Minister doesn’t believe a law is needed to speed up transition to electric vehicles

(Title Image: Rhun ap Iorwerth AM)

Yesterday, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) put forward a proposal for a law on electric and zero-emissions vehicles – holding a demonstration even outside the Senedd building itself and publishing a report based on evidence surrounding Scotland’s electric vehicle policy.

Taking action on climate change

As expected, Rhun raised the recent Senedd vote to declare a climate emergency, but this requires concrete action. The summary aims of his proposed Bill would be to encourage the use of electric and zero-emission vehicles and place a duty on the Welsh Government to develop a strategy to speed up the transition from petrol and diesel vehicles within the public sector.

While it was all well and good discussing active travel, cars, vans and lorries will remain part of the transport mix for the foreseeable future.

“Therefore, we have to make them cleaner. Outside the Senedd earlier today it was wonderful to welcome Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Renault, who were demonstrating their latest electric vehicles. The technology is making progress very quickly, with wholly-electric vehicles being able to travel further – 200 miles and more on one charge, and 300 for some.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

While there were signs of good practice emerging in some local authorities, this has to be lead from the top and where the Senedd has the power to legislate to make the lives of the people of Wales better – such as by addressing climate change and air pollution – it must.

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), offered the Conservative’s support. His committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into electric charging and heard evidence from the Economy Minister yesterday. One of the emerging themes was that Wales is a “charging desert” with a poor spread of charging points.

Also, while the Welsh Government has committed £2million towards the transition to low-carbon transport, the Scottish Government were investing £14million.

Michelle Brown AM (Ind, North Wales) – while supporting the principle – raised an important point that the materials used to manufacture electric vehicles weren’t exactly environmentally or socially friendly:

“Batteries require cobalt, and the vast majority of that is sourced from Congo – an area rife with conflict. Furthermore, children are exploited to work in the cobalt mines for slave wages, and much of the profits the companies make is used to fund civil war. The term ‘blood batteries’ has now entered the lexicon of those talking about the development of electric vehicles, and we must ensure that we’re no part of it.”
– Michelle Brown AM

Little evidence legislation is needed

Although the Welsh Government weren’t minded to oppose the motion as it was tabled, the Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) didn’t see any evidence that legislation was needed on this.

“We’re planning for publicly available charging infrastructure to meet the demand that will be created by the large-scale uptake of electric vehicles, but I expect the private sector and electric vehicle charging providers to deliver the vast majority of infrastructure. Our role is to assess where there are gaps in provision and to act to address market failure. Our strategy….will utilise the same approach that we took in procuring the operator and development partner for the new rail franchise….”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

Despite this, the motion supporting the proposed law was approved unanimously.

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