Rishi Sunak to give net zero speech as U-turn on key policies expected – UK politics live

No 10 confirms that Sunak to deliver his speech on anticipated net zero policies U-turn this afternoon

No 10 has now confirmed that Rishi Sunak will deliver a speech on the changes to his net zero policies in Downing Street this afternoon. Unless the reporting has all been 100% wrong, and no one from government has been minded to correct it, it is going to amount to one of the biggest U-turns of his premiership.

Sunak will also take questions from journalists. The speech is due around 4.30pm, although that could change.

Pippa Crerar says there was panic in Downing Street when the story leaked, and Sunak wants to take control of the agenda again.

NEW: Rishi Sunak holding emergency cabinet meeting (by phone) over net zero plans.

PM expected to hold press conference this afternoon to announce plans to row back on pledges.

Govt source says there was panic at No 10 after plans leaked. Sunak now trying to get on front foot

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) September 20, 2023

Key events

‘Hugely retrograde step’ – car industry alarmed at reports Sunak will delay introduction of ban on petrol cars

Here is some more reaction from the car industry to news that Rishi Sunak might delay the introduction of the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars scheduled for 2030.

A spokesperson for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) said:

JLR is investing £15 billion over the next five years to electrify our luxury brands, which is key to JLR reaching net zero carbon emissions across our supply chain, products and operations by 2039.

Our plans are on track and we welcome certainty around legislation for the end of sale of petrol and diesel powered cars.

A spokesperson for BMW, which owns the Mini brand, said:

Mini has already announced that it will become a purely electric brand from 2030 globally and this will not change.

The former Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer told Radio 4’s World At One:

The industry is already determined that we’re going to have electric cars.

And countries like the US are protecting their industry, whereas countries like China are projecting their industry. And the real risk here is that by not having an aggressive strategy, we’re just opening the door to basically Chinese sales.

Ian Plummer, commercial director at online vehicle marketplace Auto Trader, said:

Pushing back the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel sales by five years is a hugely retrograde step which puts politics ahead of net zero goals.

This U-turn will cause a huge headache for manufacturers, who are crying out for clarity and consistency, and it is hardly going to encourage the vast majority of drivers who are yet to buy an electric car to make the switch.

And Steve Gooding, director of motoring research at the charity RAC Foundation, said:

With the car industry confident about its ability to make the switch away from pure petrol and diesel engines by 2030 whilst still meeting the appetite of the UK market for new cars, it is hard to see why anyone in No 10 thinks now is a good moment to row back.

E.ON boss hits out at Sunak’s plan to row back on net zero policies

Chris Norbury, the chief executive of E.ON UK, one of Britain’s largest energy suppliers, has criticised the government’s plan to row back on net zero policies, including the planned phase-out of gas boilers, as a “misstep on many levels”. Joanna Partridge has the story.

Boris Johnson urges Sunak to stick with existing net zero targets, saying business ‘must have certainty’

Boris Johnson has issued a statement saying Rishi Sunak should not water down net zero targets. Echoing the arguments made by opposition parties (see 1.25pm and 1.48pm), he says the targets in place when he was PM will save consumers money, not cost them more. He also says businesses “must have certainty” if they are investing in green energy projects.

He says:

Business must have certainty about our net zero commitments.

This country leads on tackling climate change and in creating new green technology. The green industrial revolution is already generating huge numbers of high quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country.

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.

Former Climate Change Committee chair suggests Sunak U-turn could be challenged in court

In his tweet this morning Ed Miliband, the shadow climate and net zero secrerary, quoted the Climate Change Committee as saying that delaying the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars past 2030 could cost consumers money. (See 1.48pm.) Lord Deben (John Gummer) was chair of the CCC until recently, and on Radio 4’s the World at One he said that if the government were to do this, it would be another example of the “stupidity” shown by the government over offshore wind. He told the programme:

The climate change committee has shown quite clearly that the dates which we’ve got – for example, for bringing in electric motor cars – will actually save people money. The fact that they’ve haven’t been able to extend offshore wind because of government stupidity will increase the cost of people’s energy. The battle against climate change is part of the battle against the cost of living crisis. And to do the things that [Sunak is reportedly considering] are going to be extremely damaging.

Deben suggested that the government could face legal challenge in the courts if it abandoned the policies needed to achieve net zero by 2050. He said:

[The targets Sunak is reportedly planning to change] are necessary to reach net zero by 2050, which is a statutory requirement, so the government will be in the courts.

The government is bound by it. It is a parliamentary commitment, voted on by parliament and therefore the government can be taken to court … to show it is on track to meet those commitments.

