Business Matter: making net zero a reality by 2040 in South Yorkshire

Net Zero Project Director at South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority Richard Sulley, explains the ambitions for South Yorkshire's Net Zero target of 2040.

“With COP26 still fresh in our minds, the global climate summit that brought leaders together from almost every country in the world demonstrated how important it is that we all work together collaboratively to reduce carbon emissions.

Although the summit focused on achieving net zero on a global level, here in South Yorkshire we all have a part to play too.  Sheffield was recently recognised as the UK’s most sustainable city and we must build on this to ensure that we can meet net zero.  This is where we achieve a net balance by reducing the greenhouse gases we emit and increasing the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere through improved land management and technological solutions.

The Mayor, Mayoral Combined Authority and LEP have a shared purpose to create a stronger, greener, fairer South Yorkshire and our Energy Strategy outlines how our region could achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, 10 years before the goal set by Government.

The Strategy will need collaboration between businesses, universities and the South Yorkshire community. It shows how we will need to ensure no new homes use fossil fuels by 2025, and that we need to have a zero-emission public transport fleet by 2035 amongst numerous other schemes which will need to be implemented.


There are several challenges that we need to overcome in South Yorkshire to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.  This includes looking at ways that we can help the estimated 52,000 of South Yorkshire’s businesses which are not actively improving their energy efficiency.  All local businesses will need to drive forward with plans to achieve net-zero within their own organisations if we are to meet our collective aims.

Another area to be addressed is the level of carbon emissions from vehicles and public transport, which as well as having a climate impact are also a significant contributor to localised air pollution.  You may have seen our Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey championing sustainable modes of travel and her aim is that South Yorkshire will have more than 1000km of cycling and walking routes in the region over the next 20 years.  We need fewer cars, driven less often and to make more journeys by public transport or by walking and cycling. Our aim in the next few years is to cut car journeys by at least a quarter in South Yorkshire. 

Only 20% of electricity consumed in South Yorkshire is generated here, but that does not remove our obligation to use this as sparingly as possible. Most of the carbon reduction we have seen as a region and nation has come from the decarbonisation of the electricity grid, with big strides made in the transition from coal-fired power stations and increased availability of grid scale renewables. There is both an opportunity and a need to vastly increase the amount of renewable energy generation and storage capacity in the region which can continue that journey and give organisations cost savings and resilience.

Low carbon opportunities

The low carbon economy, which is projected to grow four times faster than the wider UK economy, represents significant growth potential for our region.  It will open up many jobs too - our aim is to create 3,500 roles and training opportunities in the low carbon/renewable energy sector.

South Yorkshire has businesses and institutions who are globally recognised for their technical expertise and innovation. We maximise our strengths when we bring those elements together, such as in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Advanced Manufacturing Park.

We have existing businesses and research institutes involved in many aspects of the low-carbon transition from green hydrogen production, through to offshore wind, batteries and Nuclear power. This positions us in an area where we can not only fulfil our decarbonisation needs with the region but also sell those skills and technologies throughout the UK and globally.

The focus now is on decarbonising South Yorkshire’s economy, which will require significant investment but will also unlock major benefits to residents in terms of creating thousands of jobs.   

We believe there is a very real possibility that just as South Yorkshire was a major player first industrial revolution, we are in a position to be recognised as the ‘Green Heart of Great Britain’.

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