Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made a rare public appearance at an exhibition examining the challenge of meeting net zero targets on carbon emissions.

The former Hull East MP suffered a stroke more than two years ago and has kept a low profile ever since during his recovery.

But he was out and about at the Auro Innovation Centre near Hessle on Monday afternoon to visit an interactive exhibition showcasing the results of a recent survey of 650 businesses around the Humber on their plans to become net zero.

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The event was part of the week-long Waterline energy summit which is taking place around the Humber in the build-up to the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next month.

During his time as Deputy PM, Lord Prescott played a leading role in successfully negotiating the 1997 Kyoto climate change agreement signed by 192 countries which committed them to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Since then, he has continued to support measures to address climate change issues, championing the Humber as the UK's energy estuary.

John Prescott visiting the Aura Innovation Centre near Hessle
John Prescott visiting the Aura Innovation Centre near Hessle

In the survey, 80 per cent of respondents agreed that they have an environmental responsibility with 44 per cent saying that improving the environment is a key motivation for meeting net zero targets.

Commissioned by Auro with the aim of ensuring it can provide the right support for businesses, the survey was carried out by Hull-based Lampada Digital Services.

Auro director Louise Smith said: "The insights from the data we collected will mean that the support provided to businesses of all sizes, across the region, will be more focussed and effective, and tailored to their needs.

"It is through strong collaboration with businesses of all sizes and support services in the Humber, through innovation and best business practice, that we will be able to meet net zero targets by 2050 together.

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"There is a clear need for a more joined-up approach to finance for net zero action in order to bring together all funding streams and to simplify the routes to finance, particularly at a regional level and for all sizes of small and medium-sized companies so that these become enablers and cease to be a barrier."

Andy Parkinson, chief executive at Lampada, said: "If we do not unlock the potential of this large group of businesses to reduce the country’s carbon emissions, we will not meet the 2050 net zero targets set by the government.

"They are a powerhouse of innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly here in the Humber where some 90 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises are made up of less than 10 employees.”

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