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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 4th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Conservative, East Hampshire 9:30 am, 4th February 2020

The hon. Lady tees me up with precision and grace. I was just coming on to the role of Government and the wider public sector. The Government car service has bought a lot of electric vehicles. Something of premium significance is what I would call totemic fleets. Seeing police officers driving electric vehicles has quite an effect on people’s perceptions of the performance of those cars.

Most of all, we need debate, conversation and analysis centred not on the machine and the technology, but on people and the different segments of the population whom we need to persuade to take up electric cars. We need to think about who the first target is and, although fleet buyers are an obvious and important segment, beyond that, should the target be drivers who have the highest mileage per year, or drivers who change their car most often? Evidence from consumer surveys suggests that it is much easier to persuade someone to get an electric vehicle as the second car in a two-car household than as the first car—we need to think about that. The requirements of commuting and the school run, for example, are very different.

I have spoken for longer than I anticipated, but I will briefly mention something slightly off-topic that could reduce the overall number of journeys. In the last few years, there has been a big growth in home shopping, with vans driving around delivering parcels, some of which are very small, to people’s homes. I welcome the e-cargobike initiative, which seeks a modal shift to electric bikes for the last mile of deliveries, but I wonder whether we could be more ambitious. Amazon lockers are fine for Amazon, but they are a proprietary facility. Our massive network of post office retail outlets has potential as a hub and spoke system for home shopping purchases to be dropped off and collected, which also bring much-needed business and footfall to post offices. That was slightly off-topic, so I will return to the broader point.

This country has an important and special role to play in decarbonisation. As well as domestic action, we have a role through international development and climate finance. We showed great leadership in Paris for COP 21, and we have in COP 26 another great opportunity to convene and make global progress.

So much can be done locally. Many councils are doing innovative things, including my own in East Hampshire, with walking and cycling initiatives, plans to plant a tree for every resident and local housing development, particularly in the town of Bordon. Like colleagues in the Chamber, I have local groups in my area that show remarkable leadership, starting with children. I am always impressed that schoolchildren are showing thought leadership on climate change. We have great local groups, such as the Alton climate action network and, soon, the Petersfield climate action network.

The greening campaign began in my constituency back in 2008, and was all about helping individual families and households to know what simple and practical things they could do to help tackle climate change. The campaign eventually spread to 100 towns and villages far and wide. Colleagues may disagree, but in terms of civic society action on climate change, East Hampshire is perhaps the most active area in the country. Members of Parliament can play a really important role to make those things happen.

We should recognise success in decarbonisation in the UK, while acknowledging that we need to step up our efforts. We must never underestimate the scale of what we need to do—I doubt that anybody here in Westminster Hall is likely to do so—but we should not suggest that nothing has been achieved, because if we do that, people begin to feel disheartened and we will lose public confidence and engagement.