Rishi Sunak has vowed to press ahead with watering down key green measures despite intense criticism, because he still believes the UK will hit its net zero targets. But Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, has said that the PM’s claim that the government is on course to meet its emissions target for 2030 is “wishful thinking”. (See 2.35pm.)
Carmakers in the UK will still be mandated to sell electric vehicles from 1 January or face fines, despite Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on banning new petrol and diesel vehicles, under plans expected to be confirmed by ministers this week.
The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold for the first time in almost two years in a knife-edge decision underscoring the risks to the economy, leaving borrowing costs at 5.25% and warning that rates will remain high to tackle inflation.
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has said that the current economic situation makes tax cuts “virtually impossible”. (See 4.29pm.)
Hunt claims goverment has not yet taken final decision about whether or not to scrap Manchester leg of HS2
In his interview with LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Jeremy Hunt also claimed that the government had not yet taken a final decision about whether or not to scrap phase two of HS2.
At the end of last week it was reported that Rishi Sunak had “made up his mind” to cancel phase two of HS2, from Birmingham to Manchester, and also to cancel the final few miles into central London, leading to HS2 ending at Old Oak Common, and not reaching Euston.
On Monday Richard Holden, a transport minister, repeatedly refused to commit to the Manchester phase two, and to the Euston extension, when he took questions in the Commons. At his press conference yesterday Sunak also ducked a question about HS2.
Asked if the government was committed to the Manchester leg, Hunt told Marr:
I’m not going to comment on discussions that are happening at the moment, because as chancellor, you would expect me to be having discussions with the prime minister, when major infrastructure projects overrun in their costs. And that’s what we’re facing with HS2.
Hunt said MPs would be worried if they thought costs were running out of control.
But he went on:
Let me say to you now, Andrew, we haven’t made any decisions on this. We are looking at all the options. But we do need to find a way of delivering infrastructure projects that doesn’t cost taxpayers billions and billions of pounds.
Hunt says current level of government debt makes tax cuts 'virtually impossible'
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has said that the current economic situation makes tax cuts “virtually impossible”.
In an interview with LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Hunt also said that he faced some “very difficult decisions” in the autumn statement in November, which is his next major opportunity for announcements on tax and spending.
Hunt was responding to a question about the Bank of England today leaving interest rates on hold. When it was put to him that this meant government borrowing costs would be lower than they would have been with a rate rise, and when he was asked what he would say to those who claimed this meant there was headroom for tax cuts, Hunt dismissed the idea. He told Marr:
Every chancellor wakes up to newspaper headlines at least once a week that say there’s extra headroom and the chancellor might be able to do this or do that. I really really wish it was true but unfortunately it just isn’t.
If you look at what we are having to pay for our long-term debt it is higher now than it was at the spring budget. I wish it wasn’t. It makes life extremely difficult, it makes tax cuts virtually impossible and it means that I will have another set of frankly very difficult decisions.
All I would say is if we do want those long-term debt costs to come down then we need to really stick to this plan to get inflation down, get interest rates down, I don’t know when that’s going to happen but I don’t think it’s going to happen before the autumn statement on November 22, alas.
Hunt’s comment is likely to anger Tory rightwingers who feel that taxes are already too high and who have been repeatedly calling for cuts.
James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has posted a message on X/Twitter about the Sky News Starmer story (see 3.54pm), claiming that it shows Labour wants to “rejoin the EU in all but name”.
But commentators take the view that there is nothing particularly significant in what Keir Starmer said because he was just summarising the stance that Labour has taken on this for a long time.
This is from the New Statesman’s George Eaton.
Starmer’s “we don’t want to diverge” is a more explicit statement of existing policy.
Labour has long spoken of embracing “dynamic alignment” with the EU.
These are from the Critic’s Rob Hutton.
Did we think Labour did want to diverge from EU standards?
This seems to me the problem with any Tory attack line on this. If Labour take office in 2024 and find a Britain still in alignment with the EU, that’s on the people who’ve been in government since 2020.
