'Decarbonisation of Road Transport in Northern Ireland': Committee Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP 4:00 pm, 29th November 2021

I thank the Committee for its diligence in bringing this valuable report before the Assembly. As my colleague Roy Beggs said, the Ulster Unionist Party welcomes the report. We particularly wish to see decarbonisation of our transport network and, indeed, decarbonisation, full stop. I declare an interest, as I, too, was at COP26. I was particularly interested in what our nation is doing about getting to net zero carbon as quickly as we can, the effort that is being put into decarbonisation and the importance of the move towards EVs. However, there are some fundamental issues that I would like the Minister to address.

We have already alluded to the first issue, which is the situation with the ESB and the electric charging system across Northern Ireland. Frankly, it is an utter disgrace, and the fact that it has reached that point should concern everybody in the Assembly.

Secondly — this is a significant point — I want to send a message to the Finance Minister — I make another declaration of interest as Chair of the Finance Committee — that we are in charge of building regulations. In the rest of our nation, we have already seen a push towards making sure that every building that will be built or modified by 2030 will have to have electric charging points built into its design. As an Assembly, we should ensure that that happens, and I give my commitment as Chair of the Finance Committee that I will push the Finance Minister to make sure that we get to that position, but we need the support of all Executive Ministers. Many of us have seen today the less than stellar performance of unity amongst the Executive, but it is vital that the Economy Minister, the Infrastructure Minister and the Finance Minister work closely together to make sure that we achieve that. It can be achieved, and we should do it.

I welcome the Minister's remarks today about the Union connectivity report. Speaking as probably the only Member of the Assembly who has been at the bottom of Beaufort's Dyke, although not intentionally, I have to say that Boris's bridge or tunnel was a non-starter, but what is important is Union connectivity and making sure that we have proper infrastructure that meets our decarbonisation targets.

There are opportunities here to improve road infrastructure. I would really like to hear what the Minister has to say about the York Street interchange because, yet again, we have heard nothing about what is happening with that. That deals with the connectivity to the ports, which is vital and needs to be looked at.

One Member talked about the importance of green hydrogen. I agree that we cannot have grey or blue hydrogen; we need green hydrogen.