- UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is rolling back a series of climate edicts that are hurting consumers and industries.
- Sunak fears actions alleged to assist the climate are alienating the public.
- Many businesses lining up for government cash are crying foul that the government is not forcing consumers to buy their products as originally planned.
- This is similar to what President Biden is doing, i.e. spreading cash around to big businesses in the hope of buying their support.
The Brits are starting to get it right, but only after they tried everything else. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rolled back the phasing out of gas boilers into heat pumps, would not force any household to improve their insulation, announced a five-year delay in the 2030 ban on gas and diesel cars, would propose no new measures to discourage passengers from taking airplanes or to encourage car-pooling and denounced costs that people were never really told about—costs that may not actually be necessary. He said he would stick to Britain’s overall goals for achieving net zero by 2050 but would do so in what he described as a more “sensible” way. “It cannot be right for Westminster to impose such significant costs on working people,” said Mr. Sunak, referring to the seat of Britain’s government. He added, “If we continue down this path we risk losing the consent of the British people.” When a BBC reporter asked the prime minister if his decisions put him on the wrong side of history, the Prime Minister said it was his critics who must justify to all of those families up and down the country why it is right for them to find an extra £5,000, £10,000, or £15,000.
Mr. Sunak defended his position by arguing that Britain was doing more than other nations. “When our share of global emissions is less than 1 percent how can it be right that British citizens are now being told to sacrifice even more than others?” Several lawmakers and some of Britain’s newspapers praised the approach and noted that the new, delayed target of 2035 for the ban on sale of new gas and diesel cars is the same as that of the European Union. However, the Ford U.K. chair, Lisa Brankin, issued a statement regarding the delayed ban on new gas- and diesel-only cars that said: “Our business needs three things from the U.K. government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.” Auto executives have spent billions on new electric-vehicle plants in Britain but now worry they will have a hard time meeting government-mandated EV sales targets. Companies that are further behind in electric vehicle production, including Toyota, were more supportive of Sunak’s decision. All of them, and indeed all of Europe, are increasingly concerned that China is well placed to leapfrog their EV capabilities since they dominate batteries and other essential EV components.
Automakers have made significant investments in Britain to meet the 2030 deadline. In July, Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns Jaguar Land Rover, said it would build a battery plant in western England, a four-billion-pound (roughly $5 billion) project subsidized with government funds. And recently BMW announced a $750 million investment to build electric Minis in Britain. Its plans called for converting an Oxford assembly plant to produce electric vehicles exclusively by 2030. Those investments were a result of government policies forcing the transition to electric vehicles.
One critic noted that most of the policy changes — including the deadline change for the ban on gas and diesel cars — would do nothing to reduce daily costs for voters in the short term, could cost Mr. Sunak support among more centrist swing voters in the south and would cause division within his own party. Rishi faces an election in just over the year and is betting that voters are unwilling to pay a massive climate tax to achieve arbitrary green targets. Britain’s emissions have fallen by 49 percent since 1990, despite the economy growing by 75 percent during the same period. Talking to the BBC, the home secretary, Suella Braverman, stated the party’s new position: “We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people.” The opposition Labor Party, however, said it would stick with the original 2030 target, and that party is currently ahead in the opinion polls.
Britain was the first major economy to create a legally binding 2050 net zero target and its emissions have fallen over 40 percent since 1990 as coal power plants closed and offshore wind became a major generator of electricity. However, recently, an offshore wind auction failed to draw any bids as the cost of offshore wind is escalating and wind manufacturers are having to incur costs in keeping existing offshore wind turbines operating due to equipment failures. In recent weeks, the government has also cast doubt on the future of the country’s yet-to-be-built high-speed rail line.
Sunak is turning out to be the voice of sanity on climate change among world leaders. According to Sunak, he was changing the government’s climate policy because previous governments had moved too quickly to set net zero targets without securing the support of the public. That sounds familiar. Opinion polls show that Americans rank climate change 17th out of 21 national issues, yet President Biden is moving headlong into executive orders, regulations and laws pushing his climate policies. His Inflation Reduction Act, passed solely by Democrats, will cost American taxpayers over a trillion dollars as its energy transition subsidies are drawing much corporate interest. The least sane voice on climate change appears to be U.S. President Biden and his climate activist entourage.