but it also presents a golden economic opportunity.

“If the UK is to take on California, China and Germany, we’ll need huge battery production capacity. The battery cells are heavy to move, and car companies need the plants close to their electric car factories.

“The government’s Faraday Institution has forecast that, by 2040, we could need up to 13 battery gigafactories in the UK. With the help of a government funding package, we could build the first. The automotive sector in the West Midlands already employs around 46,500 people, but with the addition of a gigafactory and support from Government, this figure could rise significantly.

“By 2050, the UK market for low-carbon goods and services is expected to reach £1,400 billion: the West Midlands intends to fully capitalise on it. To achieve our goals, regions can set clear targets and make plans for hitting them, but the government must provide the funding needed.

“Thanks to the success seen in the West Midlands, London and Greater Manchester, we’ve proved that devolution works. The climate emergency presents the perfect catalyst for the next stage of devolution.”