Fall-out after Rishi Sunak drops climate U-turn bombshell

Downing Street Environment Policy & Politics

Rishi Sunak has been lambasted for announcing a major U-turn on climate policies which Labour said they will reverse if they win the next election.

The prime minister is reversing the ban on sales of new diesel and petrol cars that was due to come into place in 2030. Sunak said he will delay that by five years, bringing the UK in line with the EU and other leading economies. He is also postponing the ban on new gas and oil fired boilers until 2035 and scrapping the requirement on householders to energy-proof their homes.

In the hastily arranged press conference, Sunak said delaying key climate policies will help families struggling with the cost of living crisis while keeping the country on track to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“Why am I confident in saying that? Because over the last decade so far, we’ve massively overdelivered on every one of our carbon budgets, despite regular predictions we’d miss them,” claimed Sunak.

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said his party would keep the 2030 ban on new diesel and petrol cars “because that’s what businesses have been investing for, that’s what businesses expects, that’s how we can meet net zero but it’s also how we can lower the fuel costs for households that have cars and need to drive away.”

Reed said Sunak “is stuck in the past” and added: “He wants to keep household bills high and he wants to stop the investment from the new jobs that will prevent the good, secure jobs of the future.”

Sunak was forced to make today’s (September 20) statement announcing the climate policy U-turn following a leak to the BBC. That prompted an avalanche of criticism before the big speech including from disgraced former PM Boris Johnson who warned Sunak he “cannot afford to falter” on net zero.

“Business must have certainty about our Net Zero commitments. This country leads on tackling climate change and in creating new green technology.

“The green Industrial Revolution is already generating huge numbers of high quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country,” said Johnson.

The sentiments are shared by the motor industry with Ford UK’s chair Lisa Brankin saying – in what deputy political editor at Sky News, Sam Coates described as an “angry” statement: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”

CEO of energy supplier E.ON Chris Norbury also damned Sunak’s climate U-turn saying it risks “condemning people to many more years of living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat, in cities clogged with dirty air from fossil fuels, missing out on the regeneration this ambition brings.”

The Guardian’s associate editor and columnist Martin Kettle wrote “Sunak’s green retreat” is “a ruthless short-term electoral gamble” ahead of the Conservative party conference that starts on October 1 and next month’s byelections.

Today’s announcement has caused fury in Tory ranks, not just from Johnson. Former minister Lord Zac Goldsmith even called for an election “now” and later added: “It says much about his [Sunak’s] low opinion of voters that he believes they will join him on the side of environmental destruction”.

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