LONDON (Bywire News) - Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a shift in the UK’s green policy strategy, prompting debate across political and business spectrums. Sunak, speaking from Downing Street, insisted that the UK remains committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. However, he argued that the transition can be done in a "fairer and better way."
Delay on Diesel and Petrol Car Ban
One of the most significant reversals announced by the Prime Minister is a five-year delay in the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. Originally slated for 2030, the ban will now come into effect in 2035. Sunak assured that businesses would be given "more time to prepare" and align the UK's approach with that of Europe, Canada, and many US states. People will still be allowed to buy second-hand petrol and diesel cars even after the new deadline.
Gas Boiler Phase-Out Modified
The prime minister also scaled back the push to phase out gas boilers, saying that households would never be forced to replace their existing boiler with a heat pump. This change will only be required when people need to replace their boiler anyway, and not until 2035. The boiler upgrade scheme will also see an increase by 50% to £7,500 in cash grants.
Scrapping Landlord Efficiency Targets
Another notable change was the scrapping of plans that would force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties. Sunak argued that these policies would result in higher rent for tenants.
Scrapping 'Unplanned' Measures
Sunak dismissed a "worrying set of proposals," such as taxing meat and limiting car passengers, that were the subject of recent debates on achieving net zero. Critics, however, claim that many of these measures were never actually planned.
Political and Industry Reaction
The announcements have stirred debate, with Labour accusing the prime minister of pandering to net zero-sceptic members of his party and jeopardising investor confidence. The Lib Dems and various industry leaders, from energy firms to car companies, have also voiced their concerns.
Ed Miliband, Labour's shadow energy security and net zero secretary, slammed the Prime Minister for "trashing our economic future," while Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, criticised Sunak for not grasping the economic opportunities tied to clean energy.
On the business front, Lisa Brankin, the UK chairwoman of Ford, said that the relaxation of the 2030 deadline would undermine business confidence. Chis Norbury, the CEO of E.ON, criticised the "false argument" that green policies can only come at a cost.
Climate Commitments Remain
Despite these U-turns, Sunak insisted that the UK would meet its international climate change commitments, including those under the Paris Climate Accords. He also argued that the UK is "so far ahead" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other nations.
Sunak's decisions have sparked a debate on the UK's commitment to combatting climate change and have left many questioning whether the country can still reach its 2050 net zero target under these new terms. The Prime Minister remains resolute that these changes align with classic Conservative principles and offer a more pragmatic approach to reaching net zero.
The ultimate test, however, will be public opinion. Whether these policy shifts will ease the financial burden on families or weaken the UK's green ambitions remains to be seen.
(By Michael O'Sullivan)