Rishi Sunak insisted he was acting to avoid a public “backlash” by watering down efforts to tackle the climate crisis in an announcement that is facing fierce criticism from green-minded Tories, environmentalists and industry figures.
In a speech from Downing Street, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday he would put back a ban on new fossil fuel cars by five years in a major U-turn among a raft of measures.
And he confirmed that households would “never” be forced to “rip-out their existing boiler and replace it with a heat pump”.
Mr Sunak insisted the UK was already ahead of allies in reducing emissions and could not impose “unacceptable costs” on British families.
“The risk here to those of us who care about reaching net zero, as I do, is simple: if we continue down this path we risk losing the consent of the British people,” he said.
“And the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies but against the wider mission itself meaning we might never achieve our goal.
“That’s why we have to do things differently.”
Mr Sunak insisted he was standing by the legally binding goal of hitting net zero by 2050 despite making changes including:
– Delaying the ban on new cars and vans running solely on petrol and diesel from 2030 to 2035
– Weakening the plan to phase out gas boilers from 2035 so households that will struggle the most to switch to heat pumps will not have to make the switch
– Putting back the ban on boilers relying on heating oil in off-grid homes from 2026 to 2035
– Scrapping policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties.
Mr Sunak detailed the plans to the public after putting them to Cabinet ministers in a hastily arranged call in response to a leak of his net-zero plans.
Speaking from his press briefing room in front of a podium brandishing the Tory conference slogan of “long-term decisions for a brighter future”, he claimed previous governments – both Tory and Labour – had sought to get to net zero “simply by wishing it”.
“No-one in Westminster politics has yet had the courage to look people in the eye and explain what’s really involved. That’s wrong, and it changes now,” Mr Sunak said.
“It cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet and to interfere so much in people’s way of life without a properly informed national debate.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub