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Climate Change - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 4:46 pm, 6th February 2020

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Browne for securing this debate and we have heard some very interesting speeches. I will focus on transport, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, said, is one of the biggest current polluters. My worry is that a lot of us, as well as a lot of speakers in this debate, have focused on one or more new technologies, or possibly lifestyle changes, but we have to guard against focusing on the one solution that may cause us the least inconvenience. There are people in many other parts of the world at risk of drowning through weather events or suffering famine as well as everything else, which really has to be taken seriously.

Current government policies look like they will have a lot of catching up to do if they are to achieve what I think we all want as we move forward. Heavy funding is still going into new roads. The Government’s forecasts for traffic growth indicate that there will be an increase of 50% in traffic by 2050. We are looking at extra airport capacity. Why? We are looking at fuel duty, which has not gone up for many years while rail fares are rising. Why, if we want to encourage people on to rail? Where is the funding for buses, which are much more environmentally friendly than people driving around? Worst of all, while we rightly have endless debates about who is building more houses where, how are people supposed to get from those houses to their schools, offices, shops or wherever they want to go without a car? Public transport needs to be integrated with where people want to go.

We have an even greater problem with the movement of freight. We already have electric cars, but electric trucks bringing oranges from Spain are probably impossible at the moment. If they were possible, the cost of manufacturing the equipment would be very high. Cheaper rail fares and lower charges for rail freight would be a good thing, and perhaps the Government would like to follow the example of the German Government, who have just cut access charges for rail freight by 10%. I hope the Government will come up with some new policies on this before COP 26 in the autumn.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Friends of the Earth suggests that traffic reduction by 2030 should be somewhere between 20% and 60%. That is the opposite of going up by 50%. Surely that is something we should really be looking at much more seriously.

There is a great deal to be done on behaviour and the changes that will need to happen in our population growth, the nature and location of work, education, housing, healthcare and leisure. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, mentioned, digital technology is also very important. There is also paying for road use or electricity and possibly even reducing the need to travel in going about our business. Flying should increase in cost. We never mention shipping very much, but some of the emissions from ships need serious challenging as part of this campaign. We really need more rail travel for people—more stations and freight terminals—and to be aware, if we want hydrogen-producing transport, that it costs energy and electricity to make hydrogen. It is easy to go down one route and forget about how the rest of it will happen.

There needs to be a plan of action. As a colleague, Professor Anable of Leeds ITS, told me, we need traffic- reduction targets—not an increase, and not just for roads but for rail and air—and some real incentivisation to co-ordinate transport and planning objectives with the need to reduce travel. We need to do many other things, such as regulation and increasing investment in non-car modes, but it ends up as quite a change in lifestyle as an example to the rest of the world —which will be miles behind, if we are not careful.