“Recasting” the North’s steel industry through greener tech could create 40,000 jobs and save 12,000 more while boosting plans for net-zero carbon emissions, a report reveals today.
The Institute for Public Policy Research North says Britain’s steel industry “is of national strategic importance”, with more than a third of jobs in northern regions like South Yorkshire, Teesside and the Humber.
The think-tank estimates that “decarbonising steel in the North will require significant annual investment to develop new technologies and encourage uptake”.
The study comes amid mounting uncertainty over the future of Liberty Steel, which employs 3,000 staff at 11 British plants, after the collapse of its main lender, Greensill Capital.
Report author and senior research fellow Jonathan Webb said: “The steel industry underpins the economies and identities of so many towns and city regions across the North.
“If we are serious about powering-up our regions, then we need to be serious about harnessing the incredible potential of ‘Green Steel’, to build the low-carbon infrastructure we need to level up for ourselves, here in the North.
“Everyone must play their part, and if they do, we will realise a return on that investment that will more than deliver for all.”
Publishing its 40-page report, ‘Forging the future: a vision for northern steel’s net zero transformation’, today, the think-tank says costs of about £150million a year up to 2030 would need to be met by the industry and government, rising to £300m by 2035.
Investment would mean the sector, which employs 32,000 UK workers, could become net zero by 2036, the study believes.
The report says that with “the pursuit of the right technologies now and investment to create a competitive low-carbon steel industry, northern steel, as a foundational industry, can be central to the country’s prosperity in the decades to come”.
The study adds: “This great transformation can offer something more hopeful; a cleaner, greener future for the steel industry.
“In turn, this will support prosperous towns and communities, providing the prospect of a good life for the people who live there.
“If we are serious about levelling up, we must begin to recast steel as an industry of the future.
“With a proper decarbonisation plan, the North’s steel industry can not only achieve net-zero emissions; it can also transform its competitiveness to become a world leader in the low-carbon steel market.”
Pressing the case for Whitehall cash, the report says that within the sector, “there remains a sense that central government could do more to support UK steel, both in terms of providing loans and other financial support to help the industry decarbonise, as well as by creating demand for UK steel domestically and by identifying new export opportunities”.
Welcoming the report, Community steelworkers’ union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said the industry “is vital to Britain, and vital to the North”.
He added: “As the report shows, steel in North is a vital source of employment and with the right framework of support can support industrial communities for generations to come and play key role in decarbonising the UK.”
UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “Home to nearly 50% of the UK’s steelmaking capacity, three out of four of the UK’s electric furnaces, and well situated to feed into the UK’s future carbon capture and storage network, the North is ideally suited to become a hub for low-carbon steel production in the future.
“However, to decarbonise the steelmaking sector requires action from Government to make the UK’s investment climate one which supports a thriving steel sector.”
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was clobbered by plant closures and thousands of job losses.