Sunak Scales Back UK’s Green ‘Net Zero’ Agenda over ‘Unacceptable’ Costs to Working Families

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talks while a holding press conference on net zero policy change at Downing Street on September 20, 2023 in London, England. The Prime Minister has announced the postponement of several “green” targets, including a delay of the ban on selling …
Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his Tory government will scale back some of the green agenda policies that have become a staple of the neo-liberal Conservative party, arguing that families should not be forced to endure “unacceptable costs” to meet Net Zero goals.

In a speech from Downing Street, Mr Sunak said on Wednesday evening that his government will push back the ban on the sale of new petrol and deisel cars from 2030 to 2050, as well as delaying a scheduled prohibition on gas and oil home boilers.

Taking on two pillars of the Great Reset green agenda, Sunak went on to announce that he has scrapped proposals to tax meat and air travel, in addition to abandoning plans to limit the number of people allowed in a car.

Branding the new guidelines a “new approach to Net Zero”, the PM said: “Reaching our targets does not need to come unnecessarily at the expense of people facing higher costs – and that’s why today we can ease the burden on working families.”

Despite the scaling back, Mr Sunak claimed that the intention is to see the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, saying: ““Why am I confident in saying that? Because over the last decade so far, we’ve massively over-delivered on every one of our carbon budgets, despite regular predictions we’d miss them.”

Ahead of the speech, Brexit’s Nigel Farage described the move as the “biggest u-turn on environmental and net-zero policies for the Conservative Party in three decades

The Brexiteer said that outraged environmentalists need to get a “sense of perspective” noting that the emissions produced by a single Chinese firm, Huaneng Power International, are reportedly nearly equivalent to the total output of the United Kingdom.

“We are, in terms of global CO2, nothing more than a minnow,” Farage said.

However, some members of the Conservative Party, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, criticised the move from Sunak.

In a statement provided to The Telegraph, Johnson said that the UK “cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country.”

“This country leads on tackling climate change and in creating new green technology. The green Industrial Revolution is already generating huge numbers of high-quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country.

The former PM, who despite his formerly self-professed libertarian leanings became a champion of the green agenda during his time in office, added that the backtrack would imperil businesses who have already made investments based upon the government’s plan.

Johnson was joined in criticising Sunak by the left-wing Labour Party, which is currently leading the Conservatives by some 20 points in the polls amid the economic calamity spurred by years of covid lockdowns and the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed warned: “If we still allow petrol vehicles to be sold at that point we’re not going to hit our net zero targets for the 2030s.

“That means we’ll miss the net targets for 2050, by which we’re supposed to have a fully carbon-free economy. But worse than that we would deter the inward investment we need to really turbocharge that sector of the economy, which is where the big new jobs of the future will be.

“Britain could lead the world in this, but the Government’s decided to throw that out of the window, and it will actually cost British consumers more because it costs more to fill up a car with petrol than it would be to power with electricity. So everyone is a loser from what Rishi Sunak has announced.”

The Prime Minister rejected that his announcement amounted to “watering down” the green agenda, saying: “We are forecast and we have committed to reduce our carbon emissions by 2030 to 68 per cent. There is no other advanced economy in the world who comes close to that kind of commitment. That’s a commitment we’re sticking to.

“If someone thinks that what we’re doing is not ambitious enough, I don’t know what they’d say to every other country in the world.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter: or e-mail to:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.