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Rishi Sunak will unveil the UK government’s new plans on net zero on Wednesday, after signaling Downing Street will delay key green pledges.
Following reports of the government’s plans to push back targets for phasing out petrol cars and gas boilers, Downing Street said the Prime Minister would give a speech and answer questions on Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday morning, according to government insiders, he organized an emergency phone call with the cabinet to discuss his plans.
The reported moves are part of an apparent shift to weaken the country’s net zero targets over the next decade.
The move has already sparked controversy within the industry, although Interior Secretary Suella Braverman on Tuesday dismissed the current targets as “arbitrary,” “totally unrealistic and punitive.”
Carmakers have been investing in electric vehicle production based on Britain’s current pledge to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 – a policy that is now being questioned.
Downing Street has not denied a BBC report that the changes being considered include pushing back a planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.
Lisa Brankin, chairman of Ford UK, said the existing 2030 automotive target is a “vital catalyst to accelerate Ford towards a cleaner future”, as she endorsed the company’s £430 million investment in the UK’s electrification development and production facilities emphasized.
“Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation by 2030 would undermine all three,” Brankin said.
People aware of Sunak’s views told the Financial Times they also expected the government to relax a plan to ban the installation of new domestic gas boilers from 2035.
Sunak said on Tuesday night, after the BBC report, that “no leak” would stop him “telling the country how and why we need to change”.
The apparent move to delay net zero policy comes as the government, which is far behind in the polls, is trying to make the cost of green policies an electoral issue and highlight its difference with Labour.
The pivot has sparked strong reactions from some car industry figures, environmentalists and Conservative MPs, but has been welcomed by net-zero skeptics in Sunak’s party.
Braverman told the BBC on Wednesday that ministers should not treat environmental targets as “straitjackets” or risk targets that “ruin people’s personal budgets” in the face of cost-of-living pressures.
“We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people,” she said, emphasizing that steps to cut carbon emissions must be approached in a “more sustainable” way. . . adult. . . pragmatic way.”
Sunak has promised more “realism” and a “proportionate” state approach to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an overarching target he said he would not abandon.
In a veiled swipe at Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, who announced many of the government’s most ambitious net zero targets, Sunak added: “For too many years, politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about the costs and considerations. ”
However, Tory MPs defending the green agenda lashed out at proposals to water down the timetable for green pledges.
Former COP26 president Sir Alok Sharma told the BBC that abandoning the climate action agenda would leave the planet “on life support”.
Sir Simon Clarke, a former minister, said on social media that it was in the Conservatives’ “environmental, economic, moral and (yes) political interests” to “take charge of this issue rather than disown it”.
Conservatives on the party’s right flank joined Braverman in welcoming the shift. Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said delaying the ban on new fossil fuel cars and oil and gas boilers would be “positive news for British consumers”.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and several environmental groups have criticized proposals to roll back Britain’s net zero pledges.