- By Henry Zeffman, Chris Mason and Brian Wheeler
- bbc news
Rishi Sunak is considering weakening some of the government’s key green commitments in a major policy change.
It could include delaying the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and phasing out gas boilers, several sources have told the BBC.
The Prime Minister is set to outline the changes in a speech in the coming days.
There is no suggestion that Sunak is considering abandoning the legal commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But he is expected to declare that other countries must bear a greater burden of dealing with climate change.
If Sunak goes ahead with the plan, 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 multiple sources briefed on Downing Street thinking, Sunak would use the speech to hail the UK as a world leader in net zero emissions.
But I would also argue that Britain has gone too far in the fight against climate change and that other countries need to do more to play their part.
Some specific details of the speech are still believed to be being debated, but as it stands it could include up to seven key policy changes or commitments, documents seen by the BBC suggest.
Firstly, the government would delay the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, currently set to come into force in 2030, until 2035. The 2030 date has been government policy since 2020.
Secondly, the government would significantly weaken the plan to phase out the installation of gas boilers by 2035, saying it only wants 80% to be phased out by that year.
Third, homeowners and landlords would be informed that there will be no new energy efficiency regulations in homes. Ministers have been considering imposing fines on homeowners who do not upgrade their properties to a certain level of energy efficiency.
Fourth, the 2026 ban on insulated oil boilers will be delayed until 2035, with a phase-out target of just 80% by that date.
Additionally, Brits will be told there will be no new taxes to discourage flying; no government policy to change people’s diets; and no measures to encourage vehicle sharing.
Sunak is also likely to rule out what he sees as onerous recycling schemes.
A Labor spokesman said: “This is a total travesty. The country cannot continue with a Conservative government in total disarray, stumbling from crisis to crisis.” Ministers urgently need to clarify the eight policies reported to be subject to review. “Only a Labor government can provide the stability and certainty that Britain needs to prosper.”
Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, former chair of the UK government’s net zero review, said watering down net zero policies “would cost the UK jobs, incoming investment and future economic growth that could have been ours.” if we committed ourselves to the industries of the future.
Households “whose bills will continue to be higher as a result of inefficient fossil fuels and their dependence on volatile international fossil fuel prices” will ultimately pay the price, he added.
“Rishi Sunak still has time to think again and not make the biggest mistake of his time as Prime Minister, condemning the UK to miss what may be the opportunity of the decade to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity,” said the Conservative MP.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called any rollback on Net Zero “economically illiterate, historically inaccurate and environmentally foolish” in a tweet.
But Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who chairs the net zero scrutiny group, said he was “pleased to see some pragmatism” from Sunak.
Moving back the dates for Net Zero targets will “take the sky away from ‘greenwashing’ measures of clearly unattainable deadlines” and give time for “technology to prove its worth rather than Whitehall mandarins telling us what to buy and when.” “.
On Thursday, the King will make a state visit to France, where he will host the Climate Mobilization Forum.
The event brings together climate finance specialists and aims to help developing economies make adjustments to reduce emissions.
The King will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, James Cleverly.