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

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 29th November 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 3:30 pm, 29th November 2021

I rise as the Ulster Unionist infrastructure spokesman to indicate my support for the report from the Committee on decarbonising Northern Ireland's road transport.

There has been much debate about greenhouse gas emission from agriculture, which is estimated to account for 26%, but our emissions come from many areas, including the home, energy supply, other land use and business. The second-largest area of greenhouse gas emissions, however, is transport. It was timely and appropriate for the Committee to investigate that area and to produce the report.

As part of the UK Government's commitment to reaching net zero by 2050 or earlier, they have determined that petrol and diesel cars will not be produced after 2030 and that production of hybrid cars will finish in 2035. Given the rurality of Northern Ireland, the relevance of the private car is that it is essential to many people living in the countryside, enabling them to do their work or to get to their work. Due to our limited public transport, there is a need for a mode of transport that everyone can use when they need it. There is also a need to update our transport strategy to refocus on a range of issues that can reduce our carbon output, such as walking, cycling, greater use of public transport and the decarbonisation of public transport, which has commenced with the introduction of electric and hydrogen-powered buses. We need to ensure, however, that private motorists can also contribute to reducing carbon output when necessary.

I express my appreciation to the Assembly's Research and Information Service (RaISe). It conducted a survey on the use of electric and ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs) on behalf of the Committee. That survey highlighted a huge gulf between climate change rhetoric and what is being delivered in practical terms in our community. Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of electric charging points in the UK, but, worse than that, those charging points are unreliable. When I look at the figures, I see that Scotland has 32 charging points per 100,000 people, England has 22, Wales has 17 and Northern Ireland has 16.

Rapid chargers are essential to people who may need to top up their power quickly while travelling: Scotland has 7·5 per 100,000 people, England has 3·5, Wales has 1·8 and Northern Ireland has one per 100,000. There is clearly a long way to go; indeed, the lack of charging points and broken charging points are highlighted in the survey. That has transferred into range anxiety for many of those who already own an electric-charged car and has concerned those who may be considering switching. Comments include:

“The charging infrastructure in Northern Ireland is hopelessly outdated and virtually obsolete. Long distance journeys would be a nightmare.”

We must make sure that reliable infrastructure is in place if we are to support our community as it makes the transformation to electric-powered vehicles, and we are clearly not there at present. There is a long way to go.

I was in a village north of Inverness during the summer. It was a small village of, I estimate, 500 people, and there were four charging points in the public car park. I visited a garage, and there were charging points there. I was shocked. Our infrastructure is so far behind. It is vital that not only the Infrastructure Department but other Departments move. I have been posing questions about building regulations in particular. With new developments, why do we not build charging points? Building control regulations have been slow to change, but that is the most efficient way to do this. When you build a new apartment block or a new building, that infrastructure should be put in place. That will be cheaper in the long run and ensure lower carbon inputs when building that infrastructure. It is vital that we move forward together and that all Departments play their part.