UK Sustainability Sector Alarmed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Proposed Delay in Net Zero Initiatives

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering a 5-year delay in banning new petrol and diesel vehicle sales, shifting the deadline from 2030 to 2035.
  • This delay is concerning for sustainability advocates, as it may hinder electric vehicle adoption and climate goals.
  • There are worries about a reduced target for phasing out gas boilers and the potential abandonment of energy efficiency regulations.

The delays could see the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK rowed back by 5 years.

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the sustainability sector, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could be delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 5 years.

The delay will see the ban shift from 2030 to 2035. The potential delay has raised significant concerns among businesses, manufacturers, and organizations dedicated to sustainability, and in the wider world.

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In a late-night statement on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister stated:

“I know people are frustrated with politics and want real change. 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.”

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, backed up the Prime Minister. She commented:

“We’re not going to save the country by bankrupting the British people.”

However, the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, stated that Braverman has it “exactly the wrong way around”. She dubs the 5-year delay as “economically illiterate”.

The 5-year delay threatens to undermine the momentum gained in the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Sustainability-focused groups argue that such a delay could hamper the automotive industry’s investment in EVs and exacerbate the climate crisis.

Jordan Brompton, Co-Founder of Myenergi, commented on the government’s plans:

“The rumoured postponement of the UK’s 2030 date for phasing out new petrol and diesel car and van sales – which of course has always permitted some forms of hybrids to continue to be sold – is not good news for anyone. It weakens confidence in UK investment. Vehicle manufacturers don’t like it. Those of us who are working to decarbonise homes and transport don’t like it. And families that cannot afford a new car won’t like it, because they may have to wait even longer to buy a cleaner and cheaper-to-run electric car in the used market.”

Perhaps the most telling response has come from Ford UK. Ford UK’s Chair, Lisa Brankin stated:

“Three years ago the government announced the UK’s transition to electric new car and van sales from 2030. The auto industry is investing to meet that challenge.

Ford has announced a global $50 billion commitment to electrification, launching nine electric vehicles by 2025. The range is supported by £430 million invested in Ford’s UK development and manufacturing facilities, with further funding planned for the 2030 timeframe.

This is the biggest industry transformation in over a century and the UK 2030 target is a vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future. Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three. We need the policy focus trained on bolstering the EV market in the short term and supporting consumers while headwinds are strong: infrastructure remains immature, tariffs loom and cost-of-living is high.”

What about the rest of the UK’s climate pledges?

Similarly worrying is the reported weakening of the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035, with a reduced target of an 80% reduction. This dilution raises questions about the government’s commitment to making homes more energy-efficient. Environmental experts argue that scaling back this initiative would not only hinder progress towards net zero but also undermine efforts to tackle fuel poverty and improve air quality.

Furthermore, the possibility that there will be no new energy efficiency regulations imposed on homes has left sustainability advocates dismayed. These regulations were seen as critical in reducing energy consumption, lowering bills, and mitigating climate change. Scrapping them could hinder the UK’s ability to meet carbon reduction targets, making it more vulnerable to energy crises. It’s hard to see how improving energy efficiency and thereby reducing household bills is likely to “bankrupt the British people”.

The sustainability sector’s concerns are not limited to the environmental impact alone. They also encompass the potential damage to the UK’s reputation as a leader in climate action. The nation’s credibility on global climate platforms may be at risk if it backtracks on its climate commitments.

As the UK stands at a crossroads in its journey towards sustainability. The decisions to be outlined in Rishi Sunak’s new plans will shape the nation’s environmental policies for years to come. It will determine whether the UK remains at the forefront of the battle against climate change or veers off course. That could potentially jeopardizing the planet, and the nation’s future.

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