M News

More than Just (a) Transition: navigating the post-carbon economy in left-behind regions

David Bailey (presenter), Alex de Ruyter and David Hearne


This paper considers the potential impact of the transition to low-carbon technologies in a key manufacturing industry (automotive) in two left-behind regions (the West Midlands and the North East of England). The imperative to transition to a zero-carbon economy has grown increasingly urgent in recent years. Yet if such a transition is to happen it will need to involve regional actors. We argue our empirical results have certain key implications. First, they reinforce existing perspectives that suggest research into skills upgrading is as a primary core mechanism for fostering (regional) resilience in the face of technical change. However, they also decisively show that skill acquisition alone cannot achieve regional rebalancing. Rather, this must be critically linked to an active regional industrial policy that avoids “spatial blindness” and, critically, moves away from certain longstanding neoliberal policy perspectives towards an approach more often associated with “coordinated” economies. Moreover, this paper fits into a growing body of research suggesting that such policy is most effective if it builds on existing regional expertise and, in a number of cases, the pre-existing strengths of specific firms at a regional level.