Newcastle unveils plan to become world's first 'carbon-neutral' city

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Newcastle upon Tyne, once the smoke-blackened home of ship-building, coal mining and North Sea fishing, is to reinvent itself as a saviour of the environment.

Newcastle upon Tyne, once the smoke-blackened home of ship-building, coal mining and North Sea fishing, is to reinvent itself as a saviour of the environment.

Later this month, the north-eastern city will unveil an ambitious, far-reaching plan to become one of the greenest and cleanest cities in Europe.

The city aims to pioneer hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, tidal power, solar panels, energy-efficient homes and new forests to become the world's first "carbon-neutral" city.

In an irony that environmentalists will relish, Newcastle, once a byword for pollution and heavy industry, believes that by 2025, its residents and businesses will be able to enjoy life without increasing global warming.

The city releases about 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, but the council claims that could be cut to zero by upgrading and reshaping the city's infrastructure, housing and energy needs.

Part of the proposals meets a key objective of The Independent on Sunday's "future forests" campaign, to significantly increase the country's tree and forest cover.

Newcastle's "carbon-neutral" initiative will involve supporting attempts to double the size of the region's Great North Forest to 4,000 hectares by 2012, to help offset the city's release of carbon dioxide.

Builders will also be persuaded to plant timber, the city's electrified Metro system will be doubled, tidal- and wave-power stations will be built on the region's rivers and coast, home insulation schemes will be greatly expanded, and the engines in the city's council vehicles will be converted to low-emission liquid petroleum gas, and eventually hydrogen fuel cells.

Jonathan Shopley, the chief executive of the Future Forests initiative, said: "We're in the business of engaging and exciting people to take action on climate change."

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