Queen’s University Belfast: Collaboration and skills vital for sustainable economy, say business leaders

As part of a project led by Queen’s University Belfast, a group of over 40 representatives from business, local government and academia came together in Enniskillen to discuss innovative ways to meet the Net-Zero goal.

The project is funded by the Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities and the meeting was arranged with support from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

Professor David Rooney from Queen’s University Belfast is leading the project. He explains: “Low carbon and renewable energy are important parts of the Northern Ireland economy. It is estimated that the sector generates around £1 billion in turnover annually and provides 5,900 full time jobs.

“However, it is also the case that in Northern Ireland we are also a disproportionately large CO2e emitter within the UK and it is vital that we work together to deliver a Net Zero future.”

Professor Rooney adds: “By bringing together business leaders, local government representatives and academia we are able to explore innovative solutions in how we can meet our goal.

“One option we are looking at is the development of Zero-Carbon Co-operatives. To drive this forward it is vital we understand the opportunities and challenges from all perspectives and today was a very positive first step on this journey. We will continue to meet with business and council representatives across the country, which will help us to form a plan to drive this project forward.”

Andrew Norton, Project Manager for the Net-Zero Skills Academy which is part of the project, comments: “Skills development is vital and now is the time to act if we are to deliver a sustainable future.

“It is expected that 42 per cent of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change by the end of this year. Therefore, it is important that we can increase technical capacity and innovation skills with a regional focus, working with industry, education and local council.”

Speaking at the event, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Errol Thompson, said: “As the first Council to publish a Climate Change and Sustainable Development Strategy, the Council is delighted to be a partner in this project and to join with representatives from across all sectors to achieve the vision of our Climate Change Strategy, which is that the Fermanagh and Omagh district is inclusive, sustainable, resilient and competent. By working together, we can accelerate the transition to net zero, build climate resilience and grow a sustainable economy.

“Our Climate Change Strategy and accompanying Action Plan extend beyond Council services to private, public and community sectors and this event provides an opportunity to build on this and create a sustainable Council, communities and environment. This project also supports the Fermanagh and Omagh Community Plan 2030 outcomes to ensure the economy is thriving, expanding and outward looking and out outstanding and culturally rich environment is cherished, sustainably managed and appropriately accessible.”

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