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Rishi Sunak plans to delay ‘barely there’ net zero policies

The UK’s prime minister has come under intense scrutiny for cancelling trivial net zero policies that weren’t even in place to begin with.

Ahead of the UK’s next general election, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a radical U-turn on his government’s green policies – which many argue barely existed in the first place.

Sunak said he would delay the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars as well as the plan to phase out diesel gas boilers, citing the need to keep business booming. The ‘booming businesses’ in question are, of course, fossil fuel companies, which are uncoincidentally key financial supporters of the UK’s Conservative party.

According to a detailed investigation by the Guardian, ‘the Conservative party and its MPs have registered £1.3m in gifts and donations from climate sceptics and fossil fuel interests since the 2019 general election.’ Let’s all pretend to be shocked, shall we?

Despite this widely known alliance, the prime minister reassured the public that he remained ‘absolutely unequivocal’ about his commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. He described his new strategy as ‘more pragmatic, proportionate and realistic’ without offering any tangible details of said approach.

Does the logic behind all this sound completely ludicrous to you? If yes, you may be pleased to know that climate scientists and environmentalists agree, expressing outrage over this strange slew of decisions, calling them ‘pathetic’ and ‘full of contradiction.’

Let’s dissect in detail the PM’s announcements, as well as the criticism it’s received, and Sunak’s reaction to the scrutiny.

The future-predicting Prime Minister

A good place to start would be with Rishi’s plans for automobiles, which emit 57 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually – accounting for 50 percent of the country’s transport emissions in 2021.

To slash these, the sale of new cars fitted with a combustion engine was set to be banned by 2030. Sunak has now decided to push this date back to 2035, claiming it will save consumers money.

He attempted to justify this move further, saying that the ‘vast majority’ of cars sold by the end of this decade would be electric anyway, as electric vehicles (EVs) are getting cheaper, and people are buying more of them.

He added that this consumer behaviour should be left up to citizens, not the government.

Experts in the field of climate and environmental science wholly disagree. Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment said:

‘Delaying the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars would mean that UK drivers will remain exposed to the volatility of international oil prices, which are rising due to cuts by major producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia. The UK’s dependence on fossil fuels is costly and economically damaging.’

Rather than saving UK dwellers money, Peter Chalkley, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said delaying the ban would actually end up costing them more.

‘At the moment, 80 percent of drivers buy second-hand petrol cars that will be on the market for decades to come. Delaying this policy will push up the cost of motoring, as second-hand EVs that are much cheaper to run than petrol cars will be less available.’

Now, for the sake of entertainment, let’s imagine all goes according to the future depicted in Mr Sunak’s crystal ball.

It’s the year 2030 and EVs are dominating the market, but where are drivers charging them? The UK is notorious for its sluggish approach to installing EV charging points, with most regions lacking in supply.

On top of this, meeting the demand for EV charging power will mean the electrical grid will need updates and expansion – something Sunak is willing to admit.

That hasn’t happened yet either, unless you count the grid that supplies electricity to Rishi’s house and all its neighbours, which he personally expanded to heat his private pool.

I don’t care if you freeze

Why stop at keeping petrol and diesel cars on the road, though? Keeping millions of pounds flowing from fossil-fuel companies into the sponsorship pot of the Conservative Party won’t be that easy, you silly sausage.

For that reason, Rishi has decided to scrap existing plans to phase out the installation of gas boilers by 2035. An 80 percent phase-out of gas boilers is now the plan, with Rishi saying that the 2026 ban on off-grid oil boilers would also be delayed to 2035.

Of course, this has been framed as a way to ‘save British households money.’

Giving him some credit, the prime minister announced that grants for people under the boiler upgrade scheme would be increased by 50 percent – up to £7,500. But we can’t forget that the current cost of living crisis has been triggered by an increase in the price of natural gas.

Experts have pointed out that, had the UK had prioritised a transition to clean energy and alternatives to gas-powered central heating, millions of people across the country wouldn’t be feeling the pinch so intensely.

A cold winter will see gas prices rise once again due to increased demand, leading to higher bills for residents and businesses… and consequentially, higher inflation. Not to mention, The UK has some of the most badly insulated housing stock in Europe.

Warning winter energy bills to rise by more than expected - BBC News

On matters of insulation, Sunak will no longer require that homeowners and landlords meet energy efficiency targets. ‘Expensive insulation upgrades’ are something he has promised he will not force homeowners to do.

