Net Zero Targets and Decarbonising Transport — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:27 am on 4th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 10:27 am, 4th February 2020

Thank you, Ms Nokes. It is great to see you in the Chair for the first time; I look forward to many more such occasions. I congratulate Damian Hinds on securing this debate on a vital topic. Clearly his sabbatical from the current regime has been time well spent in bringing forward such topics. I am delighted that we are having this debate because it tackles the most pressing issue we face as a society. Few discussions in this place are as fundamental or urgent as climate change.

In kicking off proceedings, the right hon. Member spoke of his Government’s excellent record. I have to say I disagree with most of that, as I will explain in my speech. He spoke at length about electric vehicles, range anxiety and so on. He also spoke about changing behaviours, and he is right, but there is a need for the Government to provide just as big—if not bigger—a carrot as a stick, not just financially but in providing proper public transport alternatives outside London. That topic came up in the Chamber last week, and there is definitely a need for substantial investment.

Last week, I spoke about the disparity in infrastructure spending across England. Ms Brown spoke of the disparity in London—the east-west divide—which I was not aware of. Perhaps I will look into that more after the debate.

A new Member, Mr Holden, rather uniquely, in my experience, began by admitting that he was an adviser in the Department for Transport, and potentially to blame for current policy. That was not how he put it, but it is how I heard it. He made several good points, including his last one, on vehicle excise duty on motorhomes, which I think most of us would is agree is egregious.

Wera Hobhouse spoke of the Government arrangement to bring the ban on petrol and diesel cars forward, albeit without a proper plan to build the infrastructure of charging points. I think I will be able, later in my speech, to develop the point that the Scottish Government have not fallen into that trap.

James Daly essentially spoke about the disparity between bus services in the north and the south, and about the fact that the bus service in his constituency is extremely poor—something that many in his constituency could agree with. Jim Shannon speaks on a vast number of issues for his constituents, and I agreed with him when he said that behaviours will be changed by encouragement, not enforcement.

I mentioned the urgency of dealing with the issue that we are debating, and that is reflected in the action being taken in Scotland right now. The Scottish Government’s aim is a 75% reduction in emissions a decade hence and, 15 years after that, a 100% drop, or net zero. Those are ambitious targets—the most ambitious in these islands, no less—but they are achievable without disruption to our economy. Indeed, they have huge economic benefits and use existing technology. Given that 31% of our total emissions come from transport, and more than four fifths of that figure is related to road transport, it is clear that the hard action needed to curb emissions and move to net zero must come through investment and policy decisions aimed at how we move goods, services and ourselves.

Before I move on to the substantive points I wish to make, I want to ask the Minister, on behalf of the large number of hauliers in my constituency, whether he will give an undertaking to bring forward the conclusion of the longer semi-trailer trial, which has now been extended to 10 years. We are eight years into the trial, and many companies, whether they are in the trial or not, need information for the purpose of investing in their future fleets of trailers. They need to know whether the trailers they buy will become obsolete just as they buy them. Some information on that would be useful for hauliers across the country.

The establishment of the UK’s first electric highway along the A9, Scotland’s spine, is the type of bold action that is required if we are to make a successful transition to a net zero economy and the decarbonisation of our transport network. By the end of the first tranche of funding, more than 2,500 charging points will be in place across Scotland. That first step is part of the investment in infrastructure that is needed to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032—investment covering not just public charging points but also charging points at workplaces and in domestic settings. Members will note that I said 2032. That target is still three years ahead of UK Government ambitions despite this morning’s welcome announcement.

In recent years we have had a rail electrification programme that is the largest in our nation’s history. Edinburgh to Glasgow, Paisley Canal, Stirling Dunblane Alloa, and the Shotts and Whifflet lines—in fact all the lines between our country’s two biggest cities—are now all-electric. Virtually all the west of Scotland network has ditched diesel.