PM's green 'U-turn' as he delays ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars - but there's a boost for boiler upgrades

20 September 2023, 16:54 | Updated: 20 September 2023, 18:42

Rishi Sunak weakened the government's Net Zero pledges and announced a delay to the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars
Rishi Sunak weakened the government's Net Zero pledges and announced a delay to the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Rishi Sunak has confirmed he will delay the ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars until 2035 as he watered down a string of flagship environmental measures that sparked a huge Tory row.

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In a speech today where he watered down some of the government's net zero pledges, he said: “At least for now, it should be you that makes that choice, not the Government forcing you to do it."

He also gave people 'far more time' to change over to heat pumps in their homes.

“We’ll never force anyone to rip out their existing heat pump... You’ll only have to make the switch when you’re replacing your boiler anyway, and even then, not until 2035," he said.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore advisises No10 to rewind on their Net Zero U-turn

He also introduced a new exemption for households, and increased the boiler upgrade scheme from £5,000 to £7,500 with “no strings attached”.

Mr Sunak conceded there is "lots of resistance" to his row back on climate pledges, as he dodged a question on whether he was making the move in a panic ahead of the next general election.

Former prime minister Liz Truss welcomed Rishi Sunak's weakening of net zero policies and urged him to go further to scrap the windfall tax on oil and gas and lift the fracking ban.

"I welcome the delay on banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, as well as the delay on the ban on oil and gas boilers. This is particularly important for rural areas," she said in a statement.

"I now urge the Government to abolish the windfall tax on oil and gas and lift the fracking ban, which would reduce people's energy bills and make the UK more competitive."

Read more: Rishi Sunak's weakening of Net Zero policies is his 'stupidest intervention' to date, asserts James O'Brien

The measures unveiled today:

  • Ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars pushed back to 2035
  • More time to switch to heat pumps - with boiler upgrade grants increased to £7,500
  • Ban on onshore wind being lifted
  • No ban on oil and gas in the North Sea
  • Rules out tax on meat and new taxes on flights
  • Rules out plans for up to SEVEN recycling bins
  • Rules out compulsory car sharing

Rishi Suank tells LBC he discusses Net-Zero with his daughters

Ex PM Boris Johnson weighed in on the issue today, warning Rishi Sunak not to "falter" on key climate crisis initiatives.

The former prime minister told the Conservative leader that he cannot afford to "lose our ambition for this country" as he argued policies were generating jobs and driving growth.

The plans have caused a split among green-minded Tory MPs and those who want to stall green plans in a bid to save costs on families.

The car industry has also reacted angrily, with Ford warning that delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles will "undermine" its needs from the Government.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said that businesses "must have certainty about our net zero commitments".

"The green industrial revolution is already generating huge numbers of high quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country," he added.

"Business and industry - such as motor manufacturing - are rightly making vast investments in these new technologies.

"It is those investments that will produce a low-carbon future - at lower costs for British families.

"It is crucial that we give those businesses confidence that government is still committed to net zero and can see the way ahead.

"We cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country."

It was Mr Johnson who in 2020 announced plans to bring the ban on new cars being powered solely by fossil fuels to 2030.

Johnson ally and prominent Tory environmentalist Lord Zac Goldsmith went as far as to demand a general election over the "economically and ecologically illiterate decision".

The peer, who quit as environment minister in June with a scathing attack on Mr Sunak's environmental "apathy", described it as a "moment of shame" for the UK.

However, not all of Mr Johnson's allies agreed.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who served in his cabinet as one of his most ardent supporters, called Mr Johnson a "net zero zealot".

He backed Mr Sunak's plans to water down measures, with the Prime Minister still voicing commitment to reaching carbon neutrality in 2050.

Sir Jacob told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "I've never been as much of a net zero zealot as Boris is.

"I mean, he genuinely believes in a more high wire approach in this area.

"I like to have a safety net under any high wire and I think what the Government's doing now is using the safety net. And I think it's absolutely right. I could not be more supportive of what the Prime Minister is doing under these circumstances."

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