Deben also implied Sunak was repeating a mistake made by David Cameron. He said:

This is entirely unacceptable, and it is a production of people who don’t remember that the last time the Conservative government did this [it] cost the nation and ordinary people very large sums of money, because if we had not gone back because of the “green crap”, we would have had much cheaper electricity because we would have moved faster towards renewables.

Labour says it would back car industry ‘all the way’ after manufacturers criticise talk of abandoning 2030 target

Last night, when news broke that Rishi Sunak was planning to water down net zero targets, Labour’s initial response was non-committal. It denouncing the move as chaotic, but without saying it would definitely reverse anything Sunak announced.

This morning it has been a bit more specific, implying that it is firmly committed to the 2030 target for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

This is from Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary.

The threat to investment in our automotive industry is the chaos created by the Tories at a time when the sector is crying out for certainty.

The Conservatives might be happy to kick the legs out from underneath the car industry, but Labour would back the sector all the way.

The threat to investment in our automotive industry is the chaos created by the Tories at a time when the sector is crying out for certainty.

The Conservatives might be happy to kick the legs out from underneath the car industry, but Labour would back the sector all the way. https://t.co/s1iWgmdMun

— Louise Haigh (@LouHaigh) September 20, 2023

And this is from Ed Miliband, the shadow climate and net zero secretary.

If the government delays the petrol and diesel phase-out date to 2035 it will whack UP costs on British families. And here is the evidence from the Government’s own advisors @theCCCuk 👇

The CCC is the Climate Change Committee.

Opposition parties denounce Sunak’s net zero U-turn

Labour says the reported Rishi Sunak U-turn on net zero is “chaotic”. (See 10.02pm.) This is what other opposition parties are saying about the government’s move.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader at Westminster, said the move was putting Scotland’s economic future at risk.

This reckless plan from the Tories puts at risk Scotland’s economic future – we are a renewable energy powerhouse and there is a global energy race to net zero. If the UK takes us out of that race the damage will be catastrophic.

All the evidence tells us that we can protect and create jobs in Scotland by ensuring that we get the energy transition right, but the Tories now don’t even seem to want to have a transition, just a cliff edge.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said Sunak was trashing the economy.

The Conservatives have already trashed the economy of today. Now Rishi Sunak seems intent on trashing the economy of the future as well.

The British people are trying to do the right things for our planet, even as they are struggling to make ends meet. But they have been let down over and over again by this out-of-touch Conservative government.

This latest Conservative chaos is putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the UK, and leaving families and pensioners paying sky-high energy bills.

Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green party, says Sunak’s move will lead to higher bills for consumers.

This is nothing short of economic and environmental vandalism that will mean higher energy bills, fewer jobs and lost investment all while weakening the UK’s climate action even further.

Households are already paying way more than they should be doing to heat their homes because of the last time the Conservatives decided to ‘cut the green crap’ , while businesses are crying out for more certainty from the government over the green transition which so clearly needs to happen.

And Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster, said Sunak was betraying future generations.

Rishi Sunak’s bonfire of green policies would be a shameful betrayal of future generations.

Not only is it environmentally absurd, but there is also no economic case for increasing our reliance on fossil fuels, with industry calling out for policy consistency from government.

This decision will disproportionately harm the poorest, as energy efficiency regulations on homes, urgently needed in one of Europe’s least efficient housing markets, are set to be scrapped. The result: higher bills, worsened health, and more emissions.

According to Kate Ferguson from the Sun on Sunday, Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, used a message to Tory MPs in a private WhatsApp group to argue that car industry protests about what the PM is planning should not necessarily be taken at face value.

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch in the Tory WhatsApp group this morning.

She hits back at Tory MPs criticising the Net Zero changes

Her post has been liked by a fair few Tory MPs

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch in the Tory WhatsApp group this morning.

She hits back at Tory MPs criticising the Net Zero changes

Her post has been liked by a fair few Tory MPs pic.twitter.com/AFhSMjZz5o

— Kate Ferguson (@kateferguson4) September 20, 2023

Lord Stern, the economist who conducted a major review of the economics of climate change for the last Labour government, has told the BBC that what Rishi Sunak seems to be planning is “the opposite of good economics”, Faisal Islam reports.

NEW Nick Stern on Govt net zero row back:
“It is the opposite of good economics. “Chopping and changing will raise serious questions with businesses who see a government who cannot be trusted to follow through on policy commitments, be they climate or otherwise.”

NEW Nick Stern on Govt net zero row back:
“It is the opposite of good economics.  
 
“Chopping and changing will raise serious questions with businesses who see a government who cannot be trusted to follow through on policy commitments, be they climate or otherwise.”

