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Mon, 19 October 2020

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Clean air is at the heart of this government's plans for a green industrial revolution

Clean air is at the heart of this government's plans for a green industrial revolution

The Prime Minister set 2030 as the date when “your kettle, your washing machine, your plug-in electric vehicle” will be powered by clean energy from off shore windfarms, writes Laura Farris MP. | PA Images

4 min read

People of this country want us to Build Back Better, and greener, than before. This week the Prime Minister committed to have every UK home run on wind power by 2030 - on Clean Air Day that is something to celebrate.

The impact of air pollution has been linked to a range of health conditions from asthma to Alzheimer’s disease and in its 2017 Air Quality report the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said, “poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK.  It is known to have more severe effects on vulnerable groups for example the elderly, children and people already suffering from pre-existing health conditions”. 

It is for these reasons and more, that this government has put clean air at the heart of its environmental agenda.   

A study by PwC in 2019 determined that the UK was already reducing its carbon emissions faster than any other country in the G20, with record levels of electricity generation coming from renewable sources. But the government has made it clear that we can and must go further. 

Air quality is a core part of the Environment Bill (which will complete its journey through Parliament by the end 2020) setting high targets and placing new statutory obligations on public authorities and car manufacturers.  

But there are three other ways in which air quality is being transformed:   

This week the government made a commitment to lead the world in low-cost, clean power generation. In his conference speech on Tuesday, the Prime Minister set 2030 as the date when “your kettle, your washing machine, your plug-in electric vehicle” will be powered by clean energy from off shore windfarms, which are set for radical expansion in the North Sea creating 60,000 new jobs along the way.

We are now on a path to generate 15 times as much energy from wind as the rest of the world put together

The UK is already leading the world when it comes to offshore wind and since 2010 offshore wind capacity has increased by more than 600%. We have the most capacity of any country in the world and this makes our 2030 target of 40 gigawatts realistic. 

By building not only fixed offshore arrays, but wind turbines that float on the sea too, we are now on a path to generate 15 times as much energy from wind as the rest of the world put together. 

These statistics are impressive on their own, but the lesson of the last election as we seek to recover from Coronavirus is that the people of this country want us to build back and Build Back Better, and greener, than before. We have to if we want to hit our ambitious net-zero emissions target by 2050. 

Second, the transport sector currently accounts for a third of national carbon dioxide emissions - the largest proportion of that emanating from road transport. Electric vehicles are cleaner, cheaper to run and longer-lasting than petrol and diesel equivalents. This government wants to make it even easier to own one and the last budget committed half a billion pounds to support the rollout of a fast-charging network – ensuring drivers will never be more than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.

Last week the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps announced the first ever hydrogen train – the Hydroflex – operating in Warwickshire. And the technology already exists to make hydrogen buses a reality: Wrightbus has plans to launch 3000 of them across the UK next year. A Cycling Infrastructure Fund seeks to build cycle paths on commuter routes across the country so that many people won’t have to get into their vehicle at all.  

Third, we want to protect and enhance our greenspaces - our prized natural filters for air pollution - by restoring our peatland and tripling tree planting rates equating to another 75,000 acres of trees per year across the UK under the new Nature for Climate Fund. 

Each of these steps are necessary. None alone is sufficient. But together with all the other measures that are being put forward, make no mistake - a Green Industrial Revolution is coming. And on this Clean Air Day that is something to celebrate.

 

Laura Farris is the Conservative MP for Newbury.

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