BUSINESS giants have hit out at the UK Government in a rare political intervention after reports that Rishi Sunak was plotting to U-turn on key climate commitments ...
The Prime Minister faced criticism even from within his own party after reports on Tuesday night saw leaked details of his proposals to water down green commitments splashed across Wednesday’s papers.
Downing Street did not deny the Tory leader was planning to weaken the UK’s climate policies, through moves which may include a delay to the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – currently due in 2030 – by five years.
In the wake of the news, motoring giant Ford criticised the Conservative proposals saying: “Our business needs three things from the UK Government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”
Lisa Brankin, the UK chair of the motoring giant, said: "Three years ago the Government announced the UK's transition to new electric car and van sales from 2030. The auto industry is investing to meet that challenge.
“Ford has announced a global $50 billion commitment to electrification, launching nine electric vehicles by 2025. The range is supported by £430 million invested in Ford's UK development and manufacturing facilities, with further funding planned for the 2030 timeframe.
“This is the biggest industry transformation in over a century and the UK 2030 target is a vital catalyst to accelerate Ford into a cleaner future.”
Energy giant E.ON compounded the headache for the UK Government, with its CEO Chris Norbury saying Sunak's plans were a "mis-step on many levels".
He went on: "From a business perspective, companies wanting to invest in the UK need long term certainty to create the jobs and economic prosperity the country needs. Equally, in our homes and communities we risk condemning people to many more years of living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat, in cities clogged with dirty air from fossil fuels, missing out on the economic regeneration this ambition brings."
Norbury added: "There is no 'green vs cheap' debate, it's a false argument that only serves to delay the vital work of transforming our economy — work that creates more affordable and secure energy while also boosting jobs and skills, often in the areas of the country most at risk of being left behind. "
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said high demand for electric cars within the UK is needed if more are to be built in the country.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You want to build close to where you sell, so you need a strong market here in the UK to help secure future investment.
“The concern now is, does this cause consumers to delay their purchase?”
In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the Prime Minister insisted the UK Government is not “losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments”, but did not deny it is set to renege on a host of policies put in place by Conservative governments to hit the net-zero goal.
The prospect of a major shift in the Tory approach to green policy was quickly condemned by senior figures in the party.
Former Cop26 president Alok Sharma (below) warned that “for any party to resile from this (climate action) agenda will not help economically or electorally”.
And Tory former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke tweeted that “it is in our environmental, economic, moral and (yes) political interests as Conservatives to make sure we lead on this issue rather than disown it”.
Some Tory MPs are even considering writing letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister if he goes ahead with the changes, according to reports.
Labour’s shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said the plans were a “complete farce from a Tory government that literally does not know what they are doing day to day”.
Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “As the rest of the world is rushing to invest in net zero industries, any further rowing back by the UK would leave our international standing further tarnished.”
And the Scottish Greens also hit out at the Tory government, saying that rowing back on climate commitments would “make the Prime Minister a laughing stock”.
MSP Mark Ruskell went on: “Make no mistake, if the Prime Minister goes ahead with this it will have a dramatic and profound impact on what we here in Scotland are trying to do to tackle the climate crisis and deliver the green change that is so badly doing.
“This isn’t an accident. They know what they are doing and they know what the consequences will be. They cannot be trusted with our climate for a moment longer.
“If they continue with their disastrous climate wrecking agenda then it will fuel an environmental and humanitarian crisis. They will have blood on their hands.”