Paul Waugh from the i says the Labour party doesn’t feel the need to issue a clarification (although it did give a quote to Sky News – see 3.54pm.)
Labour say no need for clarification as they included the clip in their own social media, and it was livestreamed and available for free online.
And this is from Rob Merrick from Devex.
The mad world of post-Brexit politics….the Foreign Sec says a policy not to lower food, worker or environmental standards is “rejoining the EU”
Labour claims it does not back 'dynamic alignment' with EU after Starmer tells summit 'we don't want to diverge'
Keir Starmer has said that he does not want the UK to “diverge” from the EU in terms of standards.
He made the comment at the weekend in Canada, at the Global Progress Action summit, but Sky News has only now broadcast the footage.
Labour has repeatedly said that it wants a better relationship with the EU, and in an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday Starmer said that he wanted a “much better” Brexit deal, with more alignment in areas like veterinary rules.
But Sky News claims Starmer’s comment about not diverging surprised EU diplomats.
Starmer told the summit in Canada:
Most of the conflict with the UK being outside of the [EU] arises in so far as the UK wants to diverge and do different things to the rest of our EU partners.
Obviously the more we share values, the more we share a future together, the less the conflict. And actually different ways of solving problems become available.
Actually we don’t want to diverge, we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people that work, food standards and all the rest of it.
So suddenly, you’re in a space where, notwithstanding the obvious fact that we’re outside the EU and not in the [European Economic Area], there’s a lot more common ground than you might think.
Approached by Sky News for a comment, Labour said that the party did not want to diverge from the EU in the way some Tories want to diverge, but that Starmer was not committed to dynamic alignment either. The spokesperson said:
One of the [two contradictory] Brexit arguments was that the UK could become Singapore-on-Thames i.e. the whole deregulation agenda of everything from environmental to labour reforms. We’ve always rejected that, we’re not interested in that sort of divergence.
That doesn’t mean we support dynamic alignment. We’re not joining the single market or the customs union. We will not be in a situation where we are a rule taker.
Dynamic alignment would mean the UK agreeing to match all EU regulations as they evolve over time, as a condition for securing easy access to the EU market. When Boris Johnson negotiated his Brexit deal he specifically rejected this approach because it would mean the UK being obliged to follow laws made by the EU. Joining the single market would require dynamic alignment, but Labour has ruled that out.
Sam Coates from Sky News has posted the Starmer clip on X (formerly Twitter).
UK carmakers will have to meet electric car sales targets despite Sunak U-turn
Carmakers in the UK will still be mandated to sell electric vehicles from 1 January or face fines, despite Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on banning new petrol and diesel vehicles, under plans expected to be confirmed by ministers this week, Gwyn Topham reports.
Sunak's claim UK on course to meet its emissions targets 'wishful thinking', says Climate Change Committee boss
In his interview on the Today programme this morning (see 11.15am) Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, also suggested that Rishi Sunak was guilty of “wishful thinking” when he said the UK was on course to meet it climate change targets. Stark said:
Let’s look at where we are on this. In June we said the progress that we’ve seen recently on cutting emissions will not take us to the 2030 target. We’ve been cutting emissions by about 1% per year, outside of the power sector, the one sector we’ve been doing well. That needs to quadruple over the next eight years.
What has happened since then is that we’ve had a failed auction for offshore wind, and now a setback from some of the key policies that the prime minister. That is going to make it harder to hit the 2030 goal.
We’re going to go away and do the numbers on that. But the key thing is that those goals still remain. The prime minister recommitted to them.
So I would say that the wishful thinking here is that we have not got a policy package to hit the legal targets that this country has set in law through the Climate Change Act.
Asked if he was saying Sunak was guilty of wishful thinking, Stark replied:
I think the government needs to look again at the policies. We need to do more. There’s no real question of that. So, yesterday was not about doing more, it was about doing less.
According to the i’s Eleanor Langford, Conservative MPs have been responding very positively to Rishi Sunak’s net zero announcement in a private WhatsApp group.
