- Sunak delays petrol car ban for five years
- Facilitates heating and insulation objectives.
- Says UK is committed to overall goal of net zero emissions by 2050
- Companies complain about the change of objectives
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday watered down Britain’s plans to tackle climate change, saying he would delay a ban on sales of new petrol cars to maintain the British people’s consent to change to zero net emissions.
Sunak said he remained committed to the legally binding target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but said Britain could afford to make slower progress to get there because it was “far ahead of any other country in the world”.
To alleviate what it described as “unacceptable costs” for British households due to the energy transition, it delayed the ban on new petrol and diesel cars until 2035 from 2030, said it would ease the transition to boiler heat pumps. gas in homes, and said it would not force any home to improve its insulation.
Sunak said he was changing policy because previous governments had moved too quickly to set net zero targets, without securing public support.
“If we continue down this path, we risk losing the British people and the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies, but against the mission itself in general,” he told a news conference.
Businesses and environmental activists have said the historic decarbonization of the economy marks an opportunity to stimulate investment and economic growth, and create good-paying jobs, including in former industrial cities.
For that to be successful, they say the government needs to provide a stable and predictable environment to encourage businesses and consumers to make the switch, and the UK has long described itself as a leader in the movement towards a green economy. .
But with a national election expected next year, Sunak appears to be betting that scaling back some green policies will win over voters struggling with persistently high inflation and stagnant economic growth.
In recent weeks, the government has also rattled investors by once again delaying post-Brexit border controls, casting doubt on the future of the country’s yet-to-be-built high-speed rail line and failing to attract any bids. for an offshore wind installation. auction.
News that it would delay several climate targets drew scorn from companies that produce everything from cars to solar panels, electric vehicle charging points and energy.
Lisa Brankin, president of Ford UK, was scathing about the shift to the 2030 EV target: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”
The opposition Labor Party, well ahead in opinion polls, said it would stick to the original 2030 target.
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said the move would deter investment and urged Britain to become more like the European Union and the United States by establishing stable and supportive policies.
Chris Norbury, head of the UK division of energy company E.ON, Britain’s third largest national energy supplier, said framing the debate as “green versus cheap” was a false argument when delaying the move would cost more in the long run. term.
Britain was the first major economy to create a legally binding net zero emissions target by 2050 and emissions have fallen by almost 50% since 1990 as coal-fired power stations closed and offshore wind energy took off.
Sunak says that puts Britain ahead of other major economies.
But the government’s own independent climate adviser said in June that Britain was not doing enough to meet its targets and said on Wednesday that the announcement would likely take Britain further away from being able to meet its legal commitments.
Sunak, asked how Britain could reach the 2050 target if it softened previous targets now, said there was room for maneuver because the country had overachieved in the past, industry costs were falling faster than expected and public uptake of climate measures had been poor. better than expected.
“We believe we are absolutely on track to deliver on our commitments,” he said.
Written by Kate Holton; additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan, Suban Abdulla, Alistair Smout, Andrew MacAskill, Susanna Twidale, Muvija M, Nick Carey, Sachin Ravikumar, Sarah Young, Gloria Dickie; Editing by Gareth Jones, Kirsten Donovan and Daniel Wallis
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