Previous plans intended to fine landlords who did not upgrade their properties to adhere to a certain grade of energy efficiency. These have now been dropped to save landlords the initial cost of upgrading houses they do not live in, meaning tenants will have to front the bill when they’re forced to turn up their heating.

Needless to say, this will only worsen the cost-of-living crisis for those renting flats and homes across the country. Those living in poorly insulated homes already spent £1,000 more on gas last winter according to research by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit.


‘Yes’ to wagyu steaks and private planes

Though many of these policies have not-so-discreet hidden agendas, there are two matters that Rishi Sunak is completely happy to be transparent about: meat and travel.

Sunak has confirmed his party will not set in motion policies that encourage sustainable behaviour, such as taxing airlines properly and informing the public of the carbon footprint of meat.

‘The proposal to make you change your diet and harm British farmers by taxing meat, or to create new taxes to discourage flying or going on holiday. I’ve scrapped those too,’ Rishi says, practically beaming.

He might as well have said, ‘If you’re freezing because you can’t afford to heat your home when your shitty, trust-funded landlord doesn’t insulate your home because I told them they don’t have to, just fly to Australia for the winter! That’s what all the underpaid NHS doctors are doing these days.’

Problem solved, huns x

The debate around taxing air travel and adding greenhouse gas emission labels to meat products has been ongoing, with many civil servants in government departments saying they could help citizens make sustainable choices that bring us closer to reaching net zero.

Sunak continued to tell us how else he is going to improve our lives, saying, ‘The proposal for the government to interfere in how many passengers you can have in your car – I’ve scrapped it.’

On potential changes to the UK’s current recycling scheme, Sunak said, ‘The proposal that we should force you to have seven different bins in your home – I’ve scrapped it.’

Should we be worried that the man leading the country would find the act of sorting his recycling to be a confusing and complicated thing? Better yet, should we even believe he takes out his own bins in the first place?

Don’t be surprised when you log on to Twitter and see #SevenDeadlyBins is trending in the UK.

Here come the critics!

What’s particularly mind-blowing is that none of these policies were officially set in motion in the first place. Sunak has essentially eliminated draft policies. Nothing has changed.

Tom Heap said, ‘Rishi Sunak was talking about scrapping policies which don’t actually exist – meat taxes, seven bins. Rishi Sunak was grasping for things that made it look like he was being more environmentally revolutionary than perhaps he actually was.’

Others say the massive U-turn – no matter how pointless – will make the UK’s government look untrustworthy in the eyes of investors and businesses, hurting the British economy in the long run.

‘Chopping and changing will raise serious questions with businesses who see a government who cannot be trusted to follow through on policy commitments, be they climate or otherwise,’ said Prof Lord Stern of Brentford, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

Even those across the pond have weighed in. Former US Vice President Al Gore, known for his interest in environmentalism and climate activism, kept it simple and to the point, telling Sky News that Rishi is ‘doing the wrong thing.’

On motivations behind the abandonment of theoretical green plans and the overall tone of the UK’s Conservative Party, George Monbiot explains it perfectly.

‘You cannot understand politics in this country – or indeed in any other country – without grasping an essential insight into how it works. This is called the ‘Pollution Paradox’ and it works as follows:

‘The industries and the billionaires and the oligarchs with the greatest incentive to invest in politics are those involved in the dirtiest and most anti-social businesses.

‘Those who are causing the pollution, those who are treating their workers like shit, those who are exploiting their customers, those who are dumping their costs onto society.

‘These are the people with the greatest incentive to invest in politics. Because if they don’t, they’ll be regulated out of business. This is how politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest and most antisocial companies.’

Watch the full clip below.

Rishi’s response?

Mr Sunak has denied accusations that his plan for net-zero is ‘wishful thinking’.

He says he remains ‘confident’ the UK would hit net zero by 2050. He also denied that his decisions were rooted in short-term political gain, as the Conservatives struggle to catch up with Labour in the polls.

And despite being scrutinised by members of his own party, Sunak said, ‘I know I’ll get criticism and flak but I’m not going to be deterred.’ Oh to have the unwarrantedly unwavering confidence of an ultra-privileged heterosexual man, eh?

While it’s almost impossible not to be completely outraged by the selfishness of our current leaders, there is a way out of this mess. With an election eventually coming, people have the power to vote OUT a prime minister we didn’t vote IN in the first place.

Let’s not miss our chance.