EXC: Leaked WhatsApp messages seen by @theipaper show backbench MPs rallying around the PM despite backlash over rowing back on net zero measures
MPs praised Rishi Sunak for “leading from the front” and “seizing the agenda” in a group for all Tory MP
A government minister told the group that he’d received dozens of messages of support from local small business owners and constituents following Wednesday’s announcement.
One MP told @theipaper that they “haven’t seen an outpouring like this before” for Rishi Sunak
Here is John Crace’s sketch of Rishi Sunak’s Today programme interview with Nick Robinson. John wasn’t impressed …
Labour's Chris Bryant suggests speaker should get power to recall parliament after row about PM giving speech in recess
Yesterday Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker, issued a strongly-worded press release reprimanding Rishi Sunak for making a major statement on net zero policy less than 24 hours after the Commons started an (arguably overlong) recess.
During his visit to Chelmsford today, Sunak was asked about the comment from the speaker, and also about Tory MPs opposed to his policy. In response, Sunak ignored the point made by the speaker, who said an announcement like this should have been made in the chamber where the PM could be questioned by MPs. Sunak just gave a standard answer about being focused on doing the right thing for the country.
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who until recently chaired the Commons standards committee, claims that Sunak was in breach of the ministerial code, which stresses the importance of major announcements being made to parliament.
A Nolan principle inscribed in ministerial code is accountability. Sunak made parliament go into recess on Tues to avoid #PMQs. He also made his announcements yesterday the day after the commons had energy security questions. He’s repeatedly breached his ministerial code.
Hoyle said yesterday that, if he had the power to recall parliament for the net zero announcement, he would have done so. Currently only the government can recall parliament. Bryant says that should change.
Just to be clear, only the prime minister can ask the speaker to recall parliament from a recess. One of the many things we could and should change.
In fact, the list of parliamentary rules that Bryant would change goes well, well beyond this. He has recently published a book, Code of Conduct, arguing that, on the basis of the number of misconduct cases we have seen, the current parliament (from 2019) has been the worst in history. He argues for a series of reform to improve standards and curb the power of the executive. Fizzing with righteous anger, and full of good history and juicy anecdote, it’s a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in how parliament operates. It is also not too long, and right about most things, which makes it ideal as a political book.
There was a change of personnel at this week’s first minister’s questions in Edinburgh: with Humza Yousaf in New York for Climate Week, his deputy, Shona Robison, took the floor in his stead.
No doubt aware that opponents would be eager to bring up Rishi Sunak’s net zero U-turn, the Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, raised climate policy first, but attacked Yousaf’s comments this week that Aberdeen would no longer be the oil and gas capital of Europe.
Robison said Ross was “brave” to raise the issue, saying:
Rishi Sunak has essentially pulled the rug from under the net zero ambitions, not just of the UK, but potentially damaging the net zero ambitions of Scotland.
As Ross accused the SNP of creating a “cliff edge” for current oil and gas jobs in the north-east, it’s plain that Sunak isn’t the only Tory leader convinced there are votes to be had here in advance of the general election. Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell pointed out: “This is about the next election not the next generation.”
YouGov has released some new polling on whether the Conservatives or Labour, and Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer, are seen as best placed to handle 10 policy issues.
Starmer leads Sunak on seven issues (including asylum and immgiration, by quite a large margin). But they are tied on two, the economy and defence, and Sunak has a narrow lead on Brexit.
And, at party level, Labour also leads the Conservatives on seven issues. They are tied on the law and order, and on Brexit, and the Tories are seen as best on defence.
Keir Starmer has been tweeting about net zero this morning.
Good jobs. Cheaper bills. Real energy security.
That’s why my Labour government will make Britain a clean energy superpower.
This is not unusual. Labour has for some time now been framing its net zero strategy as a jobs plan. This is justified, and may be electorally sensible, but Tom Belger, the LabourList editor, expresses concern in an article today that this messaging downplays the importance of climate issues. “The green agenda thus also risks being dismissed as Corbyn-style loony lefty zealotry, despite Starmer’s relentless efforts to shun his predecessor,” he says.
