Rishi Sunak delays petrol car ban in major shift on green policies

  • by sam francis
  • Political reporter, BBC News

video caption,

WATCH: UK eases transition to electric vehicles – Sunak

Rishi Sunak has delayed a ban on new petrol and diesel cars in a major change to the Government’s vision to achieve net zero by 2050.

The Prime Minister announced a 50% increase in cash incentives to replace gas boilers, as well as relaxations and delays in several key green policies.

He said the government could not impose “unacceptable costs” associated with reducing emissions on British households.

This has been sharply criticized by the opposition and some industry owners.

Mr Sunak also faced attacks from within his own party, but a number of Conservative MPs, along with some in the car industry, came out in favor of the new direction.

The changes come as Mr Sunak seeks to draw dividing lines with opposition parties ahead of next year’s general election.

Describing the changes as “pragmatic and proportionate”, the Prime Minister has rejected a number of key policies of Boris Johnson, many of them introduced when Mr Sunak served as chancellor.

In a speech from Downing Street on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said moving too quickly on green policies “risks losing the consent of the British people”.

Among the major changes announced were:

  • Delaying the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by five years, meaning a “zero emissions” requirement for all new cars will not come into effect until 2035.
  • Delay by nine years the ban on new fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes until 2035
  • Increasing the Boiler Upgrade Grant by 50% to £7,500 to help families who want to replace their gas boilers
  • The ban on the sale of new gas boilers will remain in place in 2035, but the government will introduce new rebates for poor families
  • The requirement for landlords to ensure an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of Grade C or higher will be abolished for all rental properties from 2025.

Mr Sunak made the changes at a hastily arranged cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, after the proposals were revealed by the BBC.

Responding to the statement, Labor made a clear commitment to maintain the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars until 2030.

Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed said that without a ban Britain would miss its target of reaching net zero – that is the point where a country is no longer adding to the total amount of harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Mr Reid said the Prime Minister had “sold the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century” for Britain to “lead the world in the transition to a green economy with good-paying secure new jobs”.

Scottish First Minister Hamza Yousaf told the BBC that the move was “completely inexcusable” and “takes the UK very strongly out of the global consensus”.

Speaking at the UN summit on climate action, which Mr Sunak had refused to attend, Mr Yousaf said: “On the same day the whole world has come together to talk about what more we can do , we have a British Prime Minister who is retreating [the UK’s] “Commitments.”

The BBC’s Chris Mason says Mr Sunak and his advisers will be hoping that beyond criticism, many voters may quietly conclude that he is doing something and is being justified.

Mr Sunak’s proposals are dividing many in his party, Parliament and the country, but the Prime Minister may be looking at Labour’s lead in opinion polls and concluding he has no choice but to gamble.

And the political options outlined in his speech preview more announcements later this autumn, as Mr Sunak promised he would set out “a series of long-term decisions”.

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WATCH: Rishi Sunak’s turnaround on green policies – what he said then and now

Billions of pounds have already been invested across a number of industries, including car manufacturers and energy companies, in preparation for the deadline.

Korean carmaker Kia, which plans to launch nine new electric vehicles over the next few years, said the announcement was disappointing because it “replaces complex supply chain negotiations and product planning, while potentially causing consumer and industry confusion.” Contributes”.

Chris Norbury, chief executive of energy company E.ON, said it was a “misstep on many levels”, adding that it was a “false argument” to suggest that green policies could only come at a cost.

Mr Norbury said: “We blame people for years of living in cold and dry homes that are expensive to heat, in cities filled with dirty air from fossil fuels, and missing out on the economic uplift that this ambition could deliver. Let’s go.”

Toyota described the changes in a similarly “practical” manner.

Elsewhere, Mr Sunak also suggested he would “kill” a number of proposals put forward during the debate, including increased airfares to discourage overseas holidays and a tax on meat consumption. None of this was government policy.

Mr Sunak argued that without transparency and “honest debate” on the impact of green policies there would be a “backlash” against net zero.

But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey accused Mr Sunak of being “selfish” and said the changes were “a symbol of his weakness”.

He said, “The Prime Minister’s legacy will be to destabilize the future economy of our country because he ran away out of fear from the right wing of his own party.”

Britain is now “at the back of the queue as the rest of the world races to embrace the industries of tomorrow”, Sir Ed said.

Speaking to the BBC from the UN climate action summit, Sir Alok Sharma, the former Conservative minister who chaired the COP26 climate summit, said the reaction from international allies at the event was one of “distraction”.

“My concern is whether people look at us now and say, ‘Well, if Britain is starting to push back on some of these policies, maybe we should do the same,'” he said.

Speaking from the summit, former US Vice President and climate campaigner Al Gore said the announcement represented a “return in the wrong direction”.

“Britain has been one of the dominant leaders on climate at times in the past. And so for people who expect that from Britain, this is a particular disappointment,” he told the BBC.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee, said the changes would make it harder for the government to meet legally binding climate targets.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday, Mr Stark said the committee had advised the government back in June that before these changes were announced, “it does not look like we are on track to meet the 2030 emissions target.” Were”.

However, the policy change has received support from some within Mr Sunak’s party.

Former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg supported the changes, telling the BBC: “The problem with net zero and the rules being implemented so quickly was that it was a scheme by the elite behind the least affluent people.”

Mr Sunak is instead “going with the good of the country and moving towards ‘intelligent net zero’ by 2050, but not imposing costly restrictions over the next few years.”

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