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  • Advantage West Midlands

    evidence of success developing the UK’s first low-carbon regional economic strategy

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  • Advantage West Midlands – the low-carbon regional economic strategy2

    Advantage West Midlands The Regional Development Agency (RDA) for the West Midlands Region

    Advantage West Midlands is the Regional Development Agency (RDA) for the West Midlands and one of nine RDAs in England.

    Our role is to lead the economic development of the West Midlands Region, working alongside public, private and voluntary sector partners to help our region to prosper. We build upon our region’s many strengths and address our unique challenges.

    Our key task is to lead the development and delivery of the West Midlands Economic Strategy (WMES), the framework for our region’s growth. Through working in partnership, we speak with one voice for the region and make a far greater impact than we would acting in isolation.

    We have an annual budget of over £300 million to invest in the West Midlands Region and, at any one time, we manage around 2,500 projects which change the lives of people across our region. We drive economic development by identifying where we can make the greatest impact, either by targeting specific needs or investing in success. M50







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    Bishops Castle


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    West Bromwich

    To Manchester & North West To Leeds

    & North East

    To Bristol & South West

    To Oxford, London & South

    To London & South East

    Cover image: The Environmental Centre in Shrewsbury, Shropshire is a unique joint venture between Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, developer Indigo Seven, water management consultants Pension Fund and the Rural Regeneration Zone which receives funding from Advantage West Midlands.

    The project includes refurbishment and new build to create more than 9,000 sq. ft of offices for environmental technology companies including facilities to support start up businesses.

    For more information visit www.advantagewm.co.uk

  • Advantage West Midlands – the low-carbon regional economic strategy 3


    Introduction 4

    Defining the low-carbon regional economy 5

    Scale of the Carbon Challenge 6

    The scale of the productivity challenge 8

    Developing new policy criteria 11

    The results in ‘Connecting to Success’ 19

    Lessons to learn 32

    Next Steps 33

    Key References 34

    Acknowledgements 34

    Contact 35


  • Advantage West Midlands – the low-carbon regional economic strategy4

    In December 2007 Advantage West Midlands produced on behalf of the West Midlands, a new Regional Economic Strategy: ‘Connecting to Success’. Hailed as a landmark strategy, ‘Connecting to Success’ has been formally recognised as the UK’s first low-carbon economic strategy and has established Advantage West Midlands as a leader amongst the regions. This summary document explains the process that Advantage West Midlands embarked upon with its partners to produce the UK’s first low-carbon economic strategy.

    “This is the first Regional Economic Strategy to emerge since the world really woke up to climate change and began taking the challenge of a low- carbon future seriously. ‘Connecting to Success’ takes a major step forward by seriously getting to grips with the challenges and opportunities this very different future presents the West Midlands.

    Advantage West Midlands has considered the implications of this changing scene across the whole regional economy. We are particularly pleased that this analysis is supported by a convincing plan for delivering the necessary changes on the ground. We believe ‘Connecting to Success’ shows the kind of ambition that is urgently needed if the West Midlands is to make a successful transition to genuine sustainability. Achieving it will make AWM a leader in the regions.”

    Jonathon Porritt, Chair UK Sustainable Development Commission (December, 2007)

    “We applaud your ambition to have the first low- carbon Economic Strategy with sustainable development fully embedded as an underlying principle. We are encouraged that the Strategy also addresses wider aspects of resource efficiency such as waste, water and energy efficiency.”

    Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Regional Minister for the West Midlands

    Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State for Competitiveness (December, 2007)

  • Advantage West Midlands – the low-carbon regional economic strategy 5

    The purpose of this report is to share the steps we took and lessons we have learned in developing ‘Connecting to Success’ so that others can build on the example set in the West Midlands. Our aim is to inform both regional policy makers so that they can build on this evidence base and national policy makers so that they can learn from our aproach.

    Defining the low-carbon regional economy

    The central focus of ‘Connecting to Success’ was to support the transition to a regional low-carbon economy. However, there was considerable uncertainty over what a low-carbon economy means, particularly in a regional context. With no official Government definition to build upon at the regional level we comissioned research to produce a bespoke regional definition that would characterise what the low- carbon economy would mean for the West Midlands. Our definition of a low-carbon economy is:

    “An economy that produces goods and services of increasing value while reducing the associated greenhouse gases in their production, use and disposal.

    Low-carbon goods, services and skills are related to achieving this outcome and can be specialist e.g. wind turbine manufacturer or micro-generation domestic installers, or changes within mainstream processes, for example a food manufacturer improving the efficiency of its logistics or production process, or plumbers learning how to also install solar heating.”

    ‘Connecting to Success’ 2007

    Our definition of what this means for the region:

    “In the West Midlands a low-carbon economy means an economy that will underpin a prosperous and thriving region through capturing the economic benefits of increasing efficiency whilst reducing direct carbon emissions and using the region’s strengths in engineering, science and technology to deliver low-carbon solutions to national and international markets.

    For Business, this means fully capturing the opportunities for both existing industries and new enterprises to ensure the West Midlands region secures a reputation for profitable low carbon enterprise.

    For People, this means upskilling to secure the benefits from new employment opportunities emerging from a low-carbon economy, along with behavioural change, to enhance quality of life.

    For Place, this means creating the conditions for growth by optimising transport networks and developing a low-carbon built environment through energy efficiency and renewables.”

    ‘Connecting to Success’, 2007 page 39

    Reflecting the nature of our work as a Regional Development Agency and the remit of the West Midlands Economic Strategy this definition was deliberately focused upon growing the economy while reducing carbon and did not encapsulate the broader sustainable development agenda. However, to ensure that the wider issues of economic inclusion, social cohesion and the natural environment were not neglected ‘Connecting to Success’ was developed with a robust long-term sustainability appraisal.

    With a specific definition of a regional low-carbon economy the next step was contextualise our plans for ‘Connecting to Success’ in light of the regional carbon and productivity challenge.

  • Advantage West Midlands – the low-carbon regional economic strategy6

    Scale of the Carbon Challenge

    Although there are currently no regional targets for carbon reduction and each region will contribute differently to national targets, we used the carbon targets established in the UK Climate Change Act as a guide for the new economic strategy.

    We undertook research to provide a quantitative assessment of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the West Midlands region. This is expressed as

    CO2 (e) 1. The results provided a detailed

    inventory of regional emissions and form


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