The news that Rishi Sunak is planning to water down net zero policies has been met with fury and shock, as political editor Robert Peston reports
The government plans to delay a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035, ITV News understands.
It comes as Rishi Sunak appears to be rowing back on environment policies in a bid to gain votes ahead of the next general election.
Other environmental measures which are believed to be considered for watering down are lowering home insultation targets, delaying the phase out of gas boilers by 2035, and no new taxes on flying.
Under a policy set out by Boris Johnson in 2020, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars was to be banned by 2030.
Now, the Conservative government is to push this back to 2035. In the initial plans, people were allowed to purchase hybrid vehicles until that year.
“I know people are frustrated with politics and want real change,” Sunak said on Tuesday evening.
“Our political system rewards short-term decision-making that is holding our country back. For too many years politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs.
“Instead they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all. This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change.
“We are committed to Net Zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.
“Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment. 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.”
However, MPs are split over pushing back net zero targets.
Some Tory MPs are even considering writing letters of no confidence in the prime minister if he goes ahead with the changes, the PA news agency reported.
‘I really hope so’: ITV News asked Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns if she thinks Rishi Sunak should delay or water down net zero policies
When asked by ITV News if she thinks Sunak will delay or water down net zero policies, Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns said “I really hope so”.
“The country has been through a difficult time with Covid and the war in Ukraine, we cannot ask people on top of that to change their heating system and to change their cars,” she said.
“I don’t want to ask the working classes to pay for the middle classes electric cars, I think it’s a really good idea.”
When asked by ITV News if she was worried this was electoral suicide, Ms Jenkyns said: “I don’t care about that, I care about my constituents.”
Fellow Tory MP Simon Clarke posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday night, in opposition to watering down environmental policies.
He wrote: “The UK has carved out a world-leading role delivering net zero in a market-friendly way that will deliver clean, secure energy and thousands of jobs in deprived communities like Teesside.
“My Red Wall constituents overwhelmingly support it. We should be exceptionally careful of seeking to extract political advantage on this issue when the efforts of successive Prime Ministers – the majority of them Conservative – have been dedicated to upholding what Margaret Thatcher called a ‘full repairing lease’ on our planet.”
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan labelled Sunak as “weak” for “sliding” on the net zero policy.
Speaking in New York, the London mayor, who will address the UN climate conference on Wednesday, said “people have been commenting” on the absence of the prime minister, who has chosen not to attend the summit.
He told ITV News: “The response of this prime minister is to stick his head in the sand and say that he’s sliding on the commitments the government’s made.
“This is further evidence of him being weak, ineffective, and a kicking the can down the road, leaving it to our children and our grandchildren to be doing the job he should be doing.”
Britain has seen “record breaking weather” but the “prime minister’s response is to stick his head in the sand” Sadiq Khan tells ITV News
Khan added: “The British prime minister not being here has been noticed, people are commenting on that.
“For him to have briefed today that he’s back sliding on policies we have made will confirm that in the eyes of the world we are not seen as a world leader anymore, but we are seen as a country that is lead by a leader who is weak, ineffectual and hopefully on the way out.”
Speaking in July, Rishi Sunak said he is “not prepared” to introduce green policies that will “unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their life”.
At the time he refused to say whether or not he was still committed to ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, but insisted reaching net zero is “of course” important to him.
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