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) September 20, 2023

Fraser Nelson, the Spectator editor who has good links with No 10, says Rishi Sunak’s move can be seen as a shift towards a “bright green” agenda, not a “dark green” one.

Big move today. Sunak is adopting a “Bright Green” agenda focusing on tech and green progress – edging away from “dark green” alarmism with its unrealistic targets

It’s not about Uxbridge but joining a European trend towards more pragmatic green policies

Big move today. Sunak is adopting a “Bright Green” agenda focusing on tech and green progress – edging away from “dark green” alarmism with its unrealistic targets

It’s not about Uxbridge but joining a European trend towards more pragmatic green policieshttps://t.co/0JFMJaYJcT

— Fraser Nelson (@FraserNelson) September 20, 2023

Labour is using its X/Twitter account to imply that Rishi Sunak has somehow been bounced into his net zero U-turn by Liz Truss. (See 10.40am.)

Polling suggests Sunak’s net zero measures may be popular with Tory supporters, but not voters overall

Kiran Stacey

The Conservative party is split on whether U-turning on some of its key climate commitments will be popular or not. Some have described it as a “return to common sense”, but many including the backbench MP Simon Clarke have warned it will put off voters in the areas they most need them.

A new poll of 4,000 voters by Public First for the centre-right thinktank Onward suggests Clarke might have a point.

The poll of 4,000 voters showed 49% of voters support the target of hitting net zero by 2050 by a margin of 49% to 20%.

Some 35% of respondents said they supported the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035, compared with 27% who opposed it.

And 38% supported ending the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, with only 31% opposed.

But Sunak will take some comfort in figures showing some of the individual policies he intends to roll back are unpopular among those who voted for the Tories in 2019.

Some 40% of Conservative voters oppose the gas boiler target, while only 28% support it. And 40% also oppose the vehicle policy, while 34% support it.

Lewis Goodall from the News Agents podcast says he has seen a copy of the agenda for today’s conference-call cabinet meeting.

NEW: I’ve seen the agenda for today’s Cabinet

RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDE

-“Delay the off-gas-grid fossil fuel ban until 2035 and relax the requirement from 100% to 80% of households”
-“Relax the gas boiler phase-out target in 2035”
-“no new energy efficiency regulations on homes”

NEW: I’ve seen the agenda for today’s Cabinet

RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDE

-“Delay the off-gas-grid fossil fuel ban until 2035 and relax the requirement from 100% to 80% of households”
-“Relax the gas boiler phase-out target in 2035”
-“no new energy efficiency regulations on homes”

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) September 20, 2023

-“Increase the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant by 50% to £7500”
-“Announce the the requirement for all vehicles to have significant zero emission capability in the period 2030-35 is to be removed”
Bonfire of green measures…

-“Increase the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant by 50% to £7500”
-“Announce the the requirement for all vehicles to have significant zero emission capability in the period 2030-35 is to be removed”

Bonfire of green measures…

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) September 20, 2023

IN ADDITION agenda says cabinet will commit to

-“No edit change measures to reduce carbon emissions”
-“Announce that households will not be required to have 7 bins to meet recycling targets”
-Commit to no new taxes on passengers to discourage flying.

IN ADDITION agenda says cabinet will commit to

-“No edit change measures to reduce carbon emissions”
-“Announce that households will not be required to have 7 bins to meet recycling targets”
-Commit to no new taxes on passengers to discourage flying.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) September 20, 2023

Voters may think Sunak watering down net zero target because he’s ‘too incompetent to meet it’, says Tory policy expert

And here is a thread on X/Twitter from Rachel Wolf. Like Ian Mulheirn (see 12.19pm), she is a serious figure in the policy world, but unlike him she is on the right, not the left. (She co-wrote the 2019 Tory manifesto.).

Wolf, who now works for Public First, a consultancy, also thinks it could be a mistake to assume that a net zero U-turn would appeal to voters. And she says a lot of voters may think Sunak is watering down his targets because the government is too incompetent to meet them.

