York and North Yorkshire could become Britain’s first ‘carbon-negative’ region

Drax Power Station. Photograph: @Draxnews on Twitter

York and North Yorkshire could become the country’s first carbon-negative region – meaning the area would offset more CO2 emissions than it produces.

The ambition to become carbon-negative would be part of a devolution deal for the region – according to city leaders.

A meeting heard that York and North Yorkshire is in a “unique position” to provide the research at its universities, the technology from industrial centres such as Drax Power Station, and the natural assets such as the region’s national parks and coastline, to make the carbon-negative ambition a reality.

Charlie Jeffery, vice-chancellor of the University of York, said devolution could signal a boom in biotechnology and green sector research and jobs in the region.

He said: “We should aspire to become the UK’s first carbon negative region. Not just aspiring to carbon neutrality but carbon negativity.

“If we can ensure that our processes of food production conform to that ambition, if we can spur on that process of moving away from hydrocarbons as fuel sources, and if we can think of creative ways of repurposing what we have used – then we will be striking right at the heart of the issues that are driving the climate emergency.

“We are one of the best places in the world to do that.”

Greener, fairer, stronger

University of York vice-chancellor Charlie Jeffery

James Farrar from York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership said the region is asking Government for £2.4 billion as part of a devolution deal – adding: “We don’t want to recover back to where we were previously. We want to recover to a place which is greener, fairer and stronger.

“We would genuinely be the first if we achieve [carbon negativity].

“We are in a fairly unique position that your large cities simply can’t match.”

He highlighted Drax in Selby as having Europe’s largest decarbonisation project, which could be expanded, as well as the potential for parks and the coastline to naturally soak up CO2 emissions.