Transport Emissions

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance 2:00, 16 April 2024

3. Ms Armstrong asked the Minister for Infrastructure for his assessment of his Department’s ability to achieve a reduction in emissions by the transport sector by 48% lower than the baseline by 2030. (AQO 281/22-27)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

One second. Apologies. The 48% target for 2030 quoted in the Climate Change Act 2022 is a target across all the climate sectors and is not a transport-sector-specific target. There are no specific target figures set for the transport sector.

My Department has been working closely with DAERA and other Departments on the preparation of a transport chapter and supporting the quantification work required for the climate action plan. That will outline how the transport sector will contribute to carbon budgets. Through that detailed work, my officials and I realise how challenging the targets will be for the transport sector, particularly regarding the scale of change needed. Decarbonising transport will require us all to think differently about how we travel and how we utilise zero-emissions technologies. However, as the Department lead for the transport sector, which is the second-largest emitting sector, I am working with my officials to better understand how we can decarbonise the transport sector in a balanced way and contribute to the interim targets and the net zero goal of 2050. My officials are currently developing a strong evidence base to inform the development of both the climate action plan and the transport sectoral plan in line with requirements under the 2022 Act.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I thank the Minister. A part of the transport sector is private cars. Will the Minister confirm how he will commit to exploring push policies that discourage private car usage in Belfast and other city centres and, indeed, large towns across Northern Ireland?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

In my response to the previous question, on Grand Central station, I said that we had a state-of-the-art facility coming on board that will encourage people to a modal shift and to start using public transport. There will be a challenge in Belfast over the next number of weeks and months as a result of that development, and there is an opportunity now for the users of private cars to make that modal shift to public transport. Translink will provide more information on this as the situation develops. The clear message is that Belfast is open for business, but we want to ensure modal shift.

I am looking at all the options available to ensure that my Department reaches its climate change targets in line with its legal and moral obligations, working in conjunction with my Executive colleagues.

Photo of Nicola Brogan Nicola Brogan Sinn Féin

Will the Minister describe what his Department's approach is to decarbonising the transport system, le do thoil

[Translation: please]

?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

The Member will be aware of the recent announcement on PEACE PLUS that we will be investing in an hourly service between Belfast and Dublin. That has been planned in such a way that we will be able to change those train sets to fully decarbonised transport systems, moving forward. We invest heavily in Translink in bringing forward zero-emissions and lower-emissions bus transport as well. That investment programme has been going on for a number of years, and I intend to continue it.

We want to see a change for private car usage where possible. As the Member represents a rural constituency, she will be acutely aware that families and businesses rely heavily on the private car. We want to ensure that they move to driving zero-emissions vehicles.

Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP

I thank the Minister for his answers so far. Staying on the emissions theme, as we speak, the transport sector — lorries and cars — sits in Cookstown, waiting to get through it, which will take approximately 30 minutes. As the public information scheme is on today, will you commit to delivering the Cookstown bypass or bring the train?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

There are opportunities with both elements. The all-Ireland strategic rail network plan will be published, hopefully, in the early summer, and I hope that that will allow for greater public connections in that area.

Yes, as the Member stated, there is a public event in Cookstown today, and I encourage as many local people as possible to attend and express their views through it. I have made a commitment to delivering a solution in that area. I want to hear the views of the public on the current plan before making a final decision on it. The bypass will provide huge opportunities that will allow the historic town of Cookstown to look at its active travel routes, how to provide a place plan for the town and how to make it more attractive — before you jump on me, I am not suggesting for one second that it is not attractive — to shoppers and others.