Disadvantaged communities must not ‘pick up the bill’ of net-zero transition, says Co-op chief

The most vulnerable members of society must not be left to ‘pick up the bill’ of the net-zero transition, according to Co-op CEO Steve Murrells.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Westminster Business Forum last week, Mr Murrells warned that as we move to a zero-carbon world, there ‘can’t be a repeat of the 1980s’, where whole communities were cast aside as the UK changed its means of sourcing energy from coal to North Sea oil & gas.

In the retail sector, he called for a unified response to issues such as packaging, plastic and electric lorries, adding that companies must work more collaboratively and not use the issue as a means of ‘grand-standing on their own climate promises.’

In terms of rebuilding a post-Brexit Britain, Murrells stressed that this must be about healing the rifts which exist now in the UK, rather than just protecting and strengthening the interests of the City.

He suggested that a sustainable solution can only be found if we ‘genuinely face into the questions which surround individual and national identities, as well as community cohesion.’

Regarding the forthcoming trade negotiations, Mr Murrells said the UK must protect environmental and welfare standards to support sustainable supply chains.

In related news, a new study was launched last month that will explore the legacy of what is left behind following the transition to net-zero, and how to support the communities that they are in.

It’s being led by Keele University researchers and aims to establish a new role for local communities in decommissioning large industrial facilities such as coal plants.

The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), will bring together communities connected to three sites – Chatterley Whitfield Colliery near Stoke, Fawley Power station near Southampton, and West Burton Power station near Gainsborough.

Researchers say these three sites are the ‘past, present and future of decommissioning’, and each provides expertise and knowledge about the possibilities and pitfalls for community ownership of decommissioning processes and their outcomes.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter


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