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RISHI SUNAK was besieged on all sides over his net-zero policy climbdown today, with business leaders and Tory backbenchers joining environmental campaigners in calls for him to think again.
The Prime Minister revealed details of his leaked U-turn, announcing that the government is abandoning plans to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and gas boilers from 2035, key parts of Britain’s climate change commitments.
The shift is driven by cynical Conservative calculations after the unforeseen Tory win in the Uxbridge by-election indicated that backpedalling on green issues might resonate with parts of the electorate.
Mr Sunak claimed he was facing up to difficult trade-offs and offering “sensible green leadership” between those who wished to abandon net zero and “imposing unacceptable costs on hard-pressed families.”
But dismay at his move spanned the political spectrum.
Simon Clarke, a Liz Truss-supporting Tory MP from Teesside, said: “It is in our environmental, economic, moral and political interests as Conservatives to make sure we lead on this issue rather than disown it.”
And former environment minister Zac Goldsmith called it “a moment of shame” and demanded an early election.
Former PM Boris Johnson urged Mr Sunak to stick to the targets since “business must have certainty about our net-zero commitments.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Ford UK both questioned the policy change, which throws the car industry into turmoil and the boss of E.On UK called the new position on gas boilers a “misstep on so many levels.”
Manufacturing heartlands were being put at risk by the changing policy, the TUC argued, urging the government to “pull every lever to deliver net-zero and create and support good jobs.”
A Green New Deal Rising statement said: “We can tackle the cost-of-living crisis and the climate crisis by taxing the wealthy, guaranteeing millions of good green jobs and backing a Green New Deal.”
Extinction Rebellion said that Mr Sunak was “putting big oil first, because they have donated millions to the Conservatives” and Just Stop Oil warned that he was leading “us down a path to societal collapse.”
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer described the move as “economic and environmental vandalism that will mean higher energy bills, fewer jobs and lost investment all while weakening the UK’s climate action even further.”
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