There is no doubt that climate change is one of the most profound global challenges we face. The decisions we make today will affect the future of our planet for generations to come, and the Government fully recognises that action is urgently needed in the UK and across the world.
For a number of years, I have regularly met members of the Swindon Climate Action Network (SCAN) to discuss both local and national issues affecting the environment and I was pleased to see them on Friday for our first meeting of 2020. We began our meeting by discussing our future relationship and how I can support and represent local views on climate change in Westminster over the next five years.
We should be proud of the UK’s leadership in tackling climate change. Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by 42 per cent whilst growing the economy by more than two thirds. We recognise the need to go further which is why the Conservative Government set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse emissions from across the UK by 2050.
The UK was the first major economy to legislate for net zero back in June last year. This was a significant step, but I see this as a backstop guide and a “by” date, rather than a “not until” date.
Transport is a big part of emissions that needs tackling, so I was pleased when the Conservative Government announced a major package of new measures to boost bus transport back in September. The package, worth £220 million in the first year, will see many cuts to services reversed as well as creating express lanes and investing in new ways or providing more frequent public transport in the countryside and other places where conventional buses have dwindled or disappeared.
The Government will also commit to the UK’s first ever long-term bus strategy and funding settlement, including support for local authorities who want to create London-style franchised services in their areas. Transport in Swindon was an important item on the agenda during my meeting with SCAN and following our discussions, I will be writing to the Department for Transport to ask how much assistance the Government can give locally and the timescales for this.
Here in Swindon, we are leading the way by helping to develop cars of the future, which are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. West Swindon chemicals firm Johnson Matthey manufactures components for hydrogen fuel cells and has one of the two hydrogen refuelling stations in the town. There are a team of 200 people developing the cells, which generate electricity from a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen at the company’s Lydiard Fields site.
Hydrogen technology will play an increasingly important part in getting us from A to B in a cleaner way, whether it’s powering our cars or our trains and buses, and I will continue to work to ensure that our town plays a vital role in this initiative. I will also continue to work closely with SCAN to ensure that our town creates a better future for the next generation here in Swindon. Much has been achieved, but we have much more to do.