Dowden says it would be 'disproportionate' to take action against Boris Johnson for ignoring rules when taking Mail job
No further action will be taken against Boris Johnson after he was accused of committing a “clear and unambiguous breach” of the rules on former ministers, Rishi Sunak’s deputy has said. PA Media reports:
Johnson was rapped on the knuckles by the anti-corruption watchdog in June after he gave them only 30 minutes’ notice ahead of a public announcement that he was taking up a new role as a Daily Mail columnist.
Johnson landed the job a day after he became the first ever former prime minister to be found to have lied to parliament in the publication of the damning report into his Partygate denials.
The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), charged with setting conditions on former ministers when they enter new jobs, to prevent a revolving door of appointments, wrote to ministers after the clash with Mr Johnson calling for urgent reform to the rules governing post-ministerial jobs, including sanctions for breaches.
Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden, in a letter to Acoba published today, said the Cabinet Office regarded that it would be “disproportionate” to take any further action towards Johnson beyond acknowledging the breach.
He said the Cabinet Office had accepted the watchdog’s assessment that the “risk surrounding media appointments are limited” and that they were “typically subject to the conditions that former ministers are already required to abide by” following their exit from high office.
“I therefore also accept that it would be disproportionate to undertake further action in these circumstances other than the public exchange of such correspondence (noting that there was a breach),” he said.
Dowden said the UK government was “minded” to exempt books, journalism and media appearances from strict business appointment rules in the future.
It comes after Dowden in July announced a new ethics scheme designed to strengthen punishments for ex-ministers who breached the guidelines with new appointments. One major change looked to address the breach Johnson was accused of, with a “ministerial deed” introduced to legally commit ministers to the rules on accepting jobs after they leave office, binding them by the same restrictions as civil servants.
The ethics report said a tightening of the rules could include further sanctions including “financial penalties” for breaches.
In his letter to Acoba on Thursday, Dowden said the reforms were likely to take a softer approach towards media work in order to support free speech.
He continued: “As part of these reforms, the government is minded that media appearances, books or journalism should in due course be formally exempted from the business appointment rules (whilst still maintaining duty of confidentiality requirements). This recognises also the importance of the rights to free speech within the law. This ‘minded to’ approach is therefore guiding in the assessment of appropriate steps on this particular issue.”
PA describes Acoba as an anti-corruption watchdog. That is standard journalese, but it is misleading because “watchdog” implies that Acoba can do something about people who break the rules. In July the government announced plans that could lead to people facing a financial penalty if they don’t follow Acoba advice, but previously the body has been dismissed as toothless. Even Lord Pickles, the Tory peer who chairs the body, has described it in those terms.
Climate Change Committee chief executive says hitting 2030 emissions targets will be 'even harder' after Sunak's U-turn
Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, told the Today programme this morning that the policy changes announced yesterday would make it even harder for the government to meet its climate targets for 2030.
Asked about the announcements, Stark said:
We’re still going over what the prime minister said yesterday in Downing Street, but it’s difficult to escape the idea that we’ve moved backwards from where we were when we did our last assessment of progress.
We do that every single year, and we did that in June with what was the government’s old programme. And in June, what we said to the government was that it didn’t look like we were on track for the government’s targets in 2030. Remember, these are legal goals.
So I worry about what the government announced yesterday, because it looks like those goals will be even harder to hit with this softer package now around climate policy.
In June the CCC said its confidence in the government being able to meet its climate goals from 2030 onwards was “now markedly less than it was in our previous assessment a year ago”. It said:
UK greenhouse gas emissions have so far fallen 46% from 1990 levels. At Cop26, a stretching 2030 commitment was made to reduce them by 68%. In only seven years, the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must therefore quadruple.
Time is now very short to achieve this change of pace. Glimmers of the net zero transition can be seen in growing sales of new electric cars and the continued deployment of renewable capacity, but the scale up of action overall is worryingly slow. The government continues to place their reliance on technological solutions that have not been deployed at scale, in preference to more straightforward encouragement of people to reduce high-carbon activities. The committee has again flagged the risks of a policy programme that amongst other things is too slow to plant trees and roll out heat pumps.
