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Rishi Sunak was accused on Tuesday of presiding over a “slow-motion car crash” as the prime minister prepared to delay crucial measures aimed at turning the UK into a net-zero carbon economy.
Downing Street said the government would always be “pragmatic and ensure costs are not passed on to working families” amid media reports claiming the prime minister was close to pulling out of key commitments linked to Britain’s push to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
No 10 did not deny a BBC report that changes Sunak is considering include delaying a plan ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.
Ministers are also expected to weaken a plan to ban the installation of new domestic gas boilers from 2035, according to people briefed on Sunak’s thinking.
The BBC said the government wants to delay the ban on new off-grid diesel boilers from 2026 to 2035.
The prime minister is also expected to say his government will not introduce new taxes to discourage air travel or policies to force people to carpool.
Chris Skidmore, a Conservative MP and former minister who produced a net zero emissions report for Sunak this year, said: “We will regard this moment as Sunak’s slow-motion car crash.”
He added that the ideas discussed by Sunak threatened to set back the green agenda in the UK for a decade or more.
But in response to media reports, Sunak said politicians in governments of all stripes had not been honest about the “costs and trade-offs”.
“We are committed to net zero by 2050 and to the agreements we have made internationally, but doing so in a better and more proportionate way,” he added.
Sunak went on to say that “no leak” would stop him from “telling the country how and why we need to change”, and that he would give a speech later this week.
Downing Street did not deny the media reports. “Our approach will always be pragmatic and ensure costs are not passed on to working families,” a spokesperson said. “We will not comment on speculation.”
The Prime Minister has calculated that while voters want the UK to reach its target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, they believe the target must be achieved in a way that does not unfairly penalize households struggling with the carbon crisis. cost of living.
Sunak believes he may catch Labor on the wrong side of an argument over green policies ahead of the next general election, suggesting party leader Sir Keir Starmer is being overzealous at the expense of households.
The danger for Sunak is that he will alienate many potential Conservative voters by what could appear to be a retreat from a green agenda promoted by his predecessors Boris Johnson and Theresa May.
Sir Alok Sharma, a former Conservative minister who was chair of the COP26 climate summit in 2021, said on social media platform
“For any party to withdraw from this agenda will not help economically or electorally,” he added.
Sam Hall, head of the Conservative Environment Network, which counts around 150 Conservative MPs and their peers among its supporters, said: “Slowing down action on climate change would be a serious political, economic and environmental mistake.”
But Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the leading net zero skeptics in the Conservative parliamentary party, welcomed Sunak’s expected move, saying: “Taking burdens off the backs of taxpayers during an inflationary period is the right thing to do and could prove to be a winning election strategy. .”
A Labor spokesman said: “This is a total farce. The country cannot continue with a conservative government in total disarray, stumbling from crisis to crisis.”
Politicians became nervous in July when concerns about the expansion of London’s ultra-low emissions zone were widely seen as stop Labor from taking over the Uxbridge constituency in a parliamentary by-election. The zone imposes fees on the most polluting vehicles, but the expansion was attacked by conservatives.
Starmer subsequently distanced himself from Labor London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the zone, and this has caused Sunak to reconsider several green policies.
The car industry has been asking for clarity for months about whether the Government will comply with its plan to ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2030.
A figure close to the government questioned whether a delay to the 2030 ban was likely, noting that BMW this month committed to investing £600 million to produce electric Minis at a plant in Oxford. In July, Tata Group agreed to build a £4bn electric vehicle gigafactory in Somerset.