Sunak’s net zero U-turn is a betrayal of the national interest - Angus Robertson
In Sunak’s speech, he outlined several ways in which the UK government will relax carbon-cutting policies. The pledge to phase out of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, which has been a catalyst for enormous investment by industry to develop electric alternatives, has been scrapped.
Ford’s chief executive said it ‘needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three’. Chris Norbury, chief executive of energy supplier Eon UK said ditching this pledge would undermine the confidence companies needed to transition to greener products.
Aside from rowing back on this pledge, Rishi Sunak also declared that the UK government will not be pursuing several policies that did not exist, such as an alleged requirement for households to have ‘seven bins’ for recycling. This nonsense was a cheap device used by Sunak to polarise, mock and grab headlines.
Experts have since condemned Sunak’s moves. The independent Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) think tank director Peter Chalkley said that the changes to net zero policy would "add to the cost of living for those struggling, not make things easier". A University of Cambridge environmental economist, Matthew Agarwala, described the overall changes as "reckless".
Even Rishi Sunak’s own colleagues are against the move. Indeed, his Scottish Conservative Party colleague Maurice Golden MSP said Sunak’s actions were: “a regressive move that isn’t only damaging environmentally but economically and socially too…it drags net zero into the territory of culture wars.
“The way the changes were framed and delivered will polarise communities and create a binary environment where you’re either for climate change initiatives or against them. I thought we had moved past that years ago, not least when the UK showed considerable ambition in becoming the world’s first big economy to set its net zero target in law. Seeing the pathway to that ambition being watered down is deeply regrettable.”
Maurice Golden is spot on, and I commend his clear and principled position.
Above all, the Prime Minister has demonstrated a complete lack of leadership and ambition. In its sixth assessment report into climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations body that researches and recommends actions to combat the climate crisis – gave its most stark climate warning yet and appealed to governments to take bold actions to tackle this existential global threat.
This is even more relevant to UK policy as the IPCC is chaired by Professor Jim Skea, a Dundee-born globally renowned scientist who also studied at the University of Edinburgh.
It is nothing short of a disgrace that the Prime Minister would disregard the expert evidence of Prof Skea and the world-leading academics and experts who have meticulously and persuasively researched the climate crisis and are best placed to make recommendations on action.
Sunak has shown he is nothing more than the next in a line of populist Tory leaders who are fundamentally unserious about the biggest threat the world faces and the disastrous impact it will have on the UK socially and economically.