VoteClimate: Alternative Fuelled Vehicles: Energy Provision - 6th October 2020

Alternative Fuelled Vehicles: Energy Provision - 6th October 2020

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate Alternative Fuelled Vehicles: Energy Provision.

Full text:

16:41 Matt Western (Labour)

In that same year, Lord Stern produced his climate change report. Fortunately, those calls were heard by the last Labour Government and they acted fast. In a global first, Labour legislated, with the Climate Change Act 2008 establishing the Committee on Climate Change, which has been responsible for recommending carbon budgets and a series of rolling targets for greenhouse gas emissions, to take the UK on a path to reduce emissions by 80%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2050.

Gore said that we must have the determination to bring about change. The inconvenient truth is that if we do not have it, and if the Government do not lead the way with the necessary determination and conviction, we will all be the victims of permanent climate change. He said that it is about making choices, both as individuals and as Governments. Labour’s Climate Change Act was a turning point. The carbon targets or budgets have been met primarily through addressing power generation, but transport remains an issue.

For the past decade or more, the contribution of carbon dioxide emissions from surface transport has remained broadly flat, at around 27%, having fallen just 3% between 2008 and 2018, according to a Committee on Climate Change report. That is the context in which we must view the importance of challenging the sector. It cannot be left to the vehicle manufacturers or the energy providers to take financial risks in the absence of certainty from Government. Nor should consumers, who rightly want to do the right thing, be penalised or disadvantaged by being first movers, only to find that the Government fail to match their ambition.

Certainly, the industry strongly supports the decarbonisation of road transport, recognising the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, both today and on the pathway to achieving net zero. Across the sector, it is investing significantly to deliver smart and sustainable mobility, and it is rightly calling for the right eco- system and for enablers to support consumers with their transition to ultra-low or zero-emission vehicles. As such, a comprehensive, multi-sector strategy is needed, including key elements of energy decarbonisation, investment in infrastructure and transitional consumer incentives to enable it to happen.

National Grid says that net zero will require significantly higher levels of electricity generation. In one scenario, it forecasts that by 2050 we will require almost three times more capacity than we have today. Even in the slowest decarbonising scenario, it foresees a 75% reduction in total energy demand for road transport, which is really positive. Although hydrogen will play a role, electrification is key to the decarbonising of transport, with at least 60% of all road transport being electrified in National Grid’s forecasted scenarios.

According to the Renewable Energy Association, the number of companies developing charging networks in the UK has increased significantly in the past 24 months. Few of the UK networks—major or minor—are members of interoperability platforms, which stands in contrast to other countries, where that is rapidly becoming the norm. The Netherlands is probably one of the best examples. One of the solutions is interoperability or roaming platforms, which would allow the consumers of individual charge point operators to charge on other networks that are also associated with that hub. The hub would monitor EVSE—electronic vehicle supply equipment—usage and could settle payments between operators. The roaming platform does that for a small fee.

We also need to ensure that we deliver smart charging. National Grid has estimated that 80% of electric vehicle drivers will use smart charging by 2050, which will help balance almost half of the UK’s energy demands brought on by the move to zero-emissions driving. Imperial College has done a huge amount of work with Nissan looking at this issue, and there is a massive opportunity for the parking of electric vehicles to be a huge energy storage for the grid.


17:07 Gavin Newlands (SNP)

The £3 billion bus fund is welcome. We have not seen hide nor hair of it yet, but since then thousands of tonnes of carbon have been emitted, and hundreds of bus manufacturing jobs have gone. To summarise, the Government’s intentions and rhetoric on climate change issues have improved, but our generation and the Government will be judged by their actions, not their slogans.


17:14 Kerry McCarthy (Labour)

It is always a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Betts. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on an excellent and comprehensive speech. As he said, fuelling vehicles through alternative means will be vital if we are to meet net zero, and there are exciting developments in the field.

We have only 5% of the charge points that we need if we are to stick to the 2040 target and have half of all new car sales represented by zero-emission vehicles by 2030. If we bring that date forward to between 2030 and 2032, we will have to accelerate installation of those charging points. I hope the Minister can reassure us on that point.


17:17 Anthony Browne (Conservative)

Thank you, Chair. I thank the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for securing a debate on this important issue. We are all committed to combating climate change and getting down to net zero. As chair of the all-party parliamentary environment group, I spend a lot of time pushing for that. When I was environment editor of The Observer and The Times more than a decade ago, electric cars were just a pipe dream. I drove some early models, but they are now a reality. I have long seen the internal combustion engine as a dirty, smelly and polluting Victorian technology. The sooner we see the back of it, the better.

I only have two and a half minutes, and there are eight things I think the Government should do. I will have to keep this brief. First, we should commit to 2035 rather than 2040. It is the minimum under the Committee on Climate Change recommendations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations for meeting net zero by 2050. Indeed, we should consider whether we can bring it even further forward. There is huge industry support for that, from a wide range of different people, and it will probably be cheaper for motorists in the long run.


