Net zero: Rishi Sunak reportedly poised to water down green policies - including ban on new petrol cars

Suella Braverman says the government is "not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people"
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Rishi Sunak is reportedly poised to put some of the government's net zero pledges onto the backburner - a move that has pundits from across the political spectrum warning the government it will be on "the wrong side of history".

The Prime Minister has announced he will make a speech on Wednesday afternoon to “set out an important long-term decision”, following media reports that he was planning to row back on green targets sometime this week. This comes after Sunak was understood to have hastily arranged a call with cabinet members on Wednesday morning.

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The BBC reports the expected announcement may include weakening plans to phase out gas boilers from 2035 and delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – currently set for 2030 – by up to five years. PA reports the Prime Minister could also be considering axing plans for new energy-efficiency targets for private rented homes.

Sunak said on Tuesday (19 September) that the government remains committed to the target of net zero emissions by 2050, but will achieve it “in a better, more proportionate way”.

In his late-evening statement, he said: “For too many years politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs. Instead they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all.

Sunak is reportedly poised to water down a number of green policies (NationalWorld/Adobe/Getty)Sunak is reportedly poised to water down a number of green policies (NationalWorld/Adobe/Getty)
Sunak is reportedly poised to water down a number of green policies (NationalWorld/Adobe/Getty)

“This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change. We are committed to Net Zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally, but doing so in a better, more proportionate way," he said.

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“Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment... No leak will stop me beginning the process of telling the country how and why we need to change."

Speaking on LBC, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the government was still "absolutely committed to rolling out our net zero commitments by 2050", in line with its international commitments.

But said they were "goals, not straitjackets”, and added: "We’re not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people."

Green policies have been in the firing line since the Tories narrowly held on to the outer-London seat of Uxbridge in a recent by-election - with pundits citing the Labour-aligned London Mayor's controversial ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) expansion as the reason for the party's loss.

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The upcoming announcement has already drawn sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, with PA reporting some senior Tories reportedly planning to write letters of no confidence in Sunak if he goes ahead.

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said the move was "nothing short of economic and environmental vandalism", that would mean higher energy bills, fewer jobs and lost investment, while weakening the UK’s climate action even further.

"The UK is already not doing enough to reach its climate commitments," she said. "Watering them down further, instead of ramping them up, will make it even harder to achieve these and further damage the UK’s climate credentials around the world."

Denyer continued: “This reckless political gimmick will mean higher energy bills, colder homes, fewer jobs, more dirty air and more climate chaos."

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She also criticised Labour for not committing to restoring policies the Conservatives undo, or to overturn controversial fossil fuel permits, if they are elected at the next election.

The Institute for Public Policy Research's (IPPR) executive director Luke Murphy said rolling back on net zero policies would put Rishi Sunak on "the wrong side of history".

"It would be bad for consumers who will benefit from a faster transition to net zero - these proposals will make us all more reliant on volatile, expensive, imported fossil fuels. The last Conservative PM to ‘cut the green crap’ cost UK households billions in higher energy bills," he said.

While politicians had said there was no intention to remove the net zero 2050 commitment, Mr Murphy said abandoning or delaying the key measures to get the UK there will have the same effect.

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He said it would also be bad for the Conservatives electoral prospects. "The public overwhelmingly support climate action regardless of age, geography, background or voting intention - they want more ambition on climate not less."

Meanwhile, vehicle manufacturers operating in the UK - including Mini, Jaguar, and Land Rover - have said they will not change their plans to transition to electric vehicles, despite the expected announcement.

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