MPs call for updated Carbon Budget plans following Sunak’s net-zero policy changes

A group of MPs have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “avoid falling into the trap of presenting net-zero as an all-or-nothing, binary choice” following his policy announcements last week, stating that an updated Carbon Budget Delivery plan is need to put the nation back on track to reaching its climate goals.

MPs call for updated Carbon Budget plans following Sunak’s net-zero policy changes

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has published a letter sent from the Philip Dunne MP, to the Prime Minister, questioning the recent policy announcements that have seen dates and targets moved back and relaxed for key sectors including transport and the built environment.

The EAC has raised concern about the “presentation of the debate over net zero measures as a binary choice between those who oppose net zero policies on the grounds of excessive costs, excessive burdens or rejection of the evidence of climate change, and those who demand change at a pace which is impractical or unaffordable”.

The Prime Minister was also criticised that the announcements came the day after the House of Commons rose for recess, meaning no statement could be made to the House.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:  “The transition to net zero is one of the greatest challenges facing the UK. The decision to delay some targets, such as the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, is disappointing, but reflects the Government’s assessment of the scale of the mammoth task ahead.

“In last week’s announcements the Prime Minister sought to reaffirm his administration’s firm commitment to reaching net zero, while delaying certain important measures and relaxing others. It concerns the Committee that these announcements were not accompanied with a clear plan setting out how the UK’s decarbonisation commitments are now to be met, and the Committee today calls for a revised Carbon Budget Delivery Plan to be produced urgently.”

Delivery Plan

One of the key asks from the EAC is for the Carbon Budget Delivery Plans to be revised in light of Sunak’s policy changes.

The Government’s Net-Zero Growth Plan was published earlier this year to build upon the unlawful Net-Zero Strategy. It featured a new carbon budget delivery plan. This sets out the projected cuts in emissions from green policy changes, and compares these levels of emissions reductions to those legally required by forthcoming carbon budgets.

Before the new documents were published, the UK Government’s climate advisors warned that it only had “credible” plans in place to deliver one-third of the emissions cuts needed through to 2050.

The EAC argues these documents need to be updated to account for new dates and targets.

In late September, the Prime Minister confirmed that his Government would weaken policy proposals relating to electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, home heating and building energy efficiency.

Sunak confirmed a five-year delay on the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. This was set for 2030 under Boris Johnson but will now be amended to 2035. This is aligned with the dates in the EU and many US states. Additionally, Sunak moved a ban on oil boilers in off-grid homes, initially set for 2026, to 2035. A wider plan to phase out 100% of domestic gas boilers by 2035 has also been weakened to 80%.

In response, the EAC is requesting information on the impact of the delay to the proposed ban on new petrol and diesel cars and how this relates to the mandate for manufacturers to increase sales of EV vehicles to 80% by 2030.

Last week, dozens of investors and financial institutions sent a letter to the Prime Minister urging “certainty, consistency, clarity and continuity” for the sector on the road to net-zero.

The letter states that signatories are “deeply concerned” by the measures announced earlier this month, including a delay to the ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales and a weakening of several targets relating to low-carbon heat and building energy efficiency.

The letter has been orchestrated by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).

Since Sunak gave his speech, the Government has additionally delayed the implementation of biodiversity net-gain requirements on housing developers and has given the green light to the North Sea’s biggest undeveloped oil and gas field, Rosebank.

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