In a significant shift in the UK’s green policies, Rishi Sunak has postponed the ban on new petrol and diesel cars, altering the government’s approach to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
The Prime Minister, in a recent announcement, introduced exemptions and delays for several crucial green initiatives, coupled with a 50% increase in cash incentives to encourage the replacement of gas boilers.
Sunak emphasized the government’s commitment to avoiding “unacceptable costs” for British households linked to emission reduction efforts.
However, these changes have sparked strong criticism from opposition parties and industry leaders alike. While some members of Sunak’s own party have criticized the moves, others within the Conservative Party and the automotive industry have voiced their support.
These policy changes coincide with Sunak’s strategy to create clear distinctions between his party and the opposition in anticipation of an upcoming general election, expected next year.
The Prime Minister framed these changes as “pragmatic and proportionate,” effectively undoing several key policies introduced during Boris Johnson’s tenure, many of which were initiated when Sunak served as Chancellor.
Key adjustments announced include:
A five-year delay in the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, pushing the requirement for all new vehicles to be “zero emission” to 2035.
A nine-year postponement in the ban on new fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes, now scheduled for 2035.
A 50% increase in the Boiler Upgrade Grant, raising it to £7,500, aimed at assisting households interested in replacing their gas boilers.
The retention of the ban on the sale of new gas boilers by 2035, with the addition of exemptions for lower-income households.
The removal of the requirement for landlords to ensure all rental properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) grade C or higher by 2025.
Sunak presented these changes to his Cabinet in a hastily organized meeting, following their revelation by the BBC.
In response, the Labour Party pledged its commitment to maintaining the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed argued that without this ban, the UK would fail to reach its net zero emissions target.
Critics have characterized these policy shifts as a missed opportunity for the UK to lead the green economy and a deviation from global consensus on climate action. However, Sunak and his supporters argue that the changes are a necessary compromise to avoid economic burdens on citizens.
These adjustments have garnered mixed reactions from various sectors, with some expressing disappointment, while others see them as pragmatic and in alignment with international standards. Sunak hinted at further policy announcements in the coming months, emphasizing the need for transparent and honest debate on the impact of green policies to prevent a potential backlash against the net zero goal.