UK Faces Backlash Over Climate Policy Rollbacks

European MEPs criticise the UK’s Climate Policy Shift

In a recent announcement, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to backtrack on key climate policies has drawn sharp criticism from European politicians across the ideological spectrum. Sunak unveiled a plan to delay the ban on new combustion engine cars from 2030 to 2035, weaken the target for ending new gas boiler installations by 2035, and remove energy efficiency targets for homeowners and landlords.

A ‘Suicidal Decision’

Leading the chorus of disapproval, Javi López, a Spanish MEP representing the center-left group, condemned the move as a “suicidal decision.” He argued that today’s efforts to combat climate change are essential for tomorrow’s competitiveness.

Accusations of Becoming a ‘Climate Villain’

Michael Bloss, a German MEP affiliated with the Greens, accused Rishi Sunak of becoming a leader in the “fossil backlash.” Bloss asserted that the UK was risking its international reputation as a climate leader and described these policy shifts as detrimental to both the planet and the UK’s economy.

Investor Confidence and Competitiveness Concerns

Bloss further warned that these policy changes could deter investors from modernising the UK’s industry, just as the US, the EU, and China strive to lead in clean technology.

Pioneering Role in Climate Policy

Peter Liese, a German MEP aligned with the center-right group, expressed concerns about the UK’s pioneering role in international climate policy, emphasising the importance of alternative proposals when discontinuing certain measures.

Green Deal Evolution in the EU

While these developments in the UK raised concerns, a senior diplomat from Eastern Europe noted that they seemed to align with a broader trend on the continent. The European Union has been undergoing a shift, with a more pragmatic and industry-focused approach to its Green Deal.

Aligning with EU Targets

Rishi Sunak’s decision to push back the combustion engine car ban aligns the UK with EU targets. Sunak expressed his expectation that the majority of new car sales would be electric by 2035 due to their increasing affordability.

Industry Ambitions and Regulatory Certainty

Despite this alignment, Julia Poliscanova, Senior Vehicles Director at Transport and Environment, a nonprofit organisation, criticised the lack of regulatory certainty in Sunak’s announcement, highlighting the importance of consistency for the green industry.

Historical Responsibility and Emission Reductions

The UK, historically one of the largest emitters of planet-heating gases, faces scrutiny over its climate record. Sunak defended the UK’s efforts, stating that it had “over-delivered” on all its targets to date. However, environmental experts dispute this claim, emphasising the UK’s significant historical responsibility for countering climate change.

A Lesson for Other Countries

Hanna Fekete, co-founder of the environmental research organisation NewClimate Institute, expressed disappointment in seeing the UK weaken its climate policies, considering it a potential source of inspiration for other nations, particularly in areas like phasing out household boilers and ending fossil fuel car sales.

In the face of these criticisms, the UK’s stance on climate policy is under intense scrutiny, with implications for its environmental credibility and international standing.

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