The United Kingdom may be a global leader in renewable energy on at least one front, but its top politician is catching flak for abdicating the country’s climate responsibility.
In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the country would not ban new combustion-engine cars until 2035, would change the ban on new gas boilers to phase out only 80% by 2035, and would not require homeowners and landlords to meet energy efficiency targets, the Guardian reported. The combustion-engine ban had been slated for 2030.
Members of the European Parliament were up in arms, as the Guardian noted only seven countries have produced more carbon dioxide pollution than the UK since 1850 — and all are more populated.
Britain is home to seven of the 10 largest wind farms in the world, but this is not the first time Sunak has been caught backtracking on the topic of energy sustainability.
Later that month, Australian billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest told Bloomberg News he was prepared to pull his investments from the country if he thought Sunak was “steering [it] over a cliff backing fossil fuel.”
Sunak may have room before he becomes a top climate villain — a title bestowed on Rupert Murdoch — but he’s climbing the ladder, at least in the minds of some.
“Rishi Sunak is becoming the leader of the fossil backlash,” German MEP Michael Bloss said. “He is making the UK a climate villain and destroying its international reputation as a climate leader. These policies are destructive for the planet, which is already boiling, and they will be negative for the UK’s economy.
“While the U.S., the EU and China engage in a race to become leaders in clean technology, these decisions will scare off investors from modernising the UK’s industry.”
Spanish MEP Javi López echoed that sentiment, saying the watered-down net-zero policies were a “suicidal decision.”
Sunak said the new tack was to save Britons money, but the Guardian reported the Office for Budget Responsibility showed relying on gas would be more than twice as costly as reaching the level of zero carbon pollution.
“Climate change will continue until we reach net zero globally, and we will then have to suffer the consequences of that warmer world for decades or more,” University of Reading climate science professor Ed Hawkins said. “It also matters how we reach net zero, not just when — delaying action means more emissions, which means more severe consequences.”
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