Home Secretary Suella Braverman backed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s reported decision to row back on pledged green commitments.
She argued that Sunak is taking a “proportionate approach” to climate change and reaching net zero carbon emissions over the next three decades.
While she confirmed the government remains “absolutely committed” to its net zero pledge, the Tory frontbencher believed that policy moves should not impose further financial pressure on households in a cost of living crisis.
“We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the country,” Braverman told morning news show BBC Breakfast.
Sunak is expected to unveil delays and watered down versions of climate pledges the government made to reach its net zero target — which it signed into law four years ago.
Braverman was not prepared to pre-empt Sunak’s speech by talking about mooted policy changes, which could include delaying the ban on buying new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, and softening plans to phase out oil and gas boilers, according to the BBC.
Other anticipated announcements include government commitments not to impose behaviour changes on voters with levies to discourage flying or policies around reducing meat consumption.
Sunak appeared to confirm media reports in a statement yesterday night, where he argued the UK needed to reach its net zero target in a “better, more proportionate” way.
The Prime Minister insisted his government was not “losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments” on climate change, but that politicians of “all the stripes” have not been honest about “costs and trade offs.”
He said: “No leak will stop me beginning the process of telling the country how and why we need to change.”
The changes will be outlined in a speech this week, which could take place as soon as today.
Sunak is eager to draw dividing lines between his party and Labour ahead of next year’s election, with the opposition committed to highly ambitious green goals such as decarbonising the country’s electricity grid by the end of the decade and no new oil and gas exploration licences in the North Sea.
Darren Jones, Labour MP and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, argued that Rishi Sunak retreating from green commitments would damage the economy.
He said the Prime Minister was “u-turning via leaks and midnight statements from the bunker in Downing Street”.
“This is more risk for the British economy and British business. These targets are important so that British businesses know how to invest in their workforce and their factories,” he told the BBC.
However, he refused to commit to whether a Labour government would reinstate any targets Sunak ditches — such as the 2030 target for banning new petrol and diesel car sales.
“It really depends how much damage he does in the ability for businesses to prepare for that. There has been a long-held cross-party consensus which was important for business,” he said.
There are contrasting estimates on the costs for reaching net zero, with the Office for Budget Responsibility estimating a net cost for the UK reaching net zero by 2050 to be £321bn – or just over £10bn per year – in a report published in July 2021.
This is made up of around £1.4 trillion in costs, offset by around £1.1 trillion in savings.
A later report from the Climate Change Committee estimated that the transition would have a net cost of £50bn across all economic sectors over the next three decades.