Rishi Sunak insists that, even with the changes announced yesterday, the government is on course to meet its 2030 targets. (See 9.16am.)
Rishi Sunak has claimed that climate change zealots do not understand the impact the measures they support might have on families. Speaking to the media during a visit to an agricultural college this morning, he said:
Lots of people have lots of different views on this. We’ve been through the numbers, we’re confident that we are on track to deliver all our targets.
As I said yesterday … it gets polarised between extremes. There are people who just want to deny climate change is happening – they’re wrong – and on the other side there are people who approach this with more ideological zeal where they just don’t care about the impact on families.
In fact, many of those criticising Sunak over this have been arguing that the debate over net zero targets isn’t polarised and that it is a rare example of a policy area where, until yesterday, there was a lot of cross-party consensus.
Badenoch dismisses net zero criticism from Zac Goldsmith, saying his wealth protects him from costs others have to pay
Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, was giving interviews this morning while Rishi Sunak was on the Today programme. Here are some of the main points she has been making.
Badenoch insisted that many businesses wanted the government to delay net zero targets, as Sunak announced yesterday. She told Times Radio:
If you speak to the Department for Transport, you speak to the Net Zero, Energy and Security Departments, you will see that this is something where we’ve been receiving multiple representations across the board. I’m not going to go into the details of who those are, those are private businesses, but we are not just doing this for the fun of it. We are doing it because we are looking at the consequences of forcing people to take on change that they are not ready to take on.
She dismissed criticism of the move from Zac Goldsmith, the former minister who resigned complaining Sunak is not sufficiently committed to the environment. Goldsmith, who is a multi-millionaire, yesterday called for an early election because he opposes Sunak’s announcement so strongly. Asked about his comment, Badenoch told Sky News that Goldsmith was a friend. But she went on:
Most people in this country don’t have the kind of money that he has. We have to think about what people can reasonably afford. We have people who are not connected to the gas grid who are being made to make changes that are simply not feasible.
She criticised the Sky presenter Jayne Secker for suggesting that the policy changes would not help the poor because they did not have cars. Badenoch claimed that was a “ludicrous” statement, even when Secker put it to her that a third of people in the country don’t have a car. (The figure for households without a car is a bit lower, at 22%, according to government figures.) Secker also put it to her that poor tenants would lose out as a result of the decision to cancel the requirements for landlords to improve heating efficiency. Badenoch misunderstood the question, and said the changes to the rules affecting boilers would not disadvantage the poor.
SNP says Scotland can't opt out of delay in ban on sale of petrol cars, even though it's 'tragedy' for motor industry
Scotland will have to push back its ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 following Rishi Sunak’s announcement yesterday, the SNP has said.
Dave Doogan, the party’s energy spokesman at Westminster, said the Scottish government will not be able to stick to the target of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 because the country is “snared” into the UK Internal Market Act.
In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Doogan was asked how the SNP government in Scotland would respond to the announcement. He said:
We will have to move to 2035 because even if the Scottish government did have the authority to intervene in that particular legislation, which is reserved to the Department for Transport and its agencies, principally the DVLA, we are snared in the United Kingdom into the Internal Market Act, which would see the UK government intervene in any policy undoubtedly which created a difference between the market in Scotland and the market in the rest of the United Kingdom.
What we’d have to be very careful if we decided to do that is that we didn’t put our motor manufacturing retail business at a strategic disadvantage by operating in a way that was completely different to that which was in England, resulting in cross-border trade to access vehicles that you couldn’t access in Scotland, so it’s a complex dynamic and of course at the base of all of this is the fact that the UK Government didn’t consult the Scottish government on any of this.
Doogan also claimed Sunak’s move was an “unprecedented tragedy for the automotive industry in the United Kingdom”. He explained:
The market environment was set out by the Conservative government in 2020 and industry has been gearing up and tooling up and investing in that market environment, only to find out as of yesterday from the Prime Minister that they’re actually now operating in a completely different environment.
