UK firms launch net-zero projects as COP26 starts

As the COP26 climate summit got underway in Glasgow, two major British manufacturers announced initiatives to drive their global businesses towards a net-zero future.

Graphic of COP26 word cloud including hope, Glasgow, sustainability
According to a report in the Financial Times, aero engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce and the state of Qatar have linked up to build a science and engineering campus in the UK to develop green technology start-ups.Additionally, construction equipment maker JCB has signed a deal to buy billions of pounds of "green" hydrogen from Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to power its next generation of vehicles.
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Green engineering on new science campus

The start-ups deal – which neither Rolls-Royce nor the Qatar Foundation have yet confirmed – would see the gas-rich state invest billions of pounds into the start-ups venture over the next 20 years.However, the FT said the deal, which would see Rolls-Royce providing manufacturing expertise and testing facilities, could be unveiled at the COP26 summit.The newspaper added: "While the exact details of the partnership still need to be finalised, the ambition is to build five green engineering 'unicorns' — start-up companies valued at $1bn or more — by 2030 and up to 20 by 2040. Additional investment will be sought from external investors including venture capital funds."

Multi-billion-pound inward investment into UK

The investment in the project by Qatar would represent one of the largest inward investment pledges into the UK since Brexit."If the project goes ahead, the two partners would launch a feasibility study to find a site in England, most likely in the north-east or north-west. The study would be completed by the middle of next year," reported the FT."For Rolls-Royce, the partnership is among a number of initiatives being pursued by the group as it seeks to convince investors that it can be one of the winners from the world’s push to combat climate change."

'The right thing to do'

Meanwhile, JCB's deal for hydrogen produced using renewable energy from Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries would see FFT become the UK's largest supplier of the clean fuel. Production, mostly done outside the UK, is expected to begin early next year.JCB, which is headquartered in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, announced in October that it was to spend £100 million on a project to produce "super efficient hydrogen engines" to power its machinery.Lord Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, told the BBC that the deal would help to make green hydrogen a viable solution, because it was "the right thing to do".Because hydrogen does not produce carbon emissions when it is burned, it is considered a likely replacement for fossil fuels in such heavy industries as shipping and steel and cement-making.Lord Bamford called on the government to invest in hydrogen-fuelled forms of transport such as buses, trains and aircraft."It's fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can't get green hydrogen to fuel their machines," he said. "This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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