Britain has pushed back plans to switch to electric cars and vans by five years to 2035 along with a swathe of other measures to decarbonize the country. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Sept. 21 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back a planned ban on gasoline and diesel fuel vehicles to 2035.
The ban on sales of new gas and diesel vehicles will be pushed back five years from its original planned start date in 2030, bringing Britain in step with Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Sweden and some U.S. states, Sunak said in a speech on Wednesday.
Motorists will, as under the original ban, still be permitted to buy and sell used gasoline and diesel cars and vans after the cut-off date, meaning fossil fuel-burning vehicles could still be on British roads after the 2050 Net Zero target.
Sunak insisted he was not watering down the government's climate change commitments, saying he wanted to bring people with him and not risk losing the whole green argument by forcing expensive upfront costs onto already struggling consumers.
"People are already choosing electric vehicles to such an extent that we're registering a new one every 60 seconds. But I also think that at least for now, it should be you the consumer that makes that choice, not government forcing you to do it," said Sunak.
He also ditched plans to begin phasing in a ban on domestic gas heating boilers in 2025 requiring new homes to be fitted with electric-powered heat pumps and so-called "off grid" homes switching out oil, LPG or coal-fired heating systems to do the same starting in 2026, kicking the plans down the road to 2035.
Owners of existing homes switching out gas boilers can replace them with any system they like until 2035.
Sunak said the country needed a "fairer, better approach" to decarbonizing the way homes were heated that did not involve imposing costs on hard-pressed families, at a time when technology remains expensive and unworkable in some types of houses.
Forcing people to stump up as much as $12,300 to install a heat pump would be counterproductive, he said, and the delay would allow time for the price to come down as the technology advanced and through economies of scale.
"Even the most committed advocates of Net Zero must recognize that if our solution is to force people to pay that kind of money support will collapse, and we'll simply never get there."
Arguing that the correct approach was more carrot less stick, Sunak announced boiler replacement grants would be increased from $6,150 to $9,220 and a new exemption for ow income households.
Also scrapped were plans to insulate homes from 2025 at an average cost of $9,830 to make them more energy efficient, with Sunak pledging the government would continue to provide grants for the work and "never force any household to do it."
The plan had helped bring his Conservative Party to power and was a key plank of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ambitious plan to achieve Net Zero by 2050.
Opposition Labor strongly rebuked Sunak's rolling back of the decarbonizing targets, saying it would re-instate the original ban on diesel and gas cars and vans and pledged to make Britain a "Clean Energy Superpower" by 2030 if it wins a general election due to be held by the end of 2024.
Shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband called Sunak's move "an act of weakness from a desperate, directionless prime minister, dancing to the tune of a small minority of his party.
"Liz Truss crashed the economy and Rishi Sunak is trashing our economic future," he wrote in Twitter.
"Having delivered the worst cost of living crisis in years, the PM today loads more costs onto the British people. Delaying the phase-out of new ICE cars will add billions in costs to families and damage investor confidence, as we have seen from the furious business reaction," said Milliband.