They’ve been establishing a market supply chain that will provide a greater proportion of electric vehicles by a time of around 2030, where now UK consumers will be in a position to continue to buy internal combustion engine cars, so they’ll have a mismatch between market demand and product availability that they’ve been tooling up for on the basis of Government market instruction.
I don’t think it can be underestimated how foolish and irresponsible it is for the UK government to create a market environment and then three years later create an entirely different market environment.
‘Sunak’s green gamble’: PM’s net zero U-turn divides UK front pages
Emily Dugan has a summary of how the newspapers are covering Rishi Sunak’s speech yesterday. They divide along left/right lines, but these are probably some of the best headlines Sunak has had from the Tory papers for ages.
Here is some reaction to the Rishi Sunak interview from journalists and commentators.
From Ian Birrell, the reporter, commentator and former Independent deputy editor
Sunak’s interview with @BBCr4today was unconvincing - posing as architect of change after 13 years of Tory rule, bemoaning cost of living despite his high taxes and banging on about honesty after being skewered over deceitful claims on 7 bins, taxing meat & compulsory car sharing
From Rob Burley, a Sky News editor
Lots of opinion about whether Sunak right or wrong on net zero & his motivations. I’m NOT making a comment about substance, but his performance with @bbcnickrobinson (who’s no slouch) was more effective than recent outings, seems to have something approaching the Sunak mojo back.
From the i’s Paul Waugh
The PM’s most uncomfortable moment came on a ‘meat tax’.
He said CChange Cttee urged Govt to ‘implement measures’ for ‘accelerated change in diets’ .
But Ctte actually urged “Low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030”.
Nothing re meat tax.
From the FT’s Jim Pickard
Sunak has a point when he says other major economies (France, Germany, Canada etc) have a 2035 petrol car ban question is why the government has bounced around from a 2040 plan to a 2032 idea to a 2030 pledge to a revised 2035 pledge, that’s what’s annoying business leaders
From the Guardian’s Peter Walker
In his own less blustery way, Rishi Sunak is equally bad at answering questions as Boris Johnson ever was.
From Politico’s Charlie Cooper
Struck by parallels between Sunak’s new net zero rhetoric and Brexit messaging
Positioning himself as protecting people from a “Westminster” policy agenda, with a warning that not making concessions now could lead to bigger backlash in the future
Sunak's Today programme interview – summary and analysis
Here are the main lines from Rishi Sunak’s Today programme interview.
Sunak declared that he was entering a new phase of his premiership, and that after a year bringing “stability and competence” into government, he now wanted “to change the direction of the country”. He said:
What I’m interested in doing is changing the direction of our country. I want to build a better future for our children, and that’s what I think about every day.
Now, the first year I’ve had this job, I’ve brought stability and competence into government, into our country, into our economy, and that was necessary and important.
But what I want to do now is, in a series of decisions, change the direction of our country. And I believe that, if we want to do that, we have to change the way we do politics. You can’t chase the short-term headline. You’ve got to do the things that are right in the long term. That’s not going to be easy. I know I’ll get criticism and flak for it, as you’ve seen over the last day or two. But I’m not going to be deterred from doing what I think is right for the long-term future of our children.
This was interesting for two reasons. First, it’s confirmation that the net zero changes are just the first in a series of announcements Sunak is planning that will mark a break from the past.
And, second, instead of just saying he would announce reforms, he claimed it was necessary to “change the way we do politics too”. Amen to that, a lot of us might say, but Sunak did not explain what he meant beyond saying that he wanted to do things for the long term. This made it sound as if he is just just trying to adopt Keir Starmer’s argument about the country needing something more than “sticking-plaster politics”.
(Neither of them are wholly convincing on this, and Sunak’s speech yesterday did seem very motivated by the desire to achieve attractive, short-term headlines. When they start talking about raising the state pension age, increasing tax to fund decent adult social care, updating the link between council tax bands and property prices or abolishing the triple lock, you will know they are serious about making difficult announcements for the long term. But media dynamics would make this very risky, and voters might not be appreciative either.)
