Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, announced this Wednesday that he will reverse part of his Government’s plans to reduce the most polluting emissions. The far-right wing of his party and activists who led the country to Brexit and are now campaigning against traffic restrictions, a ban on gas boilers, and the zero emissions target have pressured the Conservative leader.
Until now, Sunak had committed to the plans defended for years by Boris Johnson and other Conservative leaders to make homes more efficient, to encourage citizens to choose the train instead of the plane, and to make them more aware of the impact of meat consumption on their health and the environment.
The Climate Action Tracker, a scientific project that follows the policies taken by large countries, considered the objectives of the United Kingdom against the climate crisis as “almost sufficient.” Until now, the country has been regarded as one of the most advanced in its measures, surpassing the European Union.
Sunak alters climate plan amid criticism
Part of Sunak’s party and his voters have criticized him and made him change, after which Sunak assures that he will maintain the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, as mandated by the British law passed in 2019. However, he states that the approach to achieving this goal needs to be more proportionate.
Sunak stated at a Downing Street press conference, “If we continue down this path, we are going to lose the consent of the British people.” The premier believes that the current plans impose excessive costs on citizens and that certain measures are unnecessary, given that the United Kingdom has already reduced its emissions more than other countries.
In an apparent reference to Boris Johnson, Sunak claimed that they had taken the environmental measures “without an informed national debate.” The former prime minister, Johnson, who is among the Tories, criticized Sunak’s step back on Wednesday, complaining, “The United Kingdom cannot afford to hesitate now.”
Meanwhile, Suella Braverman, the Minister of the Interior and a hardline conservative in the party, defended the Government’s new plans in an interview on Times Radio. She said, “We have to adopt a pragmatic and proportionate approach that also serves our objectives. We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British.”
Although measures and deadlines are already in place, the British Government insists on not abandoning its commitments, but it does not clarify how it will fulfill them.
The Government will delay the ban on selling new gasoline and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035. They’ll also keep 20% of gas boilers for longer, which were set to be eliminated in the next decade. Sunak will waive fines for landlords who don’t improve energy efficiency, impose extra taxes on flights, and introduce schemes to promote carpooling and dietary changes.
Car manufacturers, against
Among the critics of Sunak’s reversal are car manufacturers, who prefer incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles and complain that they have already invested in the planned transition.
Ford defends in a statement that the 2030 goal is “a vital catalyst” for its company and the policy changes now do not benefit either manufacturers or consumers. “Our business needs three things from the British Government: ambition, commitment and consistency. Relaxing the 2030 target would mean undermining all three,” says Lisa Brankin, the head of the British division of the American company.
BMW also says it will press ahead with plans to make its MINI car, which has been manufactured for more than a century in Oxford, “fully electric worldwide from 2030.” According to the company, the British Government’s announcement will have “no effect on this decision.”
The head of the car manufacturers’ association, Mike Hawes, also complained in an interview with the BBC that delaying the deadlines now sends a “very confusing” message to consumers.
Labour assures that, if they reach the Government in the next elections, as the polls suggest due to their almost 20 point advantage, they will return the deadlines to their original state.
Part of his own party, which has pushed some of the measures he now wants to delay, criticizes Sunak.
According to the Guardian, a group of Tories are even already talking about taking letters against Sunak to ask for a motion to remove him from office over the turn on environmental policy. Zac Goldsmith, Conservative lord and secretary of state for the environment until he resigned in June, described Sunak’s decision as “a shameful moment” and called for an early election.
Most Britons are concerned about climate change and are convinced that human activity is responsible for it. But when asked about specific measures that may affect them in their daily lives, the consensus begins to break down.
- Jammu and Kashmir facing worst impact of climate change
- Climate Change impacts: Kashmir’s agri and horti sectors at risk
- Climate change leaves Kashmir villages without water
- Climate Change: Impact of Untimely Snowfall on Nomads of Kashmir
- Why are Sheep dying in Kashmir?