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Net Zero Emissions Target: Manufacturers

Volume 683: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2020

What discussions he has had with manufacturers in Northern Ireland on achieving the Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. (908109)

The Government are committed to meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Secretary of State and I regularly engage with businesses across the manufacturing sector to discuss how the green economy is an opportunity to drive economic growth and reduce emissions in Northern Ireland. We are pleased that the Northern Ireland Executive have endorsed the extension of the Environment Bill to Northern Ireland and have pledged to pass a climate change Act.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I know that he is a keen advocate of the hydrogen economy, as am I. Manufacturers such as Wrightbus in Northern Ireland are leading the way in the production of hydrogen buses—a perfect example of how we can decarbonise public transport. Does the Minister agree that greater investment in the hydrogen economy is essential not only for our net zero targets but for building jobs in every part of the United Kingdom?

Let me say an absolute yes, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he does with the all-party parliamentary group on hydrogen. Northern Ireland has proven expertise with hydrogen electric power in the bus sector, and we have seen the introduction of the world’s first hydrogen and electric double-decker bus by Wrightbus this year. We continue to support and promote hydrogen technologies in Northern Ireland and right across the UK. The UK Government have already invested £121 million into UK hydrogen technology, and we are actively exploring with UK Departments and with the Executive how best secure specific funding for hydrogen production in Northern Ireland.

I am sure that the Minister will join me in welcoming the acquisition of Bombardier in Northern Ireland by Spirit AeroSystems. He well understands the importance of aerospace for the Northern Ireland economy, but the aerospace sector needs to transition to meet the needs of the green economy, so will the Northern Ireland Office be a powerful advocate in government for a substantial investment in green technologies across the aerospace sector throughout the UK?

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. I very much welcome the news that Spirit AeroSystems has acquired Shorts. I recently met with union representatives, who outlined their concerns about the immediate challenges facing the aerospace industry. This investment in such a major local employer of high-quality jobs is an important step in providing certainty to the company and its employees at a difficult time for the industry. Of course, there is much more to do, and the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that innovation and green investment have an important part to play in the recovery phase. The UK Government will be doing everything we can, working alongside the Executive, to support a strong economic recovery and innovation in the green economy in Northern Ireland.