Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 4:02 pm, 10th July 2019

I agree that co-ordination is crucial. The hon. Lady makes a good point about infrastructure.

To make that long-term target a reality, we need short-term policies to get us to the point where we can accelerate electrification of road transport. Important measures include providing Government-backed interest-free loans for electric vehicle purchase; creating incentives for the installation of ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at key strategic points, such as on the motorway network; a new tax on sales of non-electric vehicles after 2030; introducing the right to request as a tenant an electric vehicle charging point; and changing the sort of fuel we use in petrol or hybrid petrol cars. I support the campaign recently instigated by the all-party parliamentary group for British bioethanol, which has considerable support in the House, for a shift to 10% ethanol in standard petrol, which would deliver both emission reductions and UK jobs and which I see as part of the transition.

British bioethanol is created essentially from wheat in the north of England. The wheat would otherwise be used for animal feedstuff if, and only if, a high-protein additive such as soya were added to it. It cannot be used for human beings. The soya comes from South America, which touches on the point about the Brazilian rain forest, which makes these soya imports a subject of environmental concern. A by-product of making bioethanol from British wheat is a rich-in-protein animal feed, which displaces the soya. With total investment of £5 billion, two factories have been set up in the north of England, involving 5,000 jobs. One of them is mothballed and the other is running at half capacity as they wait for the Government to mandate E10 petrol—petrol with 10% ethanol. Forward-looking countries in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA are already doing that; it is time we got on board. It is estimated that the reduction in carbon emissions from E10 being used as the UK’s standard petrol would be equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road; it would also be less polluting and protect British jobs. I know the Department for Transport has already consulted on this, but it should move quickly to make this change, certainly for 2020.

Let me now talk about the tax situation and how we deal with the change from fuel duty to a world of electric vehicles. As we shift to electric vehicles, the amount of revenue the Exchequer takes from fuel duty will naturally shrink. We need, therefore, to change how we pay for roads. Road pricing is based on the principle that those making use of public roads should pay a sum accordant to the costs involved. Ideally, the total sum should include the costs of air pollution and greenhouse gases as well. Sophisticated schemes also use live data to factor in congestion, and charge people more to drive during peak times on busy roads. There are existing schemes, such as in Singapore, that show that this can be done. So the Government should be looking at that as a possible way forward. By working with the power of market price signals, road pricing incentivises individuals to use cleaner fuel and to travel at times that are less damaging.

I shall turn now to regional rail networks and bus, tram and cycling services. The lack of decent transport outside London is a handbrake on UK growth. Local transport networks in towns and cities are woefully undeveloped compared with those in similar sized places in other countries. For example, Leeds is the largest city in the European Union with no mass transport system. Its twin city, Lille, has two metro lines, two tram lines, and an international high-speed rail connection. Fixing this disparity is critical to UK growth and to easing the pressure on housing demand in London. To meet net zero, we need a switch of freight from road to rail, and for commuters and travellers to feel confident to use low carbon transport.

I wish to mention a few strategic transport investments at this point. Surely the time has come to modernise the rail network across the Pennines—