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UPDATE: Rishi Sunak to water down UK net zero commitments

19th Sep 2023 21:51

(Alliance News) - Rishi Sunak appears set to water down some of the government's net zero pledges to ensure they are "proportionate", in a move that has drawn sharp criticism from across the political spectrum and campaigners.

The prime minister confirmed he will make a speech this week to "set out an important long-term decision", following reports that he would use one to row back on green targets.

This could include weakening the plan to phase out gas boilers from 2035 and delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – currently due in 2030 – by five years, the BBC reported.

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

He said that politicians "of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs" and accused previous governments of taking "the easy way out, saying we can have it all".

He sought to position himself as the bringer of "real change" who would "put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment".

The prospect of a major shift in the Conservatives' approach to green policy was quickly condemned by senior figures in the party.

Former Cop26 president Alok Sharma warned that "for any party to resile from this (climate action) agenda will not help economically or electorally", while Tory former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke tweeted that "it is in our environmental, economic, moral and (yes) political interests as @Conservatives to make sure we lead on this issue rather than disown it".

Some Tory MPs are considering writing letters of no confidence in the prime minister if he goes ahead with the changes, the PA news agency understands.

Tory success in the summer's Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, won largely through a campaign against the expansion of the ultra low emission zone, has led to other MPs to call for Sunak to water down or abandon net zero pledges.

Former prime minister Liz Truss has been among them, calling for the abandonment of "environmental regulations which are hiking the cost of living".

Sunak could reportedly also abandon plans for new energy-efficiency targets for private rented homes.

Chris Skidmore, a Conservative former energy minister who has become increasingly outspoken on net zero, told PA: "If this is true, the decision will cost the UK jobs, inward investment, and future economic growth that could have been ours by committing to the industries of the future.

"It will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere. And ultimately the people who will pay the price for this will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of inefficient fossil fuels and being dependent on volatile international fossil fuel prices.

"Rishi Sunak still has time to think again and not make the greatest mistake of his premiership, condemning the UK to missing out on what can be the opportunity of the decade to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity."

Liberal Democrat climate & energy spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: "What Rishi Sunak should see in front of him is the opportunity to embrace the industries of the future and protect the coming generations from the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

"Instead, he has cowered to the delayers and deniers like the disgraced Liz Truss and adopted wholesale their policies."

Labour's shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said: "This is a complete farce from a Tory government that literally does not know what they are doing day to day.

"Thirteen years of failed energy policy has led to an energy bills crisis, weakened our energy security, lost jobs, and failed on the climate crisis."

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "This decision would be economically illiterate, historically inaccurate and environmentally bone-headed. This absurd rollback will mean higher energy bills, colder homes, fewer jobs, more air pollution and more climate chaos."

Hannah Martin, co-director of Green New Deal Rising, said: "Once again this government has shown that they are hell-bent on breaking their promises and doing nothing to stop climate chaos. Just weeks after the hottest summer on record Rishi Sunak has decided to ignore science and stoke a culture war.

"Whilst global leaders are meeting to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis, he has stayed home to set fire to some of the only remaining climate policies this government had left.

"Not only will the UK miss out on the opportunity to create millions of good green jobs and secure our energy future, we will be once again seen as a laggard as we duck out of doing our fair share to tackle the biggest existential crisis we face."

Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, said: "All of this would leave us more dependent on foreign oil and gas, less energy independent and with investors spooked.

"As the rest of the world is rushing to invest in net zero industries, any further rowing back by the UK would leave our international standing further tarnished."

Friends of the Earth's head of policy, Mike Childs, said: "Rolling back on key climate commitments as the world is being battered by extreme flooding and wildfires would be morally indefensible.

"It is legally questionable too as the UK has binding greenhouse gas reduction targets that it's already in danger of missing."

By Sophie Wingate and Christopher McKeon, PA Political Staff

Press Association: News

source: PA

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