Top NewsRishi Sunak sees it as weakening key green policies

Rishi Sunak sees it as weakening key green policies

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  • By Henry Jeffman & Chris Mason & Brian Wheeler
  • BBC News

image source, Good pictures

Rishi Sunak is considering weakening some of the government’s key green commitments in a major policy shift.

Multiple sources have told the BBC that this includes delaying a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and phasing out gas boilers.

The prime minister is preparing to set out changes to the speech in the coming days.

Responding to the reported plans, he said the government was committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but in a “more disproportionate way”.

The aim of net zero is to remove many greenhouse gas emissions – such as carbon dioxide – from the UK atmosphere.

The Prime Minister said: “For years politicians in all forms of government have not been honest about costs and transactions. Instead they have taken the easy way out by saying we can have it all.

“This realism does not mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments.

I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change.

He said the UK remains committed to international climate agreements already made.

“No leak will stop the process of telling the country how and why we need to change,” he said.

If he presses the plan forward, it would represent a significant shift in the Conservative Party’s approach to net zero policy, as well as establishing a clear dividing line with the Labor Party.

According to several sources on Downing Street’s thinking, Mr Sunak will use the speech to praise the UK as a world leader in net zero.

But he will argue that Britain has delivered too much in the face of climate change and that other countries must do more to pull their weight.

Some details of the speech are thought to be still under discussion, but it could include up to seven key policy changes or commitments, according to documents seen by the BBC.

First, the government will push back a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – currently set to take effect in 2030 – to 2035. The 2030 date has been government policy since 2020.

Second, the government will significantly weaken the plan to phase out the installation of gas boilers by 2035, they want only 80% to be removed by that year.

Third, homeowners and landlords will be told that there will be no new energy efficiency restrictions on homes. Ministers are considering fines for landlords who fail to upgrade their properties to a certain level of energy efficiency.

Fourth, the 2026 ban on off-grid oil boilers will be delayed to 2035, with an 80% phase-out by that date.

Mr Sunak is also likely to reject what he sees as heavy-handed recycling schemes.

A Labor spokesman said: “This is a complete travesty. The country can’t go on with a Conservative government in total disarray as the country stumbles from crisis to crisis.

“Ministers must urgently clarify the eight policies that are said to be under review.”

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, a former chair of the UK government’s net zero review, said watering down green policies “would have cost the UK jobs, inward investment and future economic growth that could have been ours by engaging in the industries of the future”.

“There is still time for Rishi Sunak to rethink his prime ministership and not make a huge mistake, condemning the UK for missing a decade of opportunity to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity,” he said.

Former Conservative minister Sir Alok Sharma, chairman of the COP26 climate summit, said the UK had been a leader in climate action “but we cannot rest on our laurels”.

It will not help either party economically or electorally if it deviates from this agenda,” he added.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called any pushback to net zero “economically illiterate, historically inaccurate and environmentally boneheaded”.

But Tory MP Craig McKinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Study Group, said he was “pleased to see some pragmatism” from Mr Sunak.

Pushing back the dates for net zero targets “would take ‘greenwash’ measures out of a clearly unattainable deadline”.

“Don’t buy net zero – it’s not just a libertarian argument, it’s an economic argument,” he said in his red-wall seat.

On Thursday, the king will make a state visit to France, where he will host the so-called Climate Mobilization Forum.

The event brings together experts in climate finance, and aims to help developing economies make changes to reduce emissions.

James, the Foreign Secretary, would go smart with the King.

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