Carla Denyer

The prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced a major watering down of the government’s environmental policies. Sunak confirmed that the government would be pushing back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars five years to 2035, scaling back the aim to end installation of all new gas boilers by 2035 to an 80% reduction and scrapping planned fines for landlords who fail to insulate properties they rent out.

The announcement has been roundly criticised by environmental campaigners and opposition politicians. Some of the fiercest criticism has come from the UK’s Green Parties.

Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Carla Denyer said: “This is a desperate and dangerous u-turn from the Prime Minister which will throw the UK economy, the wellbeing of its citizens and the future of our environment out the window in a misguided attempt to create divisions for political gain. More than anything this speech sounded like an admission of the government’s failure to implement climate policy in a way that brings people with them while showing the benefits of a more sustainable future.

“The government should be taking responsibility and leading the way by investing in the green transition, rather than putting the burden onto individuals. At the same time, it needs to be honest with the public about the need to reach net zero and what it will take to get there.

“We know that people are extremely concerned about the environment and want clear leadership and action on the climate. This means insulating people’s homes, investing in renewables and making sustainable transport more affordable, accessible and convenient. Not only would this help the UK reach its climate commitments but it would also help households through the cost of living crisis through cheaper bills and creating jobs.

“Instead, we have a government which is going backwards on all of these things, stoking fears of change and undermining the good work already being done.

“And let’s not pretend there isn’t the money around to make this happen. The government is currently spending billions of pounds subsidising the fossil fuel industry which is actively making the climate crisis worse, costing us all billions more in the process. Meanwhile, a wealth tax on the richest 1% could go a long way to fund the changes necessary to reduce emissions and ensure those with the broadest shoulders play a part in improving the lives of those who are struggling right now.”

The Scottish Greens have made similar arguments. The party’s environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell accused Sunak of giving a ‘blank cheque’ to polluters.

Ruskell said: “How dare the Prime Minister hide behind people struggling with the cost of living crisis that his party was responsible for. How dare he declare that he is unilaterally scrapping schemes designed to tackle the climate crisis, create jobs and save money. In one climate denying speech Rishi Sunak has just told the world that his government has given up on net zero, that it has run out of ideas, and it intends to squeeze every last drop out of the economy and the North Sea.

“These proposals are not just disastrous for our environment, but also for our economy. The Tories are turning their back on a huge economic opportunity and the chance to rebuild our country. They have killed the certainty needed by investors to grow new sectors of the economy that are vital for our economic prosperity.

“After 13 years of Tory misrule we are years behind where we need to be in tackling the climate crisis. Now the Prime Minister is treating our environment as another stage of his cynical culture war and giving a blank cheque to polluters. Tinkering at the edges is not enough, but now the Tories are even u-turning on that. It’s not just a climate climbdown, it’s a cry of surrender.

“It’s a sharp contrast to the bold action that we are taking here in Scotland and will leave us even more dependent on the oil and gas drilling that is doing so much damage. Renewable energy is the cheapest, greenest and most secure energy we can have. Yet the Prime Minister is proposing 100 new oil and gas licences and opening a new coal mine.

“We can have a greener, better future, but it won’t happen by itself. It needs investment and support that go far beyond anything the Tories are proposing. Whether it is getting diesel cars off our roads, transforming the way we heat our homes or moving on from fossil fuels, the Tories are going back on almost everything that could make a difference.

“It’s as cynical as it is pathetic. The Prime Minister is thinking about a general election rather than future generations.

“The decisions we make will have an impact for years to come, including long after Rishi Sunak has left office. That is why it is so crucial that all governments show proper leadership, rather than dithering, delaying and hiding from the challenge. Young people will be rightly angry and frightened by what they have just heard. Now is the time for people to make their voices heard.”

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Image credit: Bristol Green Party – Public domain