It was 307 years ago that Thomas Newcomen demonstrated the first working steam engine up in Dudley Castle. It was put to work pretty rapidly, pumping the water out of Lord Dudley’s coal mines. Over the next three centuries not only did James Watt and Matthew Boulton go on to perfect the steam engine in Handsworth, but Frank Whittle led the country into the steam age.
From our region, we are very proud of our role in this nation’s industrial revolution, but we are conscious too that, as the region that sparked the carbon revolution, we have a moral responsibility now to lead the zero-carbon revolution. That task would be an awful lot easier if the Government could provide to our region four basic ideas—four basic bits of support. First, on energy, we produce just 0.3% of the country’s renewable energy. It is pretty difficult to install onshore wind in a place as dense as the west midlands, but we could absolutely roll out solar. It would be much easier if the Government reintroduced the feed-in tariffs that they so unwisely eliminated just a few years ago.
Secondly, transport is the biggest source of carbon emissions in our region. As the Secretary of State knows, we want to be the world centre of battery technology and the electric vehicles revolution in our region. That would be much easier if the Secretary of State paid heed to the Select Committee report and sorted out the muddle around the elimination of carbon-emitting engines and went for its recommendation of 2032 as the deadline for getting rid of carbon cars or vehicles.
Thirdly, on homes, we could decarbonise our housing stock much faster and lift 300,000 people out of energy poverty if we had control of eco-funding at a regional level. Finally, when it comes to replanting our forests, we should be insisting that our airports become carbon-neutral and ask them to pay an endowment to help us replant the Arden Forest and let it reconnect with the national forest planted just north of Lichfield. These are all things that we can do. We want to lead. We need a Government who help us.