Vision for a different future

What needs to happen for Cornwall to achieve net-zero-carbon by 2030?

In order to transition to net-zero-carbon by 2030, Cornwall’s energy use needs to rapidly switch to renewable electricity, with oil and gas phased out. This means a major shift to Electric Vehicles from petrol/diesel, and a step-change investment in public transport to disincentivise the use of cars. It means a major shift to electric heating away from gas/oil. And it means a major increase in renewable electricity supply to power it all. Cornwall already produces 42% of its electricity from renewables. However, Cornwall is a renewable energy heaven and 100% is very achievable by 2030 with the right investment in supply, smart storage and demand-management. This would provide local jobs, reduce energy bills, and keep energy profits in Cornwall.

Net-zero-carbon by 2030 also means reducing supply chains, since the transport required to move products around is a major source of CO2 emissions. This requires a much more coherent approach to strengthening a workable local economy. Strengthening the local food economy, for example, brings together Cornwall’s burgeoning independent food and drink sector with local supply, providing alternative markets for Cornish farmers, and keeping profits in Cornwall. Other local industrial innovations can take the same approach. For example, a growing Cornish clothing industry could use established strengths like local design, and develop new local manufacturing to provide new types of employment. Some raw material clothing crops can be grown in Cornwall, allowing farmers opportunities for diversification. We need to explore a variety of similar innovations, that can reduce the CO2 from supply chains while strengthening the local economy.

Cornwall also needs to sequester a lot more carbon, which means a massive tree-planting and soil-improvement programme. Since 80% of Cornwall is agricultural land this means major farming reform. Despite our extraordinary landscape, tree cover in Cornwall is only around 6% (depending on how you measure), one of the lowest in the UK (average 13% compared to EU average 48%). A massive tree-planting programme cannot be a standalone policy, however, but requires a wholesale transition to ecological farming practice, for which farmers will need substantial economic support as well as relevant training.

In order to enable all this, however, we also need alternative approaches to financing that allow for local investment / return and prioritise community ownership. Where money comes from and where it goes to in profit is not disconnected from our climate emergency. The climate emergency cannot be addressed without a transition to a much more robust local Cornish economy. And a local economy cannot survive, let alone thrive, without local systems of finance. Otherwise, profits get extracted and exported elsewhere, and reinvestment remains in the fickle hands of multinational institutions with no commitment to place. New local banks and funds that prioritise local investment can help to restructure a local economy in a way that works for the whole community. A Green future has to be a shared future.

This is not a political programme that tinkers around the edges. It requires major, rapid changes. The good news is that implementing these changes would make Cornwall a better place to live and work!

Next: Policies for a different future