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Rishi Sunak to weaken UK climate targets as election approaches

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was preparing Wednesday to weaken key goals in the country’s efforts to slow climate change, in what could be a crucial policy shift for a country that claims to be the world leader in the fight against global warming.

After British media reported the changes, Mr Sunak issued a statement on Tuesday evening saying that while he remained committed to his ambition of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, he was now aiming to achieve that target in a “better, more proportionate way. He also said politicians across the political spectrum “have not been honest about the costs and trade-offs” of environmental policies.

His statement did not deny speculation that he planned seven new measures for Britain, including a delay to 2035, from 2030, of the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, and a weakening of phase-out targets. gas boilers. He promised to address the issue in more detail in a speech later this week.

Mr Sunak must call a general election by January 2025, and his Conservative Party is trailing the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls at a time of sluggish economic growth and high inflation. But in July, the Conservatives scored a surprise victory in a parliamentary election in north-west London when they campaigned against moves by the city’s Labor mayor to extend a health quality initiative. air tax that imposes taxes on drivers of older, more polluting vehicles.

This political context suggests that a change in climate policy and a desire to avoid financial burdens on voters could be designed to establish a dividing line with Labor ahead of the general election.

British media suggested Mr Sunak was also due to say in his speech that there would be no new energy efficiency rules for homeowners or landlords, nor measures to encourage carpooling, and no new taxes that would discourage air transport. The Prime Minister could also rule out increased recycling requirements.

Yet any weakening of climate-related measures poses a risk as public awareness of global warming grows after Europe experienced record temperatures and devastating wildfires and floods this year. summer.

The moment was also shocking internationally, as the United Nations General Assembly discusses climate protection policy. Earlier this year, the body’s secretary-general, António Guterres, warned that the era of global warming was over and “the era of global boiling has arrived.” Mr Sunak was notably absent from the meeting, sending his deputy prime minister to New York on his behalf.

Mr Sunak’s Conservative Party is also divided on the issue. While several party MPs welcomed the new approach, others were critical. Chris Skidmore, a Conservative lawmaker, told the BBC the changes were “potentially the biggest mistake” of Mr Sunak’s term so far, adding that “the net zero target presents a benefit, not a cost” .

Perhaps worst of all for Mr Sunak was the angry response from Ford UK, whose chairman, Lisa Brankin, issued a statement regarding the delayed ban on new petrol and diesel cars which said: “Our business needs three things from the British government: ambition, commitment and consistency. An easing by 2030 would undermine these three elements.”

Supporters of Mr Sunak’s policy changes say the delay allowed Britain to align with European Union policies.

“I have long called on the government to make the common-sense decision to delay the planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars,” wrote Karl McCartney, a Conservative MP, on the social platform X, formerly known as the name of Twitter. “Just like countries like France and Germany did.”

And Home Secretary Suella Braverman told the BBC on Wednesday: “We are not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people. »

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nytimes

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