‘The flak won’t stop me doing what’s right’: Rishi Sunak takes on eco-zealots in a bold move that could transform Tory fortunes and save families up to £15,000 as he hits the brakes on the race to Net Zero
- Warned ‘unacceptable costs’ on families risk wrecking support for saving planet
- Ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 pushed back by five years
Rishi Sunak hit the brakes on the race to net zero yesterday.
He warned that imposing ‘unacceptable costs’ on families risked wrecking support for saving the planet.
In his biggest gamble as Prime Minister, he vowed to shatter a consensus that has seen successive governments impose green targets with little regard to cost.
In a victory for the Mail, a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 will be pushed back by five years. Plans to prohibit new gas boilers will also be slowed down, with five million homes given a permanent exemption.
And the requirement for landlords to upgrade home insulation by 2025 will also be delayed.
Rishi Sunak warned that imposing ‘unacceptable costs’ on families risked wrecking support for saving the planet
In his biggest gamble as Prime Minister, he vowed to shatter a consensus that has seen successive governments impose green targets with little regard to cost
In a victory for the Mail, a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030 will be pushed back by five years. Pictured: Rishi Sunak meets workers during a visit to Land Rover
Mr Sunak also ruled out a string of ‘heavy-handed’ proposals put forward by government advisers, including a tax on meat, a plan to force people to recycle waste into seven different bins and a scheme for compulsory car sharing.
In a thinly-veiled swipe at his predecessors, the PM said the political class had ‘not been honest’ with the public about the real costs of net zero, with the result that Britain had ‘stumbled into a consensus about the future of our country, that no one seems to be happy with’.
Mr Sunak said he remained fully committed to the target of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
But he warned that the Government’s existing plans ‘seem to have defaulted to an approach which will impose unacceptable costs on hard-pressed British families. Costs that no one was ever told about, and which may not actually be necessary to deliver the emissions reduction that we need’.
The policy changes could save the average family up to £15,000, he added.
His comments came as:
- Labour vowed to reinstate the 2030 ban on new petrol cars if it won power, creating a clear political dividing line;
- Grants for installing heat pumps in domestic properties were increased by 50 per cent to £7,500;
- A former government adviser warned the plans would go to judicial review as green groups took court action;
- Ford UK accused the PM of ‘undermining’ the car industry, but Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota welcomed the move;
- A People Polling survey for GB News found the public oppose the 2030 timetable for banning new petrol cars by a margin of 50 to 34;
- Tory whips told the PM the new approach to net zero was opposed only by ‘a few outliers’ on the Tory benches.
Backing the plan yesterday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: ‘We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people.’ But the dramatic change of direction sparked a furious reaction from green campaigners and opposition from some senior Tories, including Boris Johnson.
Mr Sunak also ruled out a string of ‘heavy-handed’ proposals put forward by government advisers, including a tax on meat, a plan to force people to recycle waste into seven different bins and a scheme for compulsory car sharing. Pictured: Rishi Sunak visits Land Rover for an announcement on a new electric car battery factory in July
Mr Sunak said he remained fully committed to the target of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050
Mr Sunak last night acknowledged he was ‘getting flak’ over the change, but added: ‘That is not going to stop me doing what is right.’
He was forced to rush forward his plans after the details were leaked to the media on Tuesday night.
At a hastily arranged press conference in Downing Street last night, following a mid-morning call with his Cabinet, he said it was a mistake to move faster because the UK was already a world leader. He said it had cut emissions by almost 50 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in France, zero in the United States and a 300 per cent rise in China.
‘How can it be right for the British people to be told to sacrifice more than others?’ the Prime Minister asked.
He warned that forcing people to pay £10,000 or more for a heat pump, or thousands for home insulation, would destroy support for tackling climate change.
He said a ‘more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach that eases the burdens on families’ was the ‘only realistic path to net zero in a democracy’, adding: ‘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.
‘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 suggested the changes would not require a change in the law but No 10 later conceded a Commons vote would be needed to change the 2030 car ban, setting up a potential showdown with critics at Westminster.
Backing the plan yesterday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: ‘We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people’
Mr Sunak’s decision to roll back some of the expensive green initiatives sparked an angry row on the Tory benches.
Sir Alok Sharma, who was the president of the Cop26 climate summit, said the plans would be ‘incredibly damaging’ for business investment and added: ‘I really do not believe that it’s going to help any political party electorally which chooses to go down this path.’
Boris Johnson, who championed the cause of net zero in office, said Britain ‘cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country’.
The former PM said that businesses ‘must have certainty about our net zero commitments’.
But former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is normally a close ally of Mr Johnson, said Mr Sunak was right to slow the rush to net zero and limit the cost to families.
‘My concern is my constituents being cold and poor,’ he said. ‘I want to see the living standards of people in the UK rise and that means recognising that we can’t get to net zero tomorrow. And we can’t get to it before the technology is ready.’
But Tory strategists believe delaying expensive green policies could be a vote-winner with families already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
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