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PM’s re-think on emissions targets inspired by EU changes

An oil boiler ban would prevent all new oil boiler sales to homes in off-the-grid areas – that is homes without access to mains gas – by 2026. It was part of the Government’s plan to speed up its route to net zero emissions by 2050.

The oil boiler ban would force households who cannot use mains gas boilers – primarily those in rural areas – to look to alternatives, mainly those in the Government’s energy efficiency proposals, meaning heat pumps.

Some are arguing that such a ban on oil boilers would cause real hardship for may people and that the ditching of the target would be a pragmatic move, though there is opposition to these changes even among Tory MPs.

It has also recently been announced that fines for landlords who have not upgraded their properties to a minimum rating of “C” by 2025 for existing and 2028 for new tenancy deadlines are not likely to be imposed.

Newspaper reports say that the PM, Rishi Sunak, plans to delay the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars until 2035 and slow the phasing out of gas and oil boilers – but he still plans to hit the Net Zero target by 2050

By scaling back the Government’s green pledges, by delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, and by slowing the phase-out of gas and oil boilers, it is argued, would relieve pressure on both consumers and manufacturers.

Impact on households

Any move such as this is seen as a direct response to concerns about the high cost of the Government’s pledged green initiatives and their impact on households, and of course landlords. There is as yet to be any firm announcements on this or any delays to the Government’s targets on meeting stricter EPC ratings for rental homes.

There is likely to be further news later this week when it is excepted that PM Rishi Sunak will argue for a more pragmatic approach to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but emphasising that this goal can still be met without imposing overly burdensome changes on the public.

Into line with EU

These potential changes would bring into line the UK with the EU’s decision to delay the petrol and diesel ban deadline to 2035 and relax targets for gas boilers and other energy efficiency regulations.

This move will bring political controversy as, while there is some support for suggested these adjustments, there will be vocal support against as others worry they may undermine environmental commitments and economic growth.

German manufacturers influence

The European Union and Germany reached an agreement in March allowing some internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to be sold beyond 2035. A vote on phasing out petrol and diesel cars in the EU by 2030 was delayed due to luxury car manufacturing centre Germany’s intervention.

However, at the time the UK Government said it would maintain its ban on the sale of new ICE cars and vans from 2030, ruling out an expensive e-fuels as an alternative. Some countries, including Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, opposed the ban, while Austria supported Germany’s stance.

The EU’s deal with Germany did not change the existing regulation but allowed cars running exclusively on e-fuels to count toward CO2 targets. Net Zero Watch at the time called on the UK to reconsider its 2030 ICE car ban in light of the EU’s decision.

The EU law will require all new cars sold to have zero CO2 emissions from 2035, and 55% lower CO2 emissions from 2030, versus 2021 levels. The targets are designed to drive the rapid decarbonisation of new car fleets in Europe.

PM plans a speech

Meanwhile, the UK Prime Minister will set out the changes in a speech in which it is said he will recommit to hitting ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, a target already enshrined in law.

But he will argue that the goal can be met with a more ‘pragmatic’ approach that does not force onerous changes on the public.

A political move?

Government ministers believe the move could transform Tory fortunes as it will assist struggling households during what has been dubbed a cost of living crisis.

Mr Sunak has been quoted as saying that “governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade-offs, Instead they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all.”

“This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change. We are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way. Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment,” the PM said.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that he has planned a speech on these issues in which he is expected to argue that further changes will be “realistic and pragmatic”.

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