Rishi Sunak challenges Keir Starmer over Labour’s climate change plans as he defends his decision to ditch or delay green policies
- PM Rishi Sunak doubled down on his decision to ditch or delay green policies
- Mr Sunak claimed Britain was already a world leader in tackling climate change
Rishi Sunak today threw down the gauntlet to Sir Keir Starmer over Labour’s climate change plans.
The Prime Minister defended his decision to ditch or delay green policies after a backlash from environmental groups and attacks from the Opposition.
Mr Sunak said it was now up to opponents, including Labour, to explain why hard-pressed families should pay thousands of pounds to move faster than other countries in tackling climate change.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘They should explain to the country why they think it’s right that ordinary families up and down the country should have to fork out five, 10, £15,000 to make the transition earlier than is necessary.’
Rishi Sunak (pictured) said people with ‘more ideological zeal’ about climate change ‘just don’t care about the impact on families’
The PM claimed Britain was already a world leader in tackling climate change, with a target to reduce carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 compared with an EU average of 55 per cent, a US target of 40 per cent and a Canadian goal of 20 per cent.
Mr Sunak insisted he remained ‘absolutely committed’ to existing targets and it was not right for the British to be asked to ‘sacrifice more than others’.
The PM said people with ‘more ideological zeal’ about climate change ‘just don’t care about the impact on families’ and insisted his green shift was ‘not about politics’.
But Tory strategists believe it could prove a key dividing line at the next election and are drawing up plans to highlight the cost of Labour’s proposals.
They include borrowing £28billion a year for green initiatives, banning new North Sea oil exploration and generating 100 per cent of the UK’s energy from green sources by 2030.
Ed Miliband, Labour’s net zero spokesman, said he would ‘relish’ the opportunity to go ‘toe to toe’ with the Tories.
He said Mr Sunak’s decision to hit the brakes on the rush to net zero was ‘a bad day for our economy and for Britain’.
And he declared Labour would bring back a 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, which the PM has now delayed to 2035.
Labour would also bring back insulation targets for landlords, which had been due to come into force in 2025 despite warnings they are impractical and would drive up rents.
Asked why the UK, which is responsible for less than 1 per cent of global emissions, should move faster than the EU, Mr Miliband said: ‘We don’t set our policies by the rest of Europe.’
However, Labour has not yet said whether it will unpick Mr Sunak’s plan to delay the ban on new gas boilers and the decision to exempt five million homes from ever having to switch to a heat pump.
And Sir Keir has so far said almost nothing in response to the PM’s shake up of green policy.
Mr Miliband also declined to say how much Labour’s plans would cost ordinary voters, claiming that they would ‘save money’.
In a major intervention last night, the PM announced that grants for installing heat pumps would rise by 50 per cent to £7,500 in order to encourage take-up.
But he said it was not reasonable to force households to switch to a system where upfront costs can be £10,000 or more.
Campaigners are already threatening legal challenges to Mr Sunak’s plans, saying they may breach legally binding ‘carbon budgets’ that commit the Government to milestones in reducing emissions.
Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) has so far said almost nothing in response to the PM’s shake up of green policy
Mr Sunak said he was ‘absolutely not slowing down’ efforts to tackle climate change and insisted that targets would be met.
However, he was accused of ‘wishful thinking’ by the head of the UK’s Climate Change Committee, who said the ‘softer’ policy package was not sufficient to hit the goal.
Chris Stark said: ‘It’s difficult to escape the idea that we’ve moved backwards from where we were when we did our last assessment of progress in June.’
Mr Sunak’s plans have divided business. Ford criticised the delay to the 2030 car ban, saying it would undermine the industry, but Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota welcomed the decision to bring the target date in line with Brussels.
A senior industry executive told the Financial Times: ‘Some people will be cross, but the general view will be a collective sigh of relief – they will have a little more elbow room.’
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