Sunak Announces Shift On Climate Policies


Several members of Sunak’s own party oppose any weakening of green targets, with member of Parliament Chris Skidmore saying it was “potentially the greatest mistake of Sunak’s premiership”…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said his government would take a new approach to meeting its emissions targets as he announced a delay on the ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars.

The ban will move from 2030 to 2035, in a shift that was criticized earlier in the day as causing uncertainty for the automotive industry as it readies for the electric vehicle transition.

Sunak said people needed more time to make the transition away from gas boilers and that households in some areas would get a delay on existing targets for the ban on new fossil fuel boilers. He also announced a 50% increase in cash grants under the government’s boiler upgrade program.

In a speech at Downing Street in which he sought to frame the new approach as in the interests of households, Sunak said he would announce a series of long-term decisions over the coming months, starting with a “new approach to one of the biggest challenges we face, climate change.”

“I believe deeply that when you ask most people about climate change they want to do the right thing, they’re even prepared to make sacrifices, but it cannot be right for Westminster to impose such costs on working people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet,” he said Wednesday. He also denied watering down targets despite the pushing back of key timelines.

Sunak said the U.K. had further to go to get charging infrastructure “truly nationwide” and needed to grow the automotive industry so it wasn’t reliant on imports from countries such as China.

Many of the announcements were leaked by the BBC late Tuesday, attracting widespread criticism from U.K.-based industry bodies and automakers ahead of the prime minister’s speech.

Lisa Brankin, chair of Ford UK — which has committed to making the U.K. its European electric vehicle component manufacturing hub — said the 2030 target was a “vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future.”

“Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency.  A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three,” Brankin said.

“We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost-of-living is high.”

The objective covering gasoline and diesel car sales was announced in 2020, as part of a broader target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Stellantis, which opened the U.K.’s first EV-only manufacturing plant earlier this month, also said industry needed clarity.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the auto industry needed the government to provide a “clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety.”

Ministers have suggested for some months that the government is considering watering down green policies that it considers may come at an upfront cost to households.

The ruling Conservative Party is lagging behind rival Labour in polls ahead of next year’s expected national election. 

Several members of Sunak’s own party oppose any weakening of green targets, with member of parliament Chris Skidmore on Tuesday telling the BBC it was “potentially the greatest mistake of [Sunak’s] premiership so far.”

In the long term, weakening the U.K. climate policies “could hurt economic growth by undermining domestic and overseas investment in a range of sectors that are developing and deploying clean technologies, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles. And it could make UK households poorer and colder because they will remain highly exposed to volatile fossil fuel prices,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Criticism also came from the energy industry, with Chris Hewett, head of trade association Solar Energy UK, saying the moves would be an “economic misjudgment of historic proportions,” as businesses in the U.S., China, EU and India race to lead in the fields of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Lisa Brankin, the chair of Ford UK, said on Wednesday morning: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”

The prime minister also announced a delay to the target for eliminating the sale of gas boilers to homes. Under his new policy, homeowners will only have to replace their gas boilers with electric heat pumps when they are replacing their boilers anyway.

Boiler upgrade grants will be doubled to £7,500 and many homes will be exempt from the demand altogether. Energy efficiency targets for landlords will also be scrapped, along with planned insulation requirements for homeowners.

Before the speech, Chris Norbury, the chief executive of energy supplier E.ON, said: “We risk condemning people to many more years of living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat, in cities clogged with dirty air from fossil fuels, missing out on the regeneration this ambition brings.”

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