Boris net-zero blast takes wind out of Sunak’s sails

Allies of the former premier demanded Rishi Sunak call a general election after he tore up Mr Johnson’s ambitious net zero policies.

But red wall Conservatives said the PM’s announcement shows the party is “on the side of working people”.

And one minister told the Express the band of opponents to Mr Sunak’s changes were a “tiny minority of ideologues with no real plan to deliver” the previous targets.

Mr Johnson, who had put swift bans on petrol cars and boilers at the heart of his premiership, issued a statement warning Mr Sunak he must not “falter now”.

He said businesses “must have certainty about our net zero commitments”.

“The green industrial revolution is already generating huge numbers of high quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country,” he added.

“Business and industry – such as motor manufacturing – are rightly making vast investments in these new technologies.

“It is those investments that will produce a low-carbon future – at lower costs for British families.

“It is crucial that we give those businesses confidence that government is still committed to net zero and can see the way ahead.

“We cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson tells Rishi Sunak not to ‘falter’ and abandon Net Zero

Zak Goldsmith, who accused Mr Sunak of being “uninterested” in the environment when he quit as a minister in June, reacted with fury to the announcement.

The Tory peer, a close friend of Mr Johnson, said he had received hundreds of messages from Conservative friends “telling me this move by the PM vindicates my decision to noisily resign”.

Lord Goldsmith added: “I didn’t want vindication. I hoped it would add pressure on the government to prove me and others wrong. We need an election. Now.”

He said the decision was an “economically and ecologically illiterate decision” and a “moment of shame” for the UK.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, the Government’s former net zero tsar, said the Prime Minister’s announcement “condemns the UK to missing out on what could be the opportunity of the decade to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity”.

He added: “Ultimately, the people who will pay the price for any delay and dithering will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of costly and inefficient fossil fuels.”

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But Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had been a Johnson loyalist, said the ex-PM was a “net zero zealot” and backed Mr Sunak’s plans.

He said: “I’ve never been as much of a net zero zealot as Boris is.

“I mean, he genuinely believes in a more high wire approach in this area.

“I like to have a safety net under any high wire and I think what the Government’s doing now is using the safety net. And I think it’s absolutely right.

“I could not be more supportive of what the Prime Minister is doing under these circumstances.”

Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs, lashed out at Tory colleagues criticising the changes.

He said: “Some Conservative colleagues may take to the airways as they see their un-costed dreams hitting the buffers of reality. But this need not be a divisive row, the Net Zero plan for 2050 is still there but this allows for it to be met in a more thoughtful way, and by technologies that may actually work. Should be cheaper too.

“Conservatives should never ban things; consumers are more than capable of making choices as to what works for them.

“It’s called the power of capitalism and the market – not a Whitehall mandarin mandating what we should do.”

The New Conservatives group of MPs, formed of mainly red wall MPs, backed the “common-sense approach”.

In a letter to Mr Sunak, co-chairs Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger said: “We know that new Conservative voters will welcome this announcement as a common-sense approach to the environmental challenges that we face.

“They will know that our party is on the side of working people who are trying to get on, make a living, and provide for their families.

“Our message to colleagues is to recognise the impact of this policy on those voters.”

They said that electric vehicles are attractive to “better off” people and that “many of those who backed our party in 2019 are not in that situation”.

“As a party that represents people from Kingswood to Keighley, we must make sure that the policy decisions we take leave the working people of this country better and not worse off,” they said.

Mr Sunak also won support from political adversary Liz Truss.

The former prime minister said: “I welcome the delay on banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars as well as the delay on the ban on oil and gas boilers. This is particularly important for rural areas.”

The UK has been a leader on tackling climate change by delivering real change at home.

It has been instrumental in transforming how countries and companies now view the importance of taking action on net zero.

But diluting green policies now would cost the UK jobs, inward investment and future economic growth that could have been ours by committing to the industries of the future.

The Prime Minister’s latest announcement condemns the UK to missing out on what could be the opportunity of the decade to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity.

Last year marked a watershed moment for global investment in net zero — not least from the US’ Inflation Reduction Act, with its commitment of placing clean technologies at the heart of future economic strategy.

Now is the time for the UK to step up not step back in the race to net zero.

My Independent Review of Net Zero found that net zero can bring 480,000 new jobs to the UK and £1 trillion of private investment if we commit long term to business and industry.

To delay would only cost more, and the UK would miss out on economic and investment opportunities that will go elsewhere.

To take the ‘not zero’ path will condemn the U.K. to also being dependent on costly gas and oil prices that has driven our record inflation rates.

We are now in a net zero race and the UK cannot fall behind. I warned in the report that “to stand still, delay or maintain the status quo is not an option.”

Ultimately, the people who will pay the price for any delay and dithering will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of costly and inefficient fossil fuels.

There is a vital requirement for stable, long term direction, rather than piecemeal, short term announcements.

There is only a cost, not a benefit, to these delays.

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