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Net Zero Emissions Target

Volume 700: debated on Wednesday 15 September 2021

Wales’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by close to 31% since 1990. To bring them down to zero, we will be scaling up low-carbon power generation, kickstarting the hydrogen economy and transitioning to zero emission vehicles.

I am grateful for that response. Many parts of Wales are rural like my own constituency in the Scottish borders. These rural areas need a plentiful supply of electric car charging points to encourage people to make the switch to electric cars. How are the UK Government supporting the switch across the four nations of the United Kingdom?

I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s question, because it illustrates a situation very similar to his in Wales. I hope he is as pleased as we are with the £275 million commitment to the electric vehicle homecharge scheme, the workplace charging scheme, the on-street residential chargepoint scheme and a number of other measures, all of which, of course, are UK-wide initiatives.

The drive to net zero presents huge challenges to industry all across south Wales, especially for us in Pembrokeshire where the oil and gas plants support thousands of high quality jobs. What further steps can the UK Government take to help the energy sector to adapt, taking advantage of new opportunities in hydrogen but also plans for floating offshore wind? The truth is that we are going to need significant extra help in Pembrokeshire if we are going to make that transition.

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. I hope he has taken note of the £20 million commitment to the south Wales industrial cluster. That is driving carbon capture initiatives and similar initiatives. He and I frequently speak to big employers in our area, such as Valero on the Milford Haven Waterway, which are an absolutely critical part of our net zero ambitions in Wales. Of course, the floating offshore wind opportunities in the Celtic sea are well known to both of us and I hope that developers will be able to bid for contracts for difference later this year.

When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, I am sure the Secretary of State will agree that the Welsh Labour Government have led the way: banning fracking, legislating for net zero, establishing a new ministry for climate change, and generating more than 50% of the energy we use from renewable sources, a figure higher than the UK average. Does the Secretary of State also agree that those efforts are undermined somewhat by his own Government’s decision to drop binding commitments on climate change from the free trade deal with Australia? What message does that send to the world ahead of this country hosting the COP26 summit later this year?

I do not acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s challenge in quite the way he would expect me to. I think it has been made perfectly clear that our net zero ambitions are not going to be solved by one country or one Government; it will be resolved by a very serious and joined-up approach to net zero across the UK and beyond. I am very happy, as he knows I am, to work with the Welsh Government to achieve those aims. If we relegate this issue to some kind of political spat, it will make the challenges harder, so I hope he will join me and Welsh Government colleagues in trying to make sure we achieve the mutual aims we claim to share.

Will the Secretary of State look at the recommendation of the Welsh Affairs Committee that Wales should get its fair share of HS2 funding, the same as Scotland, so we can invest in a modern infrastructure and meet net zero, in particular with the Swansea Bay metro, more quickly?

The hon. Gentleman and I share many common ambitions for the rail network in Wales. He knows my views on that. He also knows the Union connectivity review will be published shortly. I do not want to second-guess what is in that, but I suspect that he and I need a conversation shortly after that has been published.

There is great potential for small scale renewable energy schemes in the more rural parts of Aberconwy. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had to ensure that the grid connections are in place to make them viable?

It is fair to say that they are in their early stages. I enjoyed my visit to my hon. Friend’s constituency last week, where these points were raised. He is right to point out that we can come up with all the initiatives in the world, but unless there is a supportive grid to cope with that, our progress will be slower than we would like. Those conversations are in play and I look forward to sharing them with him at the earliest opportunity.