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Britain’s steel industry is “at risk” unless the Government helps the sector go green, MPs warn today.

The UK could be left behind in the race for environmentally-friendly production as rival nations lead the way, according to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

It sounded the alarm following an inquiry into how steel firms, which are blamed for 14% of the UK’s industrial emissions and 2.7% of all Britain’s greenhouse gases, can slash pollution.

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It said: “Domestic UK steel production will be at risk unless the Government develops its strategy to encourage more research and development in emerging decarbonised technologies.”

Production uses huge amounts of energy ( PA)

Committee chairman Philip Dunne said: “Our committee heard that the steel sector has the opportunity to move away from a heavy emitter towards championing clean tech as it adjusts towards eventually becoming a low carbon industry.

“This is exactly the transition we must be focusing on as the net-zero deadline of 2050 approaches.

“To make this a reality, the Government must set clear demand signals and invest properly in research and development so that industry can adopt alternative methods to manufacturing steel that is not such a carbon intensive process.”

Conservative Philip Dunne chairs the committee ( PA)

The £2.1billion industry directly employs 33,700 workers, with another 42,000 in supply chains.

Bosses are under huge pressure to switch to less-polluting manufacturing, but want government help to overhaul processes.

Community steelworks’ union’s operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said: “Government needs to decide whether it wants a steel industry in this country and stop kicking the can down the road.

Community union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid ( Community union)

“The situation is urgent as our EU competitors are years ahead of us, because their governments have recognised the strategic importance of steel and are backing them to decarbonise.

“It can’t happen overnight, but with government support there can be a just transition which protects jobs and the future of all our steel businesses.”

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and whose Aberavon constituency includes Britain’s biggest steelworks, Port Talbot, said: “So far we are yet to see the kind of long-term, green steel investment plan from government that would give the industry the long-term assurances it needs.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel ( Richard Townshend Photography)

“The investment required to decarbonise is a fraction of the cost of doing nothing.

“The Government – not least the Treasury – must provide urgent answers to the questions posed by this report and then make fast progress on supporting those good, meaningful, secure steel jobs that contribute so much to our nation’s economic resilience.”

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said the “decarbonisation of the steel sector represents a huge opportunity for both industry and Government”.

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015

Meanwhile, British Steel announced it has secured government cash for a “feasibility study into switching from natural gas to green hydrogen as a fuel source for reheating furnaces”.

The company’s environment and sustainability director Lee Adcock said: “As an energy intensive industry with hard to abate emissions, the steel industry offers the potential for large CO2 emission savings through fuel switching from natural gas to hydrogen.

British Steel’s operation at Scunthorpe, Teesside ( Courtesy of British Steel)

“This study is, therefore, a vital and hugely exciting step on our journey to developing the technology needed to transform the way we, and other steel manufacturers, operate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We recognise the critical role the steel industry plays in all areas of the UK economy and are working closely with the sector on its transition to a low carbon future in a way that supports competitiveness, jobs and clean growth.

“Our ongoing support for the sector’s low-carbon transition includes the £315million Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, £1billion to support the deployment of carbon capture, and £240m to drive UK hydrogen production.”

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015.

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