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Sunak delays UK petrol car ban, seeks voter support on climate

  • Sunak postpones ban on petrol cars for 5 years
  • Reduces targets on heating and insulation
  • It says the UK is committed to the overall net zero target of 2050
  • Companies complain about changing goals

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak eased Britain’s plans to tackle climate change on Wednesday, saying he would delay a ban on new petrol car sales to preserve British people’s approval for the shift to net zero.

Sunak said he remained committed to the legally binding target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, but said Britain could afford to make slower progress in reaching that goal because it was “far ahead of every other country in the world.”

To mitigate what he described as “unacceptable costs” to British families as a result of the energy transition, he postponed a ban on new petrol and diesel cars until 2035 instead of 2030, and said he would make it easier to switch to heat pumps from gas boilers in homes. It will mitigate the impact of the energy transition. No family will be forced to improve their insulation.

Sunak said he was changing the policy because previous governments had moved too quickly to set net-zero targets, without getting public support.

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“If we continue down this path, we risk losing the British people, and the resulting backlash will be against not just specific policies but the broader mission itself,” he told a news conference.

Businesses and environmental activists said the historic decarbonisation of the economy represents an opportunity to stimulate investment and economic growth, and create good-paying jobs including in former industrial cities.

For this to work, they say the government needs to provide a stable and predictable environment to encourage businesses and consumers to make the switch, and the UK has long described itself as a leader in the transition to a green economy.

But with a national election expected next year, Sunak appears to be betting that scaling back some green policies will win over voters struggling with high inflation and stagnant economic growth.

In recent weeks, the government has also spooked investors by again delaying post-Brexit border checks, casting doubt on the future of the country’s yet-to-be-built high-speed rail line, and failing to attract any bids in Offshore wind. auction.

An angry response

News that it will delay several climate targets has sparked scorn from companies that produce everything from cars to solar panels, electric vehicle charging points and energy.

Lisa Brankin, Ford’s UK boss, was highly critical of the change in 2030 electric vehicle target: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. Inaction in 2030 would undermine these three things.”

The opposition Labor Party, which leads by a large margin in opinion polls, said it would stick to the original target of 2030.

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The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said the move would hinder investment, and urged Britain to be like the European Union and the United States in establishing supportive and stable policies.

Chris Norbury, head of the UK arm of energy company E.ON, Britain’s third-largest domestic energy supplier, said raising the debate as “green versus cheap” was a false argument when delaying the move would be more costly in the long term.

Low emissions

Britain was the first major economy to set a legally binding target for net zero by 2050, and emissions have fallen by almost 50% since 1990 as coal power stations are closed and offshore wind is rolled out.

Sunak says this puts Britain ahead of other major economies.

But the government’s independent climate adviser said in June that Britain was not doing enough to meet its targets and said on Wednesday that the announcement was likely to move Britain further away from being able to meet its legal obligations.

Asked how Britain could meet the 2050 target if it relaxed its previous targets now, Sunak said there was room for maneuver because the country had over-delivered in the past, industry costs were falling faster than expected, and public uptake of climate measures was low. Better than expected.

He added: “We believe that we are on the right track to fulfill our obligations.”

Writing by Kate Holton. Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan, Subhan Abdullah, Alistair Smout, Andrew MacAskill, Susannah Twaddell, Muvija M, Nick Carey, Sachin Ravikumar, Sarah Young and Gloria Dickie; Editing by Gareth Jones, Kirsten Donovan and Danielle Wallis

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William leads the UK breaking news team, making sure Reuters is the first to report key developments in political, economic and general news. He previously spent nearly a decade at Westminster as a UK political correspondent and before that covered financial markets during the eurozone debt crisis.