UK Net Zero Emissions Target - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:51 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 3:51 pm, 12th June 2019

My Lords, this is obviously a very welcome Statement, and all the more so because it is such a surprise. It has been a real conversion on the road to Damascus by this Government, which as a general rule have not featured environmental issues and climate near the top of their priorities. In fact, the Government have been keen to abandon a number of policies introduced during the coalition Government by Ed Davey when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. That has led to a loss of impetus in the renewable energy industries. In practice, 2050 may still be too late, especially if the Government and their successors adopt the tactic of leaving the heavy lifting until last. They cannot simply reach for a few easy plastic straws; they have to tackle the really difficult issues at the start, and there has to be a very steep trajectory of change if this is to have the impact it should.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, referred to transport policy. That will certainly need to be one of the first government policies to be revolutionised as a result of this new approach. Will the Government now rethink their leisurely approach to ending the manufacture of petrol and diesel cars? The date they have set is 2040. The industry is going to get there well before then, but it needs to have the Government supporting and encouraging it as well as pushing it along the way, so 2030 would be a much better date. Will the Government rethink their decision to reduce subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles and their approach to the abandonment of the electrification of the railways?

Turning to energy, will the Government reconsider their opposition to the Swansea tidal lagoon? It has a huge contribution to make, along with subsequent lagoons around the coast once one is built. As I say, that could make a huge contribution to renewable energy in our country. How can the Government expect to reach this target when fracking is still a UK energy source?

Finally, what steps are the Government taking to encourage other nations to follow suit and to pursue ambitious global targets to mitigate the effects of the climate emergency? The Statement refers to the importance of working with other countries. I would be grateful if the Minister gave some specific examples of the way in which the Government will approach this in future.