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Government must take climate change seriously, Labour warns

By Josh Thomas, PA Parliamentary Staff

The Government needs to "get a grip" and "take climate change seriously", Labour has warned, saying it is the "greatest threat to this country and, indeed, to humanity".

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald attacked the Government's response to the climate emergency, saying an "incremental response" will not do.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr McDonald said: "The best way of decarbonising road transport is to ensure that more people use public transport.

"And it was therefore alarming to hear the Secretary of State tell the Transport Select Committee yesterday that he thought automated vehicles was the answer, and that any modal shift should be incremental.

"Incremental. There is a climate emergency now, and an incremental response will not cut it. Doesn't this show that this Secretary of State isn't taking the climate crisis seriously?"

Transport minister Michael Ellis replied: "That is quite wrong. The fact of the matter is that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has been in charge of a record investment in rail.

"That form of public transport has seen huge sums of investment.

"This Government is doing more than countries around the world and certainly more than Labour ever did when in power.

"It's a multi-faceted approach we are taking. Automated vehicles are also important in this regard."

Labour MP Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley) said the Government's plans to make all new cars and vans zero-emission by 2040 is not good enough and will make it hard for the UK to meet its international obligations.

She said: "The Climate Change Committee made crystal clear this month that the target for 2040 is simply in no way compatible with our international obligations under the Paris Accord, and advised that we bring it down to 2030."

Mr Ellis replied: "The move to zero-emission vehicles is the biggest technology upheaval to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine.

"The work the Government is doing today will mean it is handing the next generation a better, cleaner and greener Britain."

Shadow transport minister Matt Rodda said: "Increasing cycling and walking is particularly important if we are to avoid climate crisis.

"If cycling levels in the UK were the same as the Netherlands, emissions of C02 from cars would fall by a third.

"Given the scale of the threat from climate change, why is the Government not doing more to avert this crisis?"

Mr Ellis replied: "Well the Government is leading the way in promoting the use of cycling and walking.

"We doubled investment. It dwarfs the investment the Labour Party when they were last in government were putting into this area, absolutely dwarfs it."

Mr Rodda added: "The Government has once again shown its lack of commitment to tackling the real problems facing this country.

"The Secretary of State has failed to meet his own targets for encouraging cycling, and the Department for Transport is spending just 1.5% of its budget on walking and cycling.

"Quite frankly, the minister's attempts to dress up what is clearly a failing policy are deeply disappointing and show that the Government is simply not capable of providing the leadership needed to tackle climate change, which is the greatest threat to this country and, indeed, to humanity.

"When will the Secretary of State and his colleagues get a grip and show some leadership?"

Mr Ellis said the Government is investing "hundreds of millions of pounds" in addressing the situation.