Delay in green policies could ‘scare off investors’: Latest reaction to Sunak’s net zero shake up

Yesterday evening saw prime minister Rishi Sunak confirm the reports that he was planning to delay green targets to reach net zero by 2050.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Sunak announced a delay on the 2030 ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars back to 2035, an ease on heat pump transition and no new energy efficiency regulations on homes.

He also lifted a ban on offshore wind and unveiled plans to raise more funds for Sizewell C.

On top of this, he alluded to some “worrying proposals” — which has led to some confusion as to where he picked these out — and announced he was “scrapping” proposals regarding even recycling bins, carpooling and flight tax.

“The proposal to make you change your diet and harm British farmers by taxing meat, or to create new taxes to discourage flying or going on holiday,” added Sunak. “I’ve scrapped those too.”

“And nor will we ban new oil and gas in the North Sea, which would simply leave us reliant on expensive imported energy from foreign dictators like Putin,” he confirmed in his speech.

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What inspired the delay?

In his speech, Sunak citied the cost-of-living crisis, stating he doesn’t want to “impose unacceptable costs on hard-pressed families.”

The prime minister also stated that as the UK is “so far ahead of every country in the world,” there is space for a delay.

“We’ve had the fastest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the G7. Down almost 50% since 1990,” Sunak stated.

“France? 22%. The US? No change at all. China? Up by over 300%,” he added.

“And when our share of global emissions is less than 1%, how can it be right that British citizens, are now being told to sacrifice even more than others?”

Will the country hit its target?

While Sunak is adamant the UK will still reach net zero by 2050, others are uncertain.

Climate Change Committee chair Piers Forster stated the announcement is “likely to take the UK further from being able to meet its legal commitments.”

The announcement along with the recent unsuccessful of shore win auction, “gives us concern,” Forster added.

Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee chair Baroness Parminter echoed Forster’s thoughts, saying “hard to see how” the country will reach its targets.

“I am dismayed by today’s announcement and will be writing to the Prime Minister, on behalf of the committee, outlining our concerns and seeking clarification on his roadmap to net-zero,” she said.

“Given that a third of all emission reductions required by 2035 need to come from individuals and households adopting new technologies, choosing low-carbon products or services and reducing carbon-intensive consumption it is hard to see how our legally-binding carbon targets will now be met,” Parminter added.

The delay to net zero will ‘scare off investors’

Ashden chief executive Dr Ashok Sinha stated the delay will “scare off investors.”

“If the PM wanted to do maximum harm to the UK economy, then this would be the way to do it. The green transition is not only necessary to prevent catastrophic environmental impacts, but it’s the only way to secure our country’s future prosperity,” Sinha said.

“Putting us into the slow lane in the race to net-zero will only scare off investors, damage our credibility with business and put the brakes on the climate innovation that we see growing in SMEs and communities across the country,” he added.

“This will only hurt jobs, livelihoods and living standards,” concluded Sinha.

Ikea, Nestlé and Eon bosses also urged the government not to weaken net zero policies.

In an open letter before Sunak’s confirmation, 400 business leaders warned the prime minister not to back down.

“The business community has already made substantial investments in the net zero transition and made it clear that sticking to long-term net zero policies is crucial to build business confidence and mobilise investment,” the letter stated.

“Watering down these policies would damage the UK’s credibility as a good place for green investment, undermining British competitiveness.

“We are already losing investment to the US and EU, and rowing back would make it worse,” the letter added.

Sunak’s decision could cost household’s £8 billion

Analysis by Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found that the delay could cost British households almost £8 billion in higher bills over the next decade, and more if gas prices spike again, due to cancelling new energy efficiency regulations for the private rental sector.

There could be further impacts for household bills due to changes to the phase-out of oil boilers for off-gas grid homes.

More generally, if gas demand remains high across the economy, the UK could pay an extra £150 billion over 10 years to overseas gas producers, compared to if the Government introduced policies to ambitiously cut gas demand.

ECIU energy analyst Jess Ralston said, “the implication that any of these policies were going to affect the cost of living here and now is untrue.”

“In fact, the PM has sided with landlords over renters, putting their energy bills and cost of living up by ducking the improvement of rules on energy efficiency.

“As the North Sea declines, if the UK fails to shift to heat pumps, we’ll end up reliant on importing ever larger quantities of foreign gas.

‘Extremely disappointing’

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) chief executive Michael Izza referred to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stating it is “extremely disappointing,” especially with the government’s commitment to meet SDGs.

“As accounting professionals working across all areas of the economy, we know first-hand the costs of inaction to the companies and organisations we lead and advise, so it’s crucial the government takes steps to get us back on track, particularly when businesses will have already been planning for the transition to net zero,” he added.

The ICAEW along with 11 accountancy and financial bodies wrote to Sunak urging the country to take more action to meet the SDGs.

Izza said Sunak’s announcement is a “regrettable step in the wrong direction.”

The Howard de Walden Estate head of sustainability Simon Tranter said : “I worry that moving the goalposts will deter others from committing to such necessary improvements, overall hindering the sectors’ progress towards making much-needed efforts to reduce the impact of climate change.”

“It’s a shame to see the government delay Energy Performance Certificate upgrade deadlines particularly as we and the rest of the real estate community are working hard to ensure all properties are as energy efficient as possible.

We remain dedicated to decarbonising our buildings by improving energy efficiency and phasing out fossil fuel systems,” added Tranter. “These efforts align with our approach to sustainability and going beyond minimum compliance.”

How will the delay impact the farming industry?

National Farmer’s Union deputy president Tom Bradshaw argued that questions still remain regarding farmer access to EV infrastructure and rural heating.

We all know there is an urgent need for the UK to take further steps to decarbonise, and British agriculture remains committed in its drive towards net zero by 2040. But we can’t get there on our own – we need government support through well thought out policies and incentives if we are to drive progress,” he said.

“While the policy delays will provide more time for businesses and people to adjust, 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,” Bradshaw added.

Did Sunak make up policies?

There was some confusion in the Sustainability Beat team about the “worrying proposals” regarding seven recycling bins, carpooling and flight tax. But it looks like we weren’t the only ones.

Speaking with Sky News, Ecotricity founder Dale Vince asked said the policies “were just made up.”

“Where’s the meat tax, the flight tax? None of that exists,” he continued.

“Rishi Sunak today is like the wizard of Oz. He’s sat behind this big curtain, and he’s trying to dazzle everybody with smoke and mirrors.”

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