The 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales is an immovable deadline, Cabinet minister Michael Gove has insisted after Rishi Sunak cast doubt on the policy.
The Housing Secretary warned costly plans to tackle the climate crisis could create a “backlash” as ministers come under pressure from the Tory right to relax existing pledges.
Amid cost-of-living pressures, the Prime Minister was considering watering down some net-zero policies to take a “proportionate and pragmatic” approach to the environment.
Mr Sunak declined in an interview to recommit to the ban on the sale of new fossil fuel cars by the end of the decade in order to reduce emissions as he warned against heaping “hassle” or extra costs on to families.
But Mr Gove was offering cast iron guarantees on Tuesday that the 2030 deadline would not be put back.
Asked on Times Radio if it was “immoveable”, he replied: “Yes.”
Mr Gove added to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold.
“I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand. But that policy remains.”
Downing Street had insisted Mr Sunak stood by the policy despite his avoidance of the subject in an interview on Monday after minister Andrew Mitchell said he could not “prophesise” about its future.
But newspapers continued to report Government sources saying that the Prime Minister is open to a rethink.
Mr Gove said he was looking at how ministers can “ease off” the pressure on landlords to ensure all private rented housing meets grade C of energy efficiency requirements in 2028.
He said the phasing out of gas boilers for heat pumps would “impose costs”, telling Today: “We’re looking at how we can mitigate the impact on individuals.
“I think we are asking a little too much of them and therefore we will give them a greater degree of breathing space.”
Some senior Conservatives, including Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, have been calling for delays to climate pledges after the Tories narrowly held on to Uxbridge and South Ruislip in last week’s by-election.
Labour’s failure to win Boris Johnson’s old seat has been widely attributed to local unease over the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) scheme to London’s suburbs by Labour’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
Mr Gove stressed the need to take steps to get the UK to net zero on carbon emissions by 2050 but issued a warning about costs to individuals amid high inflation.
“It’s important that the Government does press ahead with appropriate and thoughtful steps in order to safeguard the environment but there are some specific areas where the cost that is being imposed on individuals risks creating a backlash,” he told Times Radio.
“We don’t want to get to a situation where the support for improving our environment curdles and turns into resistance.”
Press Association – Sam Blewett