Wednesday, February 21

PM set to make major net zero announcement

Rishi Sunak has signalled key net zero policies could be watered down, including delaying the ban on petrol cars. Rishi Sunak will deliver a speech in Downing Street at 4.30pm amid speculation he will water down net zero commitments.

The PM has provoked a green backlash and anger among some of his own MPs amid reports he plans to water down key net zero policies. An announcement could mean a proposed ban on buying new petrol cars and oil boilers to help the UK meet its net zero commitments could be delayed.

The PM has said he doesn’t want to bankrupt the UK – but critics have also branded it a political move designed to curry favour with the public to boost the Tories, who are flagging in the polls.

The announcement has sparked condemnation from campaigners, opposition MPs and MPs in his own party, with one describing the move as Sunak’s moment of shame. Car giant Ford has also criticised the move, saying: Our business needs three things from the UK government, ambition, commitment, and consistency… A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.

Rishi Sunak to deliver Downing Street speech

The prime minister will deliver a speech in Downing Street at 4.30pm amid speculation he will water down net zero commitments.

A leak to the BBC suggested Sunak’s intention is to dial down some of the key climate commitments his government has made, including plans to ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars – which has already been me with a furious backlash from car manufacturers who have poured billions into electric vehicles.

Sunak ‘call with cabinet ministers’

Rishi Sunak is understood to have hastily arranged a call with Cabinet ministers, PA reports. The unscheduled call will fuel speculation he could bring forward the timing of the announcement of his plans to change net zero policy.

Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a £20bn carbon capture strategy has been met with scepticism. Here’s how the technology works and why it is so divisive. The prime minister has insisted that the transition to electric vehicles by 2030 remains government policy.

Labour shadow minister unsure if new car ban would stand under a Labour government. A shadow minister has refused to commit to keeping the ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 if Labour wins the next election.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones said we’re going to need to talk to the car companies, who will be as surprised about these announcements as we are.

He told Sky News: This is a classic example of Rishi Sunak’s weak leadership. You don’t announce these big changes in industrial policy via a leak from Downing Street and a late-night press release from the Prime Minister’s bunker.

Ministers didn’t seem to know; we’ve just seen… the Home Secretary didn’t know the details. Tory MPs didn’t know, which is why they’re furious on the airwaves and some calling for Rishi Sunak to go, and businesses won’t have known, in the weeks where Tory ministers have been signing off hundreds of millions of pounds to help businesses get ready for these long-held targets.

This is a chaotic approach to running the country, it’s completely unacceptable and it’s harming the economy.

What is “net zero” and why does it matter?

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat and keep the planet warm. But the more of these gases we have put into the atmosphere through activities such as burning fossil fuels to heat homes, drive cars and provide electricity for our lives, the more the planet warms.

These rising temperatures drive climate change, the extreme weather, rising sea levels, heatwaves, and floods that we are already seeing increase around us.

So, just as you need to turn off a tap completely to stop the level of water in a bath from continuing to rise, we need to cut emissions to zero to stop the greenhouse gas levels, and therefore temperatures, rising more to prevent more dangerous climate change.

Completely stopping emissions is extremely difficult, but there are some measures, such as planting trees, which can absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, the equivalent of bailing some water out of the bath to keep the water level steady even if the tap is still running slightly.

So emissions have to be cut as much as possible, and any remaining pollution, from hard-to-tackle sectors such as aviation, needs to be “offset” by action that absorbs carbon to have the net effect of cutting emissions to zero.

To stabilise global temperature at any level, emissions must reach this “net zero” point eventually. Scientists say that to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which increasingly dangerous climate impacts will be felt, global carbon emissions must be brought down to net zero by around 2050 with deep cuts to other greenhouse gases.

And the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that significant amounts of carbon dioxide removal will not just be needed for mopping up residual emissions, but for creating negative levels of emissions to bring down temperatures again after overshooting the 1.5C level.

In the UK, the Government legislated in June 2019 that the UK must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, by mandating a 100% cut in emissions by that date.

That requires deep cuts in emissions and therefore changes in all sectors, including how we heat our homes, how we travel, our power sector, how industry uses energy and even our diets, and efforts to capture some emissions.

The statutory advisory Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said it expects more than 100 million tonnes of emissions will be captured in 2050 to offset the pollution the UK is still putting out then.

Ways to do that include burning plant matter for energy and capturing and burying the carbon emissions, known as BECCS, technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air, expanding woodlands and restoring peatlands. Delivering net zero is not without controversy, with concerns raised about the cost.