Overwhelming condemnation of Rishi Sunak’s retreat from net zero

There has been no shortage of comment following the Prime Minster’s announcement that he intends to push back the deadlines for phasing out petrol and diesel cars, along with gas boilers. 

Amongst the criticism of the government’s U-turn,  Friends of the Earth point out that ‘The impacts of climate breakdown are wreaking havoc the world over. Right now, Libya is dealing with the devastation of extreme flooding. Yet, the PM thinks it’s up to other countries to step up climate policy.’

Possible add ‘The prime minister tried to claim that going green is too expensive, but we know that’s just not true. Relying on dirty, dangerous energy and outdated technology is costing all of us more – and our planet is paying the price too.’


Kwasi Kwarteng (on Newsnight): ‘I was concerned about pushing out the date for ICEs phase out, the internal combustion engine.

‘As business secretary, I used to go to places all round the country, particularly in Sunderland in the north-east, and there was huge amounts of capital that was being deployed because they felt we had very strong and very ambitious targets and they wanted to get behind that movement.

‘And of course there is some concern in the party that if we relax those targets, we won’t crowd in the investment and it will be to the detriment of jobs and wealth creation.’

Stew Horne, Head of Policy at Energy Saving Trust:

“It’s hugely disappointing that fundamental green targets are being delayed. Our over-reliance on fossil fuels for heat and power is the root cause of the high cost of energy.

‘The economic benefits of policies which support people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, reducing energy bills and carbon, have been robustly proven.

‘Shifting to renewable power and sustainable transport are also solutions to support the transition to net zero. Other nations are already leading the way in implementing policies that cut costs and carbon emissions simultaneously.

‘As the climate emergency escalates, now is the time for scaling up ambition and action to provide industry and public confidence and bring down costs. Now is not the time to backtrack on targets and risk behind left behind whilst the rest of the world is making the just transition to net zero.’

Ashok Sinha, CEO at climate solutions charity Ashden: 

‘If the PM wanted to do maximum harm to the UK economy, then this would be the way to do it. The green transition is not only necessary to prevent catastrophic environmental impacts, but it’s the only way to secure our country’s future prosperity. Putting us into the slow lane in the race to net zero will only scare off investors, damage our credibility with business and put the brakes on the climate innovation that we see growing in SMEs and communities across the country. This will only hurt jobs, livelihoods and living standards.’

Ben Nelmes, CEO of New AutoMotive, the transport research group that contributed to bringing forward the UK petrol and diesel ban from 2040 to 2030:

‘Delaying the 2030 deadline would pull the rug from under motorists and industry, and would deal a hammer blow to the UK’s leadership on climate change. It would be incredibly disruptive for an industry which has invested billions based on what they were told was settled policy, undermining jobs and investment.

‘The 2030 deadline is one of the few areas of net zero that will actually save people money. Shifting to electric cars and vans will drive down costs for UK drivers. This move will deny people access to cheaper motoring, and if we delay the ban it will actually raise costs for motorists.

‘This is a huge shock to the industry, which has invested billions in electrification – and on top of that, it’s also bad news for the planet. Pushing back 2030 risks putting net zero beyond reach.

‘This is a cynical short term attempt to politicise an area of sensible, settled policy. The car and energy industries have been working tirelessly towards this. I hope that Rishi Sunak sees sense and does not backtrack to the extent that it’s being trailed on Friday.’

Asif Ghafoor, CEO and co-founder of Northern EV charging network Be.EV:

‘The rate at which consumers have adopted EVs has been faster than predicted. The government must create policies that build on the public’s enthusiasm rather than sabotage it.

‘Most car manufacturers have already pivoted away from ICE cars, most new models including more affordable EV models will be in the market by 2025 and a whole new manufacturing industry has sprung up in quiet, clean and modern EVs.

‘We need legislation to unlock the power trapped in the system – but it’s all taking too long. Every leg of the planning, permissions, sourcing power and building process slows an installation down – charging networks are not able to move anywhere near quick enough to keep up with the amount of drivers transitioning to EVs.

