NFU says government must “use this time to get the policy and the delivery right” while CIEH calls for a “prompt reversal of the policy shifts”
The UK’s alleged “over-delivery” on reducing emissions will allow for a more “pragmatic, proportionate and realistic” approach to reaching net zero, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The government has therefore announced it will move back the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years, to “enable families to wait to take advantage of falling prices over the coming decade if they wish to”.
It will also scrap policies that force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties.
In addition, Sunak said he would rule out policy ideas that would require people to share cars, eat less meat and dairy, incur taxes to discourage their flying, or have “seven bins” to hit recycling targets. These were described as “worrying proposals” that would “interfere in the way people live their lives”.
The reaction has been mixed. Tom Bradshaw, Deputy President, NFU said that while British agriculture remains committed in its drive towards net zero by 2040, “we can’t get there on our own”.
He added, “The policy delays will provide more time for businesses and people to adjust, but farmers and growers still have questions around access to electric vehicle infrastructure, grid connections and rural heating, so it’s imperative the government uses this time to get the policy and its delivery right.”
Others were less sanguine. Mike Childs, Head of Policy, Friends of the Earth described the Prime Minister as “environmentally reckless and economically inept”.
He said: “Building a green economy is the best way to tackle the cost of living crisis, boost energy security and strengthen the economy. Weakening green policies will simply undermine business confidence and put British jobs at risk.”
Doug Parr, Policy Director, Greenpeace UK accused the Prime Minister of “taking the public for fools”. He said: “He claims he’s helping ordinary people, but we know the real winners will be big corporations like the oil and gas lobby.”
Chris Norbury, CEO, E.ON UK said that it was “a misstep on many levels”. He said: “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.”
“The government's new strategy is a dangerous retreat from the level of urgency that the climate crisis demands.”
CIEH, meanwhile, reacted with “deep concern” and called for a “prompt reversal of the policy shifts.”
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health, CIEH, said: “The government's new strategy is a dangerous retreat from the level of urgency that the climate crisis demands.
“We are particularly concerned about the potential long-term impact on the environment and public health, as well as the erosion of the UK's international standing as a climate leader.
“A thriving environment is the bedrock for public health. Clean air, for instance, lessens the burden of respiratory illnesses, while sustainable food systems contribute to better nutrition. Better public health means a more productive workforce and less strain on healthcare systems.
“To backtrack on this commitment is to jeopardise not just our environment, but our public health and economic future.”
- CIEH is a co-signatory to a joint-letter signed by a range of leaders from business and civil society that urges the Prime Minister not to backslide on net-zero commitments.
Image credit: Shutterstock