Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, is reportedly set to announce a scaling back of several net zero policies that impose costs on consumers, in an attempt to create a dividing line with the opposition Labour Party before the next election. The move is expected to include delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and watering down the phasing out of gas boilers. The government is also expected to drop plans for new energy-efficiency targets for private rented homes after considering fines for non-compliance.
Although Sunak affirmed the government’s commitment to the net zero target, he stated that politicians have not been honest about the costs and trade-offs associated with achieving it. He emphasized the need to pursue the long-term interests of the country over short-term political needs.
The announcement was met with criticism from senior Tories who argued that scaling back the targets could cost jobs, increase energy bills, and harm the UK’s international reputation. Business groups also expressed dismay, with the chief executive of Energy UK stating that it was not a positive signal to investors.
There are concerns that environmental groups may challenge any decision to weaken green policies in court, as the government has a legal obligation to outline its detailed plan for achieving the net zero target.
While there has been pressure from some Conservative MPs to delay or abandon costly green policies, others argue that doing so would be detrimental economically and electorally. The move could damage the Conservatives’ standing among voters who care deeply about the environment and undermine the UK’s green economy.
The shadow climate secretary, Ed Miliband, criticized the government’s decision, calling it a “complete farce” and highlighting the failures of past energy policies.
– The Guardian