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Green targets set to be diluted

Prime minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly rowing back on some of the more ambitious green targets

Plans to put the brakes on, or drop, net zero targets are across many of the front pages this morning. The prime minister is scheduled to give a speech on the topic on Friday and it appears that lobby journalists have been briefed on its contents.

Moves under consideration include pushing back the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, delaying the ban on oil-fired boilers from 2026 to 2035 and dropping plans for new energy efficiency regulations on homes.

The prime minister was reported as saying: “This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change. We are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.”

The Telegraph said that Tory MPs welcomed the move, quoting Greg Smith and Brendan Clark-Smith. The Guardian said that Tory MPs hated the move, quoting Chris Skidmore, Simon Clarke, Alok Sharma and former minister Lord (Zak) Goldsmith.

The UK Green Building Council is predictably upset. Deputy chief executive Simon McWhirter said: “If these reports are confirmed, it is beyond disappointing. It’s damaging to the industry who were scaling up for these changes, and this package of net zero delays will be doubly destructive to our climate. Buildings are the second biggest source of climate emissions in the UK. We can’t keep burning fossil fuels to heat our homes and meet our legal climate targets.

“Other countries such as France are working 10 times faster to install heat pumps to get off the hook of expensive gas and protect energy security. The roll-out of the government’s heat pump subsidy scheme has been slow but could be massively enhanced by a much bigger effort to insulate our homes.

“This will be a real blow to the green business, investment and quality jobs that must be at the heart of our country’s future as we rebuild. We know from other technologies that if government sets a target, industry will skill up and scale up, confident there is a market.

“And as we’ve said before, rolling back plans to improve the energy efficiency of rented homes is also environmentally reckless and economically damaging. The last time the government went down the path of slashing green measures it added billions to people’s energy bills.”

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