According to recent news, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is contemplating stepping back from key environmental commitments which may result in a potential delay in the proposed ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030-2035 and relaxing the plan to prohibit new household gas boilers from 2035. We caught up with our Sustainability Adviser, Philip Chapman to find out his thoughts on what this major U-turn announcement on the government’s climate change commitment means.
“When Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced a press conference on Wednesday 20 September to update the nation on the UK’s Net Zero policy, there was widespread speculation that he would pull back on a number of the government’s committed targets.
“This speculation turned out to be true, and two of these announcements have sparked heated discussion within the green energy industry:
• The ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be moved back to 2035
• The ban on new fossil fuel boilers for certain households will be delayed while cash grants for boiler upgrade schemes (to install heat pumps) will increase by 50% to £7,500 for those who want to transition now.
“The decision to delay the 2030 ban on the sales of new, fully petrol and diesel cars, was previously announced by Mr Sunak’s predecessor, Boris Johnson. Some in the car industry have warned that delaying the ban could hit investment and therefore Electric Vehicle (EV) sales. According to the Climate Change Committee, nearly 17% of new cars were battery-electric, with sales in the UK exceeding previous expectations.
“Mr Sunak says it should be the consumer who decides whether to buy an EV and not the ‘government forcing you to do it’. He also says the new plan is in line with countries including Germany, France, Spain, and Canada. However, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU),an independent climate change think tank, points out that nobody is being forced to take up these measures right now.
“For example, the planned ban on the sale of new gas boilers was due to start in 2035 for all households but itis only relevant when your boiler breaks down or if you choose to switch. It is a similar story with cars. Research shows that four out of five of us buy second-hand cars, for which there is no phase-out date, and older cars can continue to be driven after 2030.
“The reaction to this backtrack has caused some strong responses in the industry. Ford has said any relaxation of the 2030 target would undermine the government’s ‘ambition, commitment and consistency’, all of which are key to its manufacturing plans.
Reacting to the Government’s policy changes on heat decarbonisation, Charlotte Lee, Chief Executive of the Heat Pump Association, said: “The Government has once again moved the goalposts for heat decarbonisation in the UK, and this risks damaging investors, installers and consumer confidence in this space unless this re-confirmed end date for fossil fuel boilers is strengthened from being an “ambition” to being a firm commitment.
“The delay is yet another blow to the heating industry’s confidence in Government policy as stakeholders – including boiler manufacturers, have invested in good faith in manufacturing facilities, training and innovation to support heat pump deployment in keeping with the Government’s election manifesto and Heat and Buildings Strategy Commitments – particularly in line with the now abandoned end-date of 2026 for fossil fuel boilers off the gas grid.
“Moreover, introducing and justifying possible exemptions by suggesting that many homes are not suitable for a heat pump is not supported by the most recent findings of Government-funded heat pump field trials. Consumers and installers may now adopt a damaging “wait and see” approach based on incorrect information, thereby delaying the inevitable transition to decarbonising heat.”
“Heat pumps will play a crucial role in the way the UK will warm their homes over the next 20 years. As the technology is implemented more and more, the costs will start to come down. We saw this with solar panels in the 2010s.
“At Fisher German, we welcome the increase in subsidy for switching to heat pumps and as with all walks of life, education is so important and there is a lot of misinformation and bad press around them. The industry needs more investment, and the number of qualified and quality installers needs to be increased exponentially to meet future demand. Within our green energy and sustainability team, we work with our partners and clients to bring their net zero plans to realisation.”
Darren Edwards, our Head of Green Energy and Sustainability concludes: “Clarity and certainty in government policy are critical to aid long-term net zero carbon reduction strategies. Uncertainty on any level harms investment and opportunity. We saw this on numerous occasions through the FIT and RHI schemes and it is concerning the goalposts are being moved again.
“If the Government is serious about climate change and wants to see the UK as a climate leader, they need to be bold and ambitious in their policy. Back-tracking on their net zero policy is not ‘good optics’.”
Our sustainable strategists and team of sustainable renewable energy specialists focus on helping those facilitating the green energy project or looking to improve their sustainability. Find out more about our green energy and sustainability consultancy service by clicking here.