Sunak said the government was confident that it had the measures in place to meet its climate change targets. It was put to him that the Climate Change Committee does not agree. But Sunak said:
The secretary of state on behalf of the government under the current law has an ongoing responsibility to ensure that we do have policies and proposals in place that will allow us to meet all our international and domestic obligations, which we remain committed to. We have absolutely confidence and belief that we will hit them.
He also said the government had “consistently over-delivered in all our previous carbon budget”.
He insisted that he was not slowing down efforts to tackle the climate crisis. He said:
We’re absolutely not slowing down efforts to combat climate change. I’m very proud of our country’s leadership. We’ve decarbonise faster than any other major economy in the G7 - not a fact you hear reported that often.
He challenged his political opponents to defend policies that he said would cost families thousands of pounds. He said:
For those who disagree with me – and there are plenty of people as we can see over the last day or two, lots of people who disagree with me – the questions for them, they should explain to the country why they think it’s right that ordinary families up and down the country should have to fork out £5,000, £10,000, £15,000 to make the transition earlier than is necessary.
This was an answer that confirmed that there was a strong, party political flavour to the speech yesterday (even though Sunak explicitly denied this at the time). Soon after he finished last night CCHQ sent out a briefing to journalists headlined “Questions to Labour on net zero”.
Sunak rejected claims that in his speech he tried to take credit for blocking a series of initiatives that were never government policy anyway. When it was put to him that he was not being honest, and that he was trying to frighten people with plans that did not exist, he replied:
I reject that entirely. These are all things that have been raised by very credible people about ways to meet our net zero obligations, alongside the very substantive changes that we have announced when it comes to the transition on electric vehicles and how we heat our homes and whether people should be forced, we believe they should not be, to improve the energy efficiency in their homes.
He said the Climate Change Committee has floated some of the measures he mentioned. On a tax on meat, he said:
If you look at their report it talks about an accelerated shift away from dairy and meat. It said that diets will need to shift away. It also says we have to implement measures to bring that about.
And on compulsory car sharing, he said:
What it then says euphemistically is one would need to consider demand-side measures to bring that about, which are otherwise known as compulsion or taxes.
He rejected claims that his speech was party political. When it was put to him that his speech was “all about politics”, he replied:
Now. This is absolutely about doing what I believe to be in the long term interests of the country.
Sunak says, having brought 'stability and competence' in his first year, he now want to 'change direction of country'
Q: Is this the real you, now? Are you going to rip up other government policies, like HS2?
Sunak says he wants to “change the direction of the country”.
In his first year he has brought “stability and competence” into government.
But now he wants to change the direction of the country. He won’t be deterred from doing what he thinks is right, he says.
And that’s it. Sunak is off now. He is doing a visit this morning, where he will be speaking to broadcasters again.
Robinson quotes from Sunak’s resignation letter as chancellor, in which he said if something sounded too good to be true, it probably wasn’t true. Weren’t you doing that in the speech yesterday?
Sunak does not accept that. He says in his speech he accepted change was needed. He just want a “realistic approach”.
Sunak rejects claims his net zero speech motivated by party politics
Q: Yesterday you said in the speech this was not about politics. But shortly afterwards CCHQ put out questions for Labour. This is all about politics, isn’t it?
Sunak does not accept that.
He says he did not want to take the easy way out.
He says supporters of these measures must explain why they are necessary.
Q: You said you wanted to be honest. But you then said you were scrapping things that were not government policy. Where was the plan for a tax on meat?
Sunak says the climate change committee talked about the need for an “accelerated shift” away from eating meat.
Robinson says that is not a tax on meat.
Q: And where was the policy for compulsory car sharing?
Sunak says the CCC talked about encouraging this. And it mentioned “demand side” measures, implying compulsion.
Q: And what about the requirement for people to have seven recycling bins.
Sunak says there were calls for more recycling, implying the need for seven bins.
Q: On boilers, you are saying it will be possible to install a new gas boiler up to 2035. So they could be operating up to 2050.
Sunak says a boiler typically lasts 15 years. And 2050 is the deadline for net zero.
