UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a series of significant updates to the government’s net zero plan, including; delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years, giving people more time to transition to heat pumps, and lifting the ban on onshore wind.
In a speech given today (20 September), the Prime Minister said that politicians on both sides of the aisle have been “motivated by short-term thinking” and have “taken the easy way out” when it comes to climate change.
“I’m here today to tell you that we do not have to be powerless,” he said. “Our future doesn’t have to be a full-gone conclusion. Our destiny can be our own choosing. But only if we change the way our politics works.”
Mr. Sunak said that the country is currently “stuck between two extremes” on net zero: those who believe in abandoning it altogether and those who argue that we must move even faster, regardless of the cost or disruption to people’s lives.
“Both extremes are wrong,” he emphasised. “They fail to reckon with the reality of the situation.”
Sunak said that the UK government is committed to meeting its international climate agreements, but that it cannot be right for Westminster to make changes that deeply affect people’s lives without first engaging them in an informed debate.
He addressed what he referred to as “worrying proposals” which have been circulated regarding the UK’s journey to achieve net zero including; “the number of passengers you can have in your car”, the introduction of seven different recycling bins, a tax on meat, and new taxes to discourage air travel.
Alongside scrapping these proposals, Mr Sunak announced some key changes to the government’s net zero plan, which has recently been challenged by green groups for not being ambitious enough:
- A ban on new petrol and diesel cars will be delayed by five years: The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been delayed from 2030 to 2035. Mr. Sunak said that this will give the UK’s auto industry more time to become less reliant on imports from countries like China.
- More time to transition to heat pumps: People will have more time to transition to heat pumps, and households will only have to make the switch when they are changing their boiler, and not until 2035. The PM stressed that this is because heat pumps are still very expensive, and he does not want to impose high costs on families who are already struggling financially.
- New exemption to boiler upgrade scheme: The boiler upgrade scheme will be increased by 50% to £7,500, and there will be no strings attached. Mr. Sunak stated that this will help people who need to replace their boiler before 2035 to make the switch to a more energy-efficient model.
- No ban on oil and gas in the North Sea: Mr. Sunak said that there will be no ban on oil and gas in the North Sea for the foreseeable future. He emphasised that the UK needs to maintain a secure and reliable supply of energy, and that oil and gas will continue to play a role in the UK’s energy mix for many years to come.
- Ban on onshore wind is to be lifted: The ban on onshore wind is being lifted. This will allow more onshore wind farms to be built, which in turn will help to increase the UK’s renewable energy capacity.
Concluding his speech, Mr. Sunak said that the UK is proud to be a world leader striving to reach net zero by 2050, but that we will not achieve this unless we set more realistic goals which do not alienate ordinary people from the issue of climate change.
The PM stressed that the government is going to “change the way politics works” and “build a better future for our children.”
However, he concluded by stating that “we will have a more realistic and pragmatic approach which will ease the burdens on families. Consent not imposition, honesty not obfuscation, pragmatism not ideology, are the keys to meeting the challenge of Net Zero”.
The UK will set out the “next stage” of the environmental agenda before COP28 in Dubai later this year.
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