Rishi Sunak watering down green pledges not a ‘cynical ploy’ but what is ‘right’, says business secretary | Politics News

Rishi Sunak’s watering down of climate pledges is not a “cynical ploy” – but is rather the prime minister doing “what is right”, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said.

Last night, Mr Sunak announced a raft of changes to the UK’s climate pledges, including delaying the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by five years to 2035.

The prime minister explained that he was making the changes as the previous plans were unaffordable and unachievable.

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However, as Sky science and technology editor Tom Clarke explained, the decision seemed to be more about politics – and the general election expected next year – than the climate.

And Ms Badeonch told Sky News this morning: “This is not some sort of cynical ploy.”

“This is the right thing to do, and I fully support the prime minister.”

Mr Sunak defended his change of direction this morning, telling the BBC that the UK’s decarbonising ambitions are “more ambitious than pretty much any major economy in the world”.

The move has been welcomed by some Conservative MPs, who, believing it may be popular with voters, have been calling for green policies to be delayed to avoid exacerbating the cost of living crisis.

But it has been opposed by sections of the business community, opposition parties, and campaigners – including Al Gore.

One of the critics of the move was Lord Goldsmith, a Conservative former minister.

Ms Badenoch said: “I know Zac Goldsmith very well. He is a friend… I fundamentally disagree with what he has said.

“We are listening to the concerns people are raising with us. Most people in this country do not have the kind of money that he has.”

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch speaks, at the BMW Mini plant at Cowley in Oxford, as the company announced plans to build its next-generation electric Mini in Oxford after securing a Government funding package. Picture date: Monday September 11, 2023.
Kemi Badenoch at the MINI plant in Oxford last week

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Last week, Ms Badenoch visited the BMW MINI plant in Oxford as the company announced it would build its next generation electric vehicles there, securing government funding in the process.

She was asked if yesterday’s roll-back was known about when she announced the deal.

The business secretary said: “Well, I had been making representations to the prime minister – he had not made his decision known to all of us.

“But these were conversations that we were having, So I’m quite pleased that this has happened.”

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The car industry was one of the most vocal critics of the government’s changes, as many had planned to stop selling ICE vehicles in seven years time.

Ford was the most sceptical, saying that the new path undermined the “ambition, commitment and consistency” needed for the UK.

Ms Badenoch pointed out the US car giant made the statement “without even hearing what the announcement was”, and added that Toyota welcomed the move.

When asked about criticism from the chief executive of EON – who claimed the changes would mean people have to live in draughty homes – Ms Badenoch urged the leader of the energy giant to “actually look at what the prime minister announced”.

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UK’s new net zero plans

Daisy Powell-Chandler, the head of energy and environment at polling company Public First, explained to Sky News how the public tends to hold a dim view of parties that water down green policies.

She said: “The public aren’t very keen on that, including Conservative and Labour swing voters.

“Most people think that the government should be doing more rather than less to reach net zero.

“So about three times more people think the government should be doing more on the environment than think they should be doing less.

“And there’s an extraordinary consensus right across the age range. For example, climate change these days is amongst people’s tier one concerns.

“It’s just below things like the NHS, but it’s still up there in the top five on most trackers.”

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Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow industry and decarbonisation minister, told Sky News that her party would return the deadline for ICE sales to 2030, but would not unpick other parts of the changes announced yesterday.

She said that on heat pumps, for example, the government “has utterly failed” to get close to the previous target, and that it was more important to focus on insulating homes first.