05:20 Alan Brown (SNP)

We keep hearing about a green recovery in the UK being “world leading”, but for that to be a reality, we need coherent, interlinked strategies, and the policies to achieve them. That means the publication of the overdue energy White Paper, the national infrastructure plan, a heat decarbonisation plan, and a possible update to the transport decarbonisation plan. I hope that the Minister will provide an update on those and how they will be implemented, now that the Budget and spending review have been cancelled.

I welcome the fact that the UK Government are trialling the first hydrogen train in the world. That might make up for their dereliction of duty on electrification and the previous Transport Secretary’s obsession with hybrid diesel trains. The Scottish Government have published a real decarbonisation strategy with an end date of 2035, but Network Rail has only an interim programme in the UK targeting 2050. When will we get a final determination that is ambitious enough?


17:30 Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative)

The transport sector is a vital part of our future prosperity. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we have an outstanding opportunity to speed up the development of clean technology, which I guess is the theme of today’s debate. For decades, we have talked about the phasing out of fossil fuels from motoring, and now that is actually happening as we make the transition to alternative-fuel vehicles. This country has led the way in developing clean growth. Between 1990 and 2018, our economy grew by 75% while carbon emissions fell by 43%, faster than any other G7 nation, so anyone who says that it cannot be done is wrong. We followed that by making an ambitious commitment in 2019 to end our contribution to global warming by 2050, making that the law of the land, and countries around the world then began to follow suit. Of course, none of us here underestimates the scale of that challenge. Although battery electric vehicles represent nearly 5% of the new car market in the year to date, transport is still the sector in the UK that emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases, accounting for 28% of emissions in 2018.

It is clear to me that we need to go much further and faster to decarbonise transport. Throughout 2020, we have been working on a new, overarching transport decarbonisation plan, covering all modes of transport, which we expect to publish by the end of this year. That plan will set out the path that we need to take to deliver our net-zero objectives, together with our partners across the transport sector. The need for rapid renewal of the road vehicle fleet with zero-emission vehicles is well understood and will deliver substantial emissions reductions over the long term. We are already investing £2.5 billion to support the transition to zero-emission vehicles, with grants for plug-in vehicles and funding to support charge point infrastructure, which many colleagues from across the country have mentioned today.

Our approach to delivering our transport decarbonisation ambitions is technology-neutral—my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley quite rightly reminded us of the need to remain technology-neutral. As the market develops, it is becoming clear that it may be favouring different technologies for different applications. Today, electric vehicles are a small but fast-growing percentage of cars and vans on the road. Such vehicles are being adopted as a key technology for decarbonising road transport, particularly light vehicles, and over 300,000 ultra low emission vehicles are now registered in the UK. A fit-for-purpose infrastructure network is required for the mass uptake of electric vehicles—that is the message I will take away from today’s debate. Many more charge points will be needed, and we want improvements to the consumer experience when using the network.

It is vital that consumers can charge efficiently and safely. We will consult on using powers under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 to mandate minimum standards, such as requiring contactless payment for rapid charge points, to improve the consumer experience. While the electrification of transport will increase demand for electricity, we are confident that energy networks will support this transformation. Hon. Members heard from the Prime Minister today about our ambitions for offshore wind. The Government are working with the energy industry to plan for future electric vehicle uptake, to ensure that the energy system can meet future demand efficiently and sustainably. We have set a clear ambition for almost all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050, in combination with the recent consultation on bringing forward the end-of-sale date. Setting long-term targets ensures that there is enough time to ready the electricity system for the mass transition towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Colleagues mentioned the opportunities of hydrogen. We see a real opportunity, so we will follow up the energy White Paper with an ambitious hydrogen strategy, because hydrogen is a game changer. Hon. Members have referred to the Prime Minister talking about the Tees Valley announcement today. We have a much bigger ambition for both blue and green hydrogen going forward. The role of green hydrogen in transport will be set out in full in the transport decarbonisation plan, which is due for publication at the end of the year.

On low-carbon fuels, which are important to colleagues, we are clear that our transition to zero-emission vehicles does not mean that we can ignore measures to reduce emissions from conventional road vehicles in use today. Increasing the supply of low-carbon fuel will continue to help us to reduce the environmental impact of every journey. It is equally clear that we should not ignore the potential for low-carbon fuels to decarbonise those transport modes that are harder to reach through electrification. Low-carbon fuels have played an important role in reducing emissions already. Through the renewable transport fuel obligation—the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) asked about this—we have seen average greenhouse gas savings through biofuels increase from 46% in 2008-09 to 83% in the latest available statistics.

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington asked about incentives for electric vehicle drivers. We are considering long-term future incentives for zero-emission vehicles alongside our consultation on bringing forward the end-of-sale date. In the meantime, the Chancellor announced in the Budget a further £530 million of extra funding to keep the plug-in vehicle grant for another three years.


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