Conservative MPs divided over Rishi Sunak’s reported ‘pragmatic’ weakening of net zero pledges

Conservative MPs have been split by their reaction to the BBC report that the Prime Minister is considering weakening key commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The report suggests that Rishi Sunak will delay the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 and that the phasing out of gas boilers may also be delayed in a speech due to be given at some point this week.

In response to the report, Mr Sunak has said: “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.”

He added: “I know people are frustrated with politics and want real change. Our political system rewards short-term decision-making that is holding our country back. For too many years politicians in 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.”

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman told Times Radio she “commends” Sunak for making “difficult” decisions on net zero.

Ms Braverman also told Sky News: “We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people.”

The former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg endorsed the reported proposals on GB News, saying: “Taking burdens off the backs off taxpayers during an inflationary period is the right thing to do, and could prove an election-winning strategy.”

The BBC report comes just a day after former Prime Minister Liz Truss delivered a speech at the Institute for Government  in which she called on Mr Sunak to water down net zero commitments, including delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles.

Many within the Conservative party hope that weakening net zero commitments will help them in the upcoming general election after their by-election victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where a large part of the campaign was dedicated to fighting the Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion in London.

However, the former Conservative energy minister Chris Skidmore is concerned that changes to net zero plans could in fact have the opposite effect, calling it “potentially the greatest mistake of his premiership” on BBC Newsnight.

He added: “If this is true, the decision will cost the UK jobs, inward investment and future economic growth that could have been ours by committing to the industries of the future. It will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere.”

Reacting to the news Alok Sharma, the President for COP26, wrote on X: “For any party to resile from this agenda will not help economically or electorally.”

The Guardian reports that it has seen evidence that some Conservative MPs are privately discussing sending letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister in response to the news.

The reported changes to the climate change pledges come after a series of intense heatwaves this summer, leading the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to declare the era of global warming has ended and “the era of global boiling has arrived”.

Guterres added: “It is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, and avoid the very worst of climate change. But only with dramatic, immediate climate action”.