UK tech reacts to Sunak delaying net zero policies

prime minister net zero Image credit: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pushed back a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035 in a slew of changes that investors have said will “undermine” the UK’s net zero targets.

The ban on new petrol and diesel car sales will be pushed back from 2030 to 2035, while there will be “far more time” to transition from gas boilers to heat pumps.

Sunak said the government remains committed to meeting its 2050 net zero pledge.

Leaks of the announcements had already drawn strong criticism from business leaders, including Ford and EON.

Sunak said on Wednesday afternoon that “investors should have absolute confidence that… the UK will remain the best place in the world to invest in the green industries of the future”.

Richard Burrett, chief sustainability officer at clean technology investor Earth Capital, told UKTN that Britain is “struggling” to secure international capital and fighting with US and EU net zero programmes.

He added: “Any weakening of the policy signals by the current government will undermine much of the positive work currently being undertaken. Perhaps our government should focus on the long-term socio-economic interest of the UK economy rather than the next election.”

Becky Lane, co-founder and CEO of Furbnow, a company that improves home energy efficiency, described the decision as “completely wrong for the UK and the planet”.

Lane added: “This walkback will mean that the preparations made by incumbents and new entrants in the net zero transition will be undermined and the potential for economic growth, and new jobs, in the green sector will be significantly impacted.”

By moving the electric vehicle deadline to 2035, Quentin Willson, founder of FairCharge believes the government is endangering “billions in investment and thousands of jobs”.

Willson referred to automotive brands such as Ford who are asking for “policy certainty” and agrees with Burrett that the government is prioritising “short-term electoral gain”.

“Sunak must ignore the siren calls of a coven of fossil fuel-supporting backbenchers and listen to the global investment community instead,” Wilson said.

Despite the petrol and diesel ban being delayed by five years, “climate change is happening” said Dr David Bott, principal fellow at WMG University of Warwick. Bott added that “transport contributes a significant proportion of those emissions”.

Ben Nelmes, CEO of New Automotive, a nonprofit, said: “Clear communication from the industry will give consumers the confidence to make the switch away from petrol and diesel cars and speed up the UK’s inevitable transition to electric.”

Diane Gilpin, CEO and founder of Smart Green Shipping, said: “While the economic climate means there are tough decisions to be made, slowing down the net zero transition is a poor economic response to address the climate emergency.”

Alongside the watered-down net zero policies, the prime minister announced additional support. They include a new £150m green technology fund, called the “Green Future fellowship”, to fund at least 50 scientists and engineers to “develop real breakthrough green technologies”.