Green policies in the firing line? Reports Conservatives and Labour backing off environmental pledges

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Downing Street has announced it will be scrutinising government's net-zero policies to see if they are “proportionate and pragmatic”

Both the Tories and Labour look set to take drastic steps to win back voters by watering down green pledges they fear might be unpopular - after a narrow by-election loss was attributed to an environmental policy.

Downing Street has announced it will be scrutinising government's net-zero policies to see if they are “proportionate and pragmatic”, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he does not want to "hassle" families with the net zero targets during a cost of living crisis.

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The Times reported both the Conservatives and Labour were considering backing down on a number of their policies, while government maintains the UK is still aiming to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

This comes after the Tories narrowly held on to the outer-London seat of Uxbridge in last week's by-elections - citing the Labour-aligned London Mayor's controversial ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) expansion as the reason for the party's loss.

But which of the government and Labour's green policies and pledges might be at risk, and what have politicians said? Here's everything you need to know:

Ban on new petrol and diesel cars

The government had previously committed to a ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. However, the plan was one of the biggest ones rumoured to be up for reconsideration.

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Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell, after initially stopping short of the commitment, said on Monday the ban "will remain in place". Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if the ban on the sale of new petrol cars from 2030 is still in place, Mr Mitchell said: “It absolutely is.”

Both the Conservatives and Labour appear to be looking into their net zero policies, after a narrow election loss (Image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock)Both the Conservatives and Labour appear to be looking into their net zero policies, after a narrow election loss (Image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock)
Both the Conservatives and Labour appear to be looking into their net zero policies, after a narrow election loss (Image: NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock) | NationalWorld/Getty/Adobe Stock

Asked if it will remain that way, he said: “Well, all I can tell you is it is in place”, but when challenged said: “Well, I’m afraid I can’t prophesise for the future.”

Earlier he told Times Radio, people should “wait for any announcement” when asked if the government could delay their plans.

Energy efficiency targets for landlords

Housing Secretary Michael Gove suggested private landlords should be given longer to meet new energy efficiency targets.

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It was previously announced all private rentals would need to achieve at least a 'C' rating for energy efficiency by 2028 - which LandlordZone reports could involve fitting heat pumps, insulation, or solar panels.

On Monday, Downing Street indicated the Government was “considering the correct approach” on energy efficiency targets for private rented homes. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “I think [Gove] was referring to the landlord measures and obviously, as I said, it’s right that we ensure proposals take into account the wider developments in energy efficiency and private rented sectors including the upcoming review of the EPC system, the Renters’ Reform Bill, the introduction of the decent home standard in the private sector.

“So that’s to ensure that the costs and circumstances relating to energy efficiency improvement are fair and proportionate for landlords and tenants. That’s some of the work the department’s undertaking on that.”

Phasing out gas boilers

On the phasing out of gas boilers from 2035 - which emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases - Downing Street said it will consider technological advances as it scrutinises net-zero commitments.

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The 2035 deadline "remains our commitment", the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. “But it’s obviously right we consider how technology evolves over time as we progress towards 2035.”

Low traffic neighbourhoods

Other suggestions included a ban on low-traffic neighbourhoods, with The Times reporting no new ones are likely to be approved. Low-traffic neighbourhoods are an initiative that seek to ban vehicles from side roads.

Ministers were also considering banning councils from using the national number plate database to fine drivers who enter car-free zones, with a government source telling the paper they “won’t necessarily be available” for any future schemes.

London's ULEZ expansion

The London Mayor stood by the expansion in the face of the party's narrow loss in Uxbridge, saying he was "determined to clear the air in London".

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However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there needed to be some reflection in the aftermath of the vote. He told reporters the Uxbridge constituency was always going to be “tough”. “We didn’t take it in 1997... and ULEZ was the reason we didn’t win there yesterday,” he said.

“We know that. We heard that on the doors. And we’ve all got to reflect on that, including the mayor.” Asked what “reflect” meant and whether the expansion should be scrapped, he said: “We’ve got to look at the result. The mayor needs to reflect. And it’s too early to say what should happen next.”

ULEZ and Clean Air Zone (CAZ) policies frequently see fierce opposition, but the policies themselves have a strong track record of improving air quality, and reducing the health and environmental impacts associated with vehicle emissions.

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