The ban on new petrol and diesel cars will be delayed by five years to 2035, the Prime Minister has announced.
Confirming a major change to the UK Government’s plan to reach net-zero, Rishi Sunak also announced on Wednesday there would be no new taxes on eating meat or flying.
The Tory leader insisted he was not abandoning any climate commitments and will still aim for the UK to be net zero by 2050.
But he confirmed his support for further oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, warning that the UK would be reliant on “expensive imports from dictators like Putin” if it stopped fossil fuel extraction.
In England, proposals to force landlords to make homes more energy-efficient will be scrapped while plans to phase out gas boilers have been weakened.
Scotland’s targets will remain unchanged.
He warned that Westminster “risks losing the consent of the British people” if the strategy on lowering carbon emissions is not changed.
The Prime Minister said in his speech that the UK is “so far ahead of every other country in the world” on tackling climate change.
He said: “How can it be right that British citizens are now being told to sacrifice even more than others?
“Because the risk here for 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.”
He continued: “That’s why we have to do things differently. We need sensible green leadership.
“It won’t be easy and it will require a wholly new kind of politics. A politics that is transparent and the space for a better, more honest debate about how we secure the country’s long-term interests.”
The policy U-turn has been criticised by Humza Yousaf who told STV News that any watering down of the UK’s climate commitments is “unforgivable”.
Speaking from New York on a trip to give a keynote speech at Climate Week NYC, Scotland’s First Minister described rolling back commitments on the environment as the “height of foolishness”.
He said: “I think it is completely unforgivable for the UK Government, for the Prime Minister, in the face of catastrophe as we’ve seen particularly over the course of the summer to roll back on commitments to reach net zero.”
He said it comes at a time when many governments are stepping up measures to tackle climate change.
“What they are doing is sending a signal to the world that while the planet is on fire and parts of the world are unfortunately being swept away, lives being lost in flooding, with all the climate impacts we’re seeing across the world, the UK Government is saying we are going to rollback, we are going to abdicate our responsibility.”
He added: “It is the height of foolishness, and it is frankly, the very definition of putting your head in the sand.
“I think history will judge Rishi Sunak very unkindly and they will be right to do so.”
Former prime minister Boris Johnson also attacked his successor.
“We cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country,” he said.
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