My assumption is that the govt is watering down their net zero commitments because they want to make it harder for Labour to demonstrate economic credibility in the election campaign. It will be to generate cost and tax stories. BUT (1/4)

My assumption is that the govt is watering down their net zero commitments because they want to make it harder for Labour to demonstrate economic credibility in the election campaign. It will be to generate cost and tax stories. BUT (1/4)

— Rachel Wolf (@racheljanetwolf) September 20, 2023

There’s a huge cost to this outside specifics on support for net zero (which leavers share!) – namely it is yet another thing the Tories have abandoned. Outside schools, and maybe employment, what consistent good story could you tell about about the Conservatives? (2/4)

There’s a huge cost to this outside specifics on support for net zero (which leavers share!) – namely it is yet another thing the Tories have abandoned. Outside schools, and maybe employment, what consistent good story could you tell about about the Conservatives? (2/4)

— Rachel Wolf (@racheljanetwolf) September 20, 2023

And no, it’s not credible to repeat 2019 and appear like an entirely new administration at this point. Nor can you credibly now sound like you care about net zero. Envt was just about the only piece of domestic progress of the last few years and now you can’t talk about it. (3/4)

And no, it’s not credible to repeat 2019 and appear like an entirely new administration at this point. Nor can you credibly now sound like you care about net zero. Envt was just about the only piece of domestic progress of the last few years and now you can’t talk about it. (3/4)

— Rachel Wolf (@racheljanetwolf) September 20, 2023

And from our own research, lots of the public will assume the reason the target has been watered down is because the government is too incompetent to meet it. (4/4)

And from our own research, lots of the public will assume the reason the target has been watered down is because the government is too incompetent to meet it. (4/4)

— Rachel Wolf (@racheljanetwolf) September 20, 2023

Ian Mulheirn, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, posted a thread on X/Twitter last night looking at whether the Tories might benefit from net zero scepticism, as they did from Brexit in 2019. It starts here.

And here is is conclusion.

So as we foretold back then, a move like this was always a risk. But the identities probably aren’t strong enough for it to work electorally.

Big risk of alienating both pro-business Tories and rural conservatives without any ‘red wall’ payoff?

So as we foretold back then, a move like this was always a risk. But the identities probably aren’t strong enough for it to work electorally.

Big risk of alienating both pro-business Tories and rural conservatives without any ‘red wall’ payoff?

— Ian Mulheirn (@ianmulheirn) September 19, 2023

It could be an awkward cabinet meeting for Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary. In July, in the days after the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection, when No 10 was starting to wobble on net zero policies, Gove gave an interview declaring that the government’s commitment to 2030 as the date when the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would come into force was immovable.

No 10 confirms that Sunak to deliver his speech on anticipated net zero policies U-turn this afternoon

No 10 has now confirmed that Rishi Sunak will deliver a speech on the changes to his net zero policies in Downing Street this afternoon. Unless the reporting has all been 100% wrong, and no one from government has been minded to correct it, it is going to amount to one of the biggest U-turns of his premiership.

Sunak will also take questions from journalists. The speech is due around 4.30pm, although that could change.

Pippa Crerar says there was panic in Downing Street when the story leaked, and Sunak wants to take control of the agenda again.

NEW: Rishi Sunak holding emergency cabinet meeting (by phone) over net zero plans.

PM expected to hold press conference this afternoon to announce plans to row back on pledges.

Govt source says there was panic at No 10 after plans leaked. Sunak now trying to get on front foot

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) September 20, 2023

Watering down net zero targets won’t save consumers money for years, says thinktank

Rishi Sunak seems to have begun rethinking his net zero policies in the light of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection, which showed the Tories benefiting electorally from their opposition to a green measure that was going to increase costs for some voters. Most drivers in the constituency won’t be affected by the rollout of Ulez (the ultra-low emission zone) to Uxbridge, but a small number will be, and with the byelection taking place shortly before the rollout came into force, the Conservative party weaponised the issue successfully.

But, as the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit thinktank points out, the net zero measures that Sunak reportedly wants to ditch or delay aren’t going to cost consumers money any time soon anyway. Peter Chalkley, the ECIU’s director, says:

The fact is the gas boiler and petrol car phase-out aren’t set to have any impact on those struggling with bills for at least a decade. The boiler phase-out would start in 2035 but only for those whose boiler breaks. The vast majority, 80%, of drivers buy second-hand, and second-hand petrol cars would be on the market for literally decades to come. Delaying this policy will push up the cost of motoring as cheaper second-hand EVs [electric vehicles] that are much cheaper to run than petrol cars will be less available.

The one measure that would have brought down bills is the landlord energy efficiency rules [which Sunak reportedly wants to delay, so that landlords do not have to spend extra money on insulation]. Rented accommodation is some of the worst quality and so most costly to heat, with tenants having no power to insulate themselves. We’ve had the lowest rates of home insulation for years during a gas crisis thanks to his flatlining programmes.

The off gas grid boiler phase-out has been watered down already in the energy bill and would only affect 0.2% of homes a year from 2026 anyway. These measures will add to the cost of living for those struggling, not make things easier.

source: theguardian.com