Road Transport: Decarbonisation

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

What steps he is taking to decarbonise road transport.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

It is the Government’s mission for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. The Road to Zero strategy sets out the action that the Government are taking to support this mission, as well as the steps that they are taking to drive down emissions from conventional vehicles during the transition.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

But the Committee on Climate Change made it crystal clear this month that the target for 2040 is simply in no way compatible with our international obligations under the Paris accord and advised that we bring it down to 2030, which would bring us in line with countries such as Norway and the Netherlands. Will the Minister explain to the House how that 2040 target is in any way compatible with the climate emergency that is facing this country now?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The move to zero-emission vehicles is the biggest technology upheaval to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine. The Road to Zero strategy, which we published in July last year, sets out comprehensive plans to support this change and, frankly, the work that the Government are doing today will mean that they are handing the next generation a better, cleaner and greener Britain. That is crucial not only to improve the lives and health of people across Britain—it will do that—but to be able to meet the UK’s statutory climate change targets, and, frankly, the Government expect the transition to zero-emission transport to be industry and consumer led. Therefore, we are leading the way in this area and we have considerable ambitions. We are beating most countries around the world in terms of cleaner air, a better environment, zero-emission vehicles and a strong, clean economy.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Conservative, Wantage

Accidents on major roads cause terrible traffic jams, which increases pollution. As the Minister knows, I have written to him quite recently about the promised improvements to the A34 to improve safety. I would be very grateful if he updated us today, or wrote to me as soon as possible, about when these improvements will be made.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this matter of the A34 with me, but I have already written to him and it is in the post.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Low emission zones are vital to decarbonising our cities. My constituency of Edinburgh West has two of the worst polluted roads in Scotland. At the moment, the city is consulting on a low emission zone, but it can work effectively only if all road transport, not just commercial, is decarbonised and moved out of the city altogether—not just moved from one area to another. Will the Minister commit to what we have already heard, which is that we need to decarbonise to clean up our cities—and we need to do it quicker than 2040?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The facts are clear: the United Kingdom is a global leader in zero-emission vehicles. In 2018, for example, the UK was the second largest market in new ULEVs in the EU. We were behind only Germany. One in five electric cars sold in Europe was made in the UK. We are leading the way on design and technology. We are in the top tier in this area, and we are doing everything that we can with a highly ambitious project towards 2040, which is only 20 years away.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes

One of the best ways to decarbonise roads is to improve rail services, so will the Minister join me in congratulating Cooksbridge Area Rail Action Group, which has managed to secure an hourly rail service mid-week and, for the first time in years, on a Saturday, which will move more passengers in Lewes off the roads and on to the railways?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I very much congratulate my hon. Friend and her group for their work in this area. It will only serve to assist her constituents, residents of the local area and any visitors.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

The best way of decarbonising road transport is to ensure that more people use public transport. It was therefore alarming to hear the Secretary of State tell the Select Committee on Transport yesterday that he thought that automated vehicles were the answer and that any modal shift should be incremental. Incremental? There is a climate emergency now and an incremental response will not cut it. Does not this show that the Secretary of State is not taking the climate crisis seriously?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That is quite wrong. The fact is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been in charge of a record investment in rail. That form of public transport has seen huge sums of investment. In fact, we have invested across the board. The hon. Gentleman talks about the climate. This Government are doing more on that issue than countries around the world, and certainly far more than Labour ever did when it was in power. We are taking a multifaceted approach, and automated vehicles, public transport, electric vehicles and rail are also important in this regard. Rail investment from this Government beats them all.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I was delighted to hear that Andy Burnham has secured the recommendation of Transport for Greater Manchester to franchise bus services. Contrary to the nonsense spouted from the Government Benches, this has been done at the earliest possible moment following the passing of the necessary secondary legislation, and Liverpool will be next. Modal shift from car to bus will make an enormous contribution to reducing carbon emissions. Why, then, does the Secretary of State—perhaps as a parting gift—not do what a Labour Government will do and give every local authority the power to re-regulate their buses?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Every local authority already has the power. Andy Burnham and Labour in his area had that power for three years, and they did nowt about it. It was this Secretary of State who pushed through the Bus Services Act 2017.