Rishi Sunak is wrecking the car industry with net zero
Rishi Sunak is planning to delay a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years.
The target to phase out the fossil fuel cars could be pushed back to 2035 from 2030, alongside a delay in phasing out gas boilers.
Some of Mr Sunak’s backbench MPs have long called for a watering down on green commitments amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I know people are frustrated with politics and want real change. Our political system rewards short-term decision-making that is holding our country back. For too many years politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs. Instead they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all.
“This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change. We are committed to Net Zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.”
The Prime Minister added: “Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment.
“No leak will stop me beginning the process of telling the country how and why we need to change.”
Mr Sunak went on to say that he will be giving a speech this week “to set out an important long-term decision we need to make so our country becomes the place I know we all want it to be for our children.”
A source from the Tory Net Zero Watch group of MPs said it was “certainly encouraging” news.
“The Government is hopefully grasping that some clear water between Tories and Labour on Net Zero can be very helpful. One of the few hands up its sleeve that it hasn’t played going into the election.
“Expect big green backlash. If it’s big enough then the package may be watered down but hopefully, they will stick to their guns”
Meanwhile a Government spokesman said they “remain completely committed to its Net Zero commitments, with the UK having cut emissions faster than any other G7 country”.
The spokesperson added: “Our approach will always be pragmatic and ensure costs are not passed onto hard-working families. We will not comment on speculation.”
Mr Sunak will hope that a possible five-year delay in the ban on new petrol and diesel cars will limit the direct costs imposed on consumers. As will an extension on the phase out gas boilers. While the expected announcement to drop plans for new energy efficiency targets for private rented homes will also be welcomed by some tenants.
There are Tory MPs who have argued that net-zero policies are too expensive, particularly at a time when inflation has soared.
Energy efficiency measures are often presented as disproportionately affecting poorer households.
In his speech on Friday, Mr Sunak could attempt to create a dividing line with Labour ahead of the next general election.
But Mr Sunak faces the possibility of a Conservative party that is more split than united over the issue.
Craig Mackinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet, and Sir John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, have hailed the possibility of a green climbdown a massive win for hard-pressed families.
While former net zero tsar Chris Skidmore says it could be the “greatest mistake of his premiership”.
COP26 president Alok Sharma warned the UK cannot “rest on our laurels”, adding: “For any party to resile from this agenda will not help economically or electorally.”
The Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto pledged to reach net zero by 2050 and last night the Government insisted it remains committed to this.
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss called on Mr Sunak to delay the 2030 ban on diesel and petrol cars in a speech on Monday.
A shift in the Tories’ green policy would establish a clear dividing line with the Labour Party.
Ms Truss, who last year angered green groups with an “attack on nature”, said: “We should – as many other Western countries are already doing – delay implementing Net Zero commitments such as the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030.
“Other environmental regulations which are hiking the cost of living, like enforcing the replacement of gas and oil boilers, should also be abandoned.”
The Government could significantly weaken the plan to phase out the installation of gas boilers by 2035, saying that they only want 80 percent to be phased out by that year.
There was immediate backlash from green groups last night following reports of Mr Sunak’s possible plans
Hilary McGrady, the director general at the National Trust, said: “If rumours are correct this would be a deeply depressing step. From flooding to wildfires, we’re facing the impacts of climate change here and now. We need to step up ambition, not water it down.”
Jordan Lee, nature programme manager at the Conservative Environment Network, warned the Tories “cannot afford” to abandon green pledges ahead of Britons heading to the polls next year.
He said: “With an election imminent this sends all the wrong signals. Conservatives have a proud record on the environment. We need to own it. Polls consistently reflect voters’ preference for environmental ambition. We simply cannot afford to abandon this now.”