On Friday 30th April, I was delighted to speak to a meeting of Wirral Climate Action Group, discussing the challenges of decarbonising transport. The meeting was chaired by Roger Philips and attended by my fellow Wirral MPs Angela Eagle and Margaret Greenwood, as well as representatives of Wirral Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and various other local bodies.
My contribution to the discussion can be read below:
” Thanks very much, Roger. It’s a huge privilege to be able to speak to all of you today and to follow on from the excellent contributions we have heard here tonight.
As an MP, one of my top priorities is securing an ambitious green industrial revolution that revitalises left-behind towns like Birkenhead and creates the well-paid, highly skilled green jobs of the future that my constituents deserve.
The climate crisis is the single greatest threat facing the world today and it’s heartening to be joined by people who share my passion for bringing about the change that’s needed to leave a greener, liveable planet for future generations.
I am conscious that we are hard-pressed for time, so I want to focus on two key areas: decarbonising the shipping industry and electric vehicle production.
The shipping industry is one of the world’s leading contributors of carbon emissions, contributing to 3% of emissions annually, and this is only set to grow over the coming years with the International Maritime Organisation having agreed to a 14% increase in emissions up to 2030.
We can’t pretend to be serious about achieving net-zero emissions if we don’t have a radical and credible plan to decarbonise shipping as soon as possible.
The recent announcement that emissions from shipping and aviation will be included in the UK’s carbon budget is a positive, but long overdue development.
It’s another sign that this Government is playing catch-up on the climate crisis rather than truly setting the agenda.
Decarbonising the shipping industry is a historic challenge, but if we’re successful then Wirral will reap the benefits.
The shipping industry already plays a hugely significant role in Birkenhead’s local economy and that’s only going to grow as the Liverpool Freeport becomes a reality.
And by establishing the UK as a world-leader in clean maritime and building up our export industry, we can create many new green jobs at Cammell Laird shipyards and secure its future for a lifetime.
This is a top priority for me and something I’ve been working to achieve since being elected.
There have been some positive steps from the Government. Before Christmas, I met with the Junior Minister for the Future of Transport to discuss this issue and think there is much in the Clean Maritime Plan that should be welcomed.
But I remain deeply concerned that the Government’s ambition is still failing to meet the scale of the crisis we face.
Most of all, the Government needs to be doing far more to promote green hydrogen as an alternative to the polluting fuels currently used by shipping fleets.
No option should be taken off the table – and there certainly needs to be far more research into the viability of fully electrified long-haul shipping – but I believe that green hydrogen is at the moment way the surest way to decarbonise international shipping.
I also believe that green hydrogen has a vital role to play in “greening” wider supply chains, especially in transitioning the steel industry away from its over-reliance on coal.
The development of the hydrogen economy has the potential to transform the economic landscape of the North West – creating new high-quality jobs and bringing much-needed investment to Birkenhead and the wider Wirral region.
Already, we have much of the infrastructure needed to make the hydrogen revolution a reality.
That’s why I’m so emphatic in my support for Hynet North West’s proposal to create a North West low-carbon cluster.
But having spoken to campaigners and industry leaders over the last few months, I feel that the Government’s sequential approach to the development of low-carbon clusters risks creating a system of winners and losers when what we desperately need to be doing is ploughing full speed ahead with any and all projects that bring us closer to achieving net-zero carbon emissions. The North West cannot be left behind.
Along with MPs from across Wirral and Cheshire, I’ve been calling on the Business Secretary to change course and ensure that low-carbon projects in the North West can go ahead without delay.
I am also deeply concerned that the Government is not doing enough to support the transition towards electric vehicle production.
By 2030, the production of petrol and diesel cars will be banned but we’re still a long way away from the electric vehicle revolution that Boris Johnson promised.
As someone who spent twenty-seven years on the shop floor of Vauxhall’s Car Plant in Ellesmere Port, I am deeply concerned that the Government has yet to step in and make the necessary investments to enable the plant to transition towards the production of electric vehicles.
This week, I also spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on the proposed closure of the GKN automotive parts plant in Birmingham.
There, Unite shop stewards have drawn up realistic proposals to convert the plant to the production of electric parts. But despite the closure threatening hundreds of jobs and the Government’s own targets, Ministers are also refusing to save the plant.
Transport Ministers have also failed to build the three electric battery gigabit factories that will be needed by 2025. Yesterday, I called on the Government to ensure that one of these is built in Merseyside.
The Conservatives’ lack of action on these issues shows they truly don’t understand the scale of the climate crisis. But it also demonstrates just how important it is that people like you come together in groups like this to affect real change.
So, I want to thank you again for inviting me to speak today. If there’s anything I can do to support your campaign, don’t hesitate to let me know.”