‘I got a lot of flack’: PM reflects on net zero reforms, says Sharma standing down ‘not linked’

Questioned this morning on his round of local radio interviews, Rishi Sunak reflected on his recently announced reforms to net zero admitting the government “got a lot of flack”.

However, he insisted that the reforms were the right thing to do, telling BBC Radio Berkshire that he does not want to pass the costs to reach net zero onto families.

When questioned on intra-Conservative party criticism of the move — which saw the 2030 deadline on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles pushed back to 2035, and the boiler phase-out by 2035 weakened — Sunak described Sir Alok Sharma, the former COP26 president, as a “good friend and colleague”.  

As chair of COP26, Sir Alok was a vocal proponent of green policies within the Conservative government and was knighted for his contributions.

Sir Alok last week called the watering down of targets “incredibly damaging for business confidence [and] for inward investment”.

He added: “frankly, I really do not believe that it’s going to help any political party electorally which chooses to go down this path”.

He also told the Observer newspaper that “rolling back on certain policies will mean we need to find emissions reductions elsewhere, if we are to meet our legally binding near term carbon budgets and our internationally committed 2030 emissions reduction target”.

Earlier this week, Sir Alok announced he would be standing down as an MP at the next election. 

Announcing his decision, the MP for Reading West said he will still “champion in parliament the causes I care deeply about, especially climate action”.

Sir Alok’s seat, which he has held since 2010, is being changed as part of the review of constituency boundaries before the next election, expected in 2024.

When questioned about Sir Alok’s decision to stand down, the PM insisted it is “absolutely not linked” to the recently announced net zero reforms. 

Writing to his constituency paper, Sir Alok said of his decision to stand down: “I have this evening informed my local Conservative Association that I have decided not to stand at the next general election and therefore do not seek to be adopted as the Conservative candidate for the revised seat of Reading West and Mid Berkshire. This has not been an easy decision for me.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve as the MP for a constituency in the town where I grew up and a privilege to serve in government and represent the UK on the international stage.”

He added: “I will continue to support my Conservative colleagues and serve my constituents diligently for the remainder of my time as an MP, as well as champion in parliament the causes I care deeply about, especially climate action.”

Sir Alok served in junior ministerial roles under Theresa May, before emerging as a key member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet, with spells as international development secretary and Business Secretary. 

He later took on responsibility for the COP26 conference early in 2020, which saw him stand down as business secretary in 2021 to allow him to focus on the conference full-time.

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