The home secretary has said that “we’re not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people” in response to reports the government is looking at watering down its green pledges.
Among the changes being considering are the pushing back of a ban on the sales of new vehicles with internal combustion engines from 2030 to 2035 – and a weakening of plans to phase out gas boilers by 2035.
Suella Braverman told Sky News that, while the government remains committed to the goal of achieving net zero by 2050, “we need to put economic growth first”.
Politics latest: Tory row as Sunak set to delay net zero policies
“We need to put household costs and budgets first. We need to put the cost of living first,” she added.
“And we’re only going to achieve that net zero target whereby people and the British people can go about their daily lives using their cars, using the facilities that are available.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to lay out further details in a speech in the coming days. The reported change in stance has led at least one Tory MP to “seriously” consider putting in a letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak’s leadership.
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In a statement released last, Mr Sunak said: “No leak will stop me beginning the process of telling the country how and why we need to change.
“As a first step, I’ll be giving a speech this week to set out an important long-term decision we need to make so our country becomes the place I know we all want it to be for our children.”
Conservative MPs are particularly angry at the potential delay to the ending of the sale of internal combustion engines to 2035.
One branded the move “anti-business” given how much has been invested into electric vehicles (EV) and the associated infrastructure.
What will the PM’s net zero review look like?
Ever since the surprise Tory Uxbridge by-election victory, attributed to the party’s opposition to the ULEZ congestion charge scheme, Rishi Sunak has been reviewing the government’s net zero commitments.
The PM has personally long been cautious about the costs that tackling climate change will impose if done too hastily, and is, it appears, keen to seize the opportunity to do something he believes will go down well with parts of the Tory voter base after a rocky six weeks.
What will that look like?
We already know the headline conclusion of that review, since new Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho spelled them out in an article in The Sun at the weekend.
She made clear – as No 10 does tonight – that the party will remain committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, this was coupled with a new promise that no “hard-working families [would be] forced to change their lives or have extra financial burdens put on them,” as she puts it.
That rang immediate alarm bells amongst environmental groups on Sunday.
Now we are about to find out how that complicated circle is squared – and the questions that change in approach will raise.
Two big areas have to change in order for Britain to meet its net zero obligation. One is in the home – ending the dependence on gas boilers to heat the majority of British homes while making them more energy efficient; the other is moving away from petrol and diesel cars towards electricity powered vehicle
The targets designed to drive both those changes look as if they are about to be softened.
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They told Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates that a push back on the petrol and diesel ban would mean breaking a promise the prime minister made to Conservative MPs privately.
One minister said they would be “staggered” if the ban was delayed, telling Sky News: “Every automotive company is investing in EV, we’ve just given Tata all this money to make batteries, it’s bonkers.”
Tory MPs Chris Skidmore, Alok Sharma and Sir Simon Clarke all complained publicly about the plans.
Asked about the EV industry, Ms Braverman said: “I’m not going to prejudge what the prime minister is going to set out in detail.
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“But I would say I do commend him for taking difficult decisions, long term decisions in the national interest and in the interest of the British people.”
Asked about the concerns raised by her Conservative MPs, Ms Braverman said “everyone should just wait until they hear the detail from the prime minister himself”.
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Darren Jones, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said we will need to wait for the reaction of the car companies to the anticipated policy change.
He told Sky News that “part of the problem” is Mr Sunak’s “weak leadership”, and the way in which the changes first surfaced through a leak and with a “late night press release from the prime minister’s bunker”.