Industry backlash as Sunak set to water down green pledges

Automotive and energy bosses look for clarity after PM backs away from UK net zero goal

Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street
(Image credit: Peter Nicholls / Getty Images)

Industry bosses have sharply criticised Rishi Sunak's plan to water down the UK's green commitments which, they say, could risk undermining investment confidence in the UK.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of trade association Solar Energy UK, said that the prime minister's moves were "evidence of a leader who is out of touch with the needs of UK plc, as well as energy consumers".

Emma Pinchbeck, head of Energy UK, which represents the wider domestic industry, agreed that Sunak's moves "not a great look for UK plc".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

In media rounds this morning, Suella Braverman stood by the prime minister's loosening of measures tied to the UK's net zero targets, saying "we are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the country".

Braverman called the goal of reaching net zero by 2030 – set by Boris Johnson's government – "unrealistic", and applauded the government for taking difficult decisions, which, she said, would help to support economic growth.

Despite the home secretary's defence, car companies also voiced concerns. Leading car manufacturers Ford UK and BMW yesterday urged the government to clarify the proposed move to delay a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

Alongside the complaints from industry bosses, environmental concerns and uncertainty about what the changes might mean for businesses, Sunak's retreat from the UK's climate ambitions has "all the ingredients of a political disaster", said Stephen Bush in the Financial Times

"The net zero pledge has vocal advocates across the Tory party and, given the government's otherwise-thin political agenda, blue on blue rows could dominate the party conference season", Bush said.

Pollsters have previously warned the Tories that "retreating from green policies would hurt them", said the i Newspaper

"All of that is beside the point," said Stephen Bush. "Sunak's primary motivation in watering down the UK's net zero targets is not electoral advantage. It's belief. And maybe he'll get some kind of political dividend for that."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.