‘In decarbonising transport, we are facing a thoroughly novel challenge and a major industrial shift. If the government is truly committed to the EV transition, they have to take the strategic lead.’

Xavier Brice, CEO of walking and cycling charity Sustrans:

‘People and businesses need consistency, commitment, and ambition from the Government to effectively tackle climate change, not cowering and confusing U-turns. This is a shocking cop-out and only serves to undermine the great progress already made across the country.

‘As countless reports from across the political spectrum evidence, we simply cannot afford to kick the can down the road anymore when it comes tackling our climate emergency. All economies will need to be green economies to thrive or face getting left behind. What is being presented is a false choice. Strong and rapid investment in sustainable transport makes peoples’ journeys cheaper and grows our national and local economies.

‘We need courage from our leaders to leave a positive legacy for future generations, and this latest rowing back on commitments is frustrating at best, cynical at worst.’

Dr Matthew Trewhella, CEO of The Kensa Group, the leading Manufacturer of Ground Source Heat Pumps in the UK: 

‘This is extremely concerning news, at a time when we should be scaling up to reach our Net Zero commitments by injecting investment and stability into green businesses and proven sustainable solutions, our planet’s future is being cynically used as a political bargaining tool.

‘British businesses have been innovating, investing, building supply chains and creating green jobs based on the UK’s net zero transition strategy. As recently as May 2023 the Kensa Group announced a £70 million investment into ground source heat pumps by Octopus Energy and Legal and General and we are already scaling up our business development, operations and R&D efforts to help drive the transition to low carbon heating and cooling. We are stimulating the economy and improving the UK’s energy sovereignty using the energy that is right under our feet.”

‘We are making excellent progress towards our vision of a subsidy-free, low carbon heating and cooling future that is greener, cheaper and safer than fossil fuel heating. Stalling this progress would be shortsighted, regressive and deprive the British economy of the billions of pounds of benefits that transitioning to net zero would bring. It will negatively affect consumers by keeping bills higher and homes less efficient. Delaying our transition to net zero in 2050 means future measures will need to be quicker and more drastic.’

Adrian Keen, CEO of the UK’s largest public charging network, InstaVolt:

‘It is disappointing to be discussing the Government’s commitment to our country’s net zero journey yet again in light of recent speculation that the 2030 deadline may move backwards. Pushing back the petrol and diesel car ban brings into question the Government’s approach to net zero. This simply creates more uncertainty, and this makes customers nervous about the prospect of switching to electric. It instils the mindset: “If the Government isn’t taking it seriously, why should I?” which will be detrimental to achieving our net-zero goals.

‘Changing the date also puts investment in EV infrastructure at risk, not to mention the wider market including battery, solar and green energy initiatives. We and other chargepoint operators need strong leadership from Government to continue delivering the charging infrastructure essential to reach the UK’s targets. Consumers also need this robust leadership; without it, uncertainties remain, and the concept of transitioning to an EV continues to feel daunting.

‘Pushing the deadline would put the UK Government on a collision course with the UK’s net zero industries. It must urgently reconsider these proposed plans and provide more certainty about the future approach. We need to make this about the wider goals and what’s beyond, rather than just the ‘now’. We urge the Government to reconsider the expected relaxing of climate pledges.’

Mike Nakran, CEO VEV:

‘The decision to row back from the now three-years-old commitment to the 2030 timeline is the opposite of what the auto industry needs to play its part in the race to net zero. It is confusing an already confused situation, where the facts have been lost to politics and spin.

‘At VEV we believe the existing 2030 and 2035 targets were sensible and provided a phased approach to reaching net zero. Hybrid vehicles would still be sold post-2030 in any event, which makes this latest policy u-turn even more illogical and only adds further confusion.

‘Manufacturers, fleet operators and all those in supporting roles across infrastructure and related services have gathered at the starting line to make this journey to net zero. What we need is certainty and support from Government to accelerate the race, not political prevarication.

‘To push the UK net zero journey plan a further five years down the track will only giving rise to inaction and procrastination. This is not conducive to building a better Britain or environment.’


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