Prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced a significant overhaul of the government's net zero policy, including pushing back the ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.
Sunak's decision to water down the targets put in place by his predecessor Boris Johnson in order to meet the UK's legal obligation to reach net zero by 2050 follows concerted pressure from a number of Tory MPs.
But the marked shift in tone since the UK hosted the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021 has sparked mutiny among Conservatives, many of whom argue that the change will alienate both voters and business. The prime minister argues that his new, delayed deadlines for changes to achieve net zero puts the UK more in line with similar countries in Europe, as well as the US.
"The real choice confronting us is do we really want to change our country and build a better future for our children, or do we want to carry on as we are," Sunak said in a press conference confirming new net zero policies on Wednesday.
" I have made my decision: we are going to change. And over the coming months, I will set out a series of long-term decisions to deliver that change. And that starts today, with a new approach to one of the biggest challenges we face: climate change."
Here are all the changes Rishi Sunak has announced to the government's net zero policy:
Ban on new petrol cars delayed from 2030 to 2035
Sunak pushed back the government's deadline to outlaw the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK set by former prime minister Boris Johnson in 2020.
"You’ll still be able to buy petrol and diesel cars and vans until 2035," Sunak said.
"Even after that, you’ll still be able to buy and sell them second-hand. We’re aligning our approach with countries like Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and US states such as California, New York and Massachusetts and still ahead of the rest of America and other countries like New Zealand," he added.
Time to transition from old boilers to heat pumps will be extended
Sunak said he would not force people to replace a boiler that is still functioning with a heat pump, and people will only have to replace a boiler if they are doing so anyway from 2035.
"We’ll never force anyone to rip out their existing boiler and replace it with a heat pump," he said.
"You’ll only ever have to make the switch when you’re replacing your boiler anyway, and even then, not until 2035."
Sunak also said he would announce a means tested exemption for people to ever have to install a new boiler.
Boiler upgrade scheme will get a cash boost
Sunak has announced extra money for the government's Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will increase cash grants to replace boilers 50% to £7,500.
"There are no strings attached, the money will never need to be repaid," Sunak said.
"This is one of the most generous schemes of its kind in Europe."
Ban on off grid oil boilers will be scrapped
The energy security bill had looked at banning off the grid gas boilers powered by fossil fuels by 2026. However, Sunak said he would take this proposal off the table.
"A ban that takes effect in just three years for those off the gas grid," he said.
Landlords will no longer be required to upgrade less energy-efficient homes
The prime minister said he would not force "property owners" to upgrade their homes to make them more energy efficient. The government previously said all rental properties must have an EPC rating of band C. Sunak said such plans would be scrapped.
"Under current plans, some property owners would’ve been forced to make expensive upgrades in just two years’ time. For a semi-detached house in Salisbury, you could be looking at a bill of £8,000," he said. "And even if you’re only renting, you’ll more than likely see some of that passed on in higher rents," he added.
Proposals on 'meat tax', recycling schemes, flying taxes and carpooling are no longer on the table
A number of proposals for future policies had been discussed in order to reach net zero, including a policy for taxing meat, introducing "seven bins" to make recycling more effective, or disincentivising air travel, have now been scrapped by government.
Sunak said he had not desire for a "proposal to make you change your diet – and harm British farmers - by taxing meat" or "discourage flying or going on holiday".
Tom Scotson is a reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared.