LONDON (Bywire News) - As Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signals the potential dilution of the government's net zero commitments, the fissures within the Conservative Party seem to be widening, reports Sky News. While Sunak maintains his dedication to the 2050 net zero target, he asserts the need to approach it "in a better, more proportionate way," eliciting ire from various quarters, including Tory MPs and environmental groups.
The scrutiny intensifies as it comes to light that the Prime Minister may extend the deadline for the ban on new petrol and diesel cars, originally slated for 2030, by five years. The government may also re-evaluate the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035, according to reports that Sky News understands to be accurate.
The suggested policy shifts have led to a surge of criticism from within Sunak's own party. An unnamed Tory MP revealed they are "seriously considering" submitting a letter of no confidence. Business leaders within the car industry, who have invested substantially in electric vehicles, have labelled the potential policy change as "anti-business."
This internal tumult within the Conservative Party could not come at a worse time, given the looming general elections expected within the next 18 months. With the United Kingdom's reputation on climate change policy at stake, any alteration to the government's commitments may significantly impact the nation's standing in global climate discussions.
The potential backtrack has not only angered Conservative MPs but also opposition parties and environmental organisations. Ed Miliband, Labour's shadow energy secretary, criticised the move as a "complete farce," accusing the government of failing on energy and climate policy. Friends of the Earth's head of policy, Mike Childs, echoed this sentiment, calling any rollbacks "morally indefensible" and "legally questionable."
Sunak's shifting stance comes after a surprise Tory victory at the Uxbridge by-election, which some attribute to the party's opposition to the ULEZ congestion charge scheme. However, the political calculus behind diluting net zero commitments to potentially win votes at the ballot box risks alienating a significant portion of the electorate concerned about the environment.
As the U.K. braces for Prime Minister Sunak's forthcoming speech, it remains to be seen whether the government will commit to its previously outlined climate goals or steer the nation in a new, and potentially divisive, direction.
(By Michael O'Sullivan)