He says people will have to make changes.
He says 2035 is a “sensible date”.
But he says he has also introduced exemptions for households where installing a heat pump does not make sense.
Q: Ford says you have undermined consistency.
Sunak says Ford made those comments before he made his speech. Since then, other car manufacturers have been more positive.
Q: Manufacturers say they won’t have an incentive to invest.
Sunak says he does not accept that, because the targets are in line with most other major countries.
Sunak says people who disagree with him must explain why they want families to have to pay an extra £5,000, £10,000 or £15,000.
Q: No one is suggesting people will have to spend that money now.
Sunak says there were policies in place (on boilers) kicking in in just two years.
Sunak says he is confident government has policies in place to meet its climate targets
Q: People will be surprised by you saying you are not slowing down. Alok Sharma is at the UN. He was the Cop26 president, and he says there is consternation at the UN about your speech. You will encourage other countries to slow down.
Sunak says, at the G20, he made the biggest ever UK contribution to help the poorest countries to transition.
He says the UK target for decarbonisation by 2030 is 68%. He says other countries have lower targets. These are the facts that count.
Q: But people are concerned about where were are going.
Sunak says these are targets for 2030.
Q: The climate change committee monitors if the government can meet its target, and it says the UK does not have the policies in place to meet its targets.
He says the secretary of state is legally bound to ensure policies are in place to meet these targets.
Q: The CCC says you don’t.
Sunak says he is confident in his position. And he says the government has “consistently overdelivered” in meeting its climate target.
The cost of new technology is coming down. And take-up of green technologies is increasing.
Nick Robinson is interview Rishi Sunak in No 10, in the Thatcher Room.
Robinson starts by recalling Margaret Thatcher going to the UN to warn against climate change.
Q: But you have not gone to the UN this year, and you are slowing down measures on climate change?
Sunak says he is not slowing down the climate targets.
He says you cannot look at the events this summer and not think climate change is real.
But, as Thatcher would have said, it is not right to assert a goal without having a clear plan to get there, he says.
Kwasi Kwarteng says he's 'concerned' about impact of Sunak's net zero U-turn on jobs and investment
Last night Kwasi Kwarteng became the latest senior Tory to express concerns about Rishi Sunak’s speech. The former PM, Liz Truss, has strongly supported Sunak’s announcement, but Kwarteng, who was Truss’s chancellor (before he was sacked), told Newsnight that he thought it was sending out the wrong signal to investors. He said:
I was concerned about pushing out the date for ICEs phase out, the internal combustion engine.
Philip [Dunne, the Conservative chair of the environmental audit committee] mentioned the fact that there has been a huge take up for electric vehicles.
Of course there has, the target 2030 has really focused the minds of manufacturers. That is what is accelerating and driving a lot of the transition, a lot of the change. And my worry is that, if you push that out, you are sending the wrong signal.
As business secretary, I used to go to places all round the country, particularly in Sunderland in the north-east [where Nissan is based], and there was huge amounts of capital that was being deployed because they felt we had very strong and very ambitious targets and they wanted to get behind that movement.
And of course there is some concern in the party that if we relax those targets, we won’t crowd in the investment and it will be to the detriment of jobs and wealth creation.
Good morning. Politics is 98% moments of routine predictability (interesting to those of us who care about it, but not so much to others), and then perhaps 2% moments of eye-catching wow. Rishi Sunak’s speech yesterday, in which he aligned himself with the net zero sceptics, abandoned what had been a cross-party consensus, and earned himself rave reviews in the Tory papers, was in the latter category.
In his London Playbook briefing Dan Bloom says Sunak wakes up to “a political landscape shifted by his own hand”. But will it still look like that in a week’s time? And, crucially, with the polls, will it shift the dial?
Here is our overnight story.
Sunak’s move is being seen as an example of wedge politics. But wedge politics is about driving a wedge into the opposition (between what their supporters want, and what their leaders are willing to do). This wedge has hit the Conservative party, too.
At 8.10am Sunak is on the Today programme. I will be covering the interview live.
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