I have had a number of constituents contact me about the speech made by the Prime Minister yesterday, where he announced that the Government would be changing the way we are working towards our net zero targets.
I know there is concern that the Prime Minister is back tracking on our commitments to net zero, however I want to assure my constituents that this is not the case. It is, in my view, not right, to take the stance that moving at anything other than break neck speed invalidates the real progress that is being made. We too often debate our politics in polarised, black and white terms – it is time to recognise that these big issues are more nuanced than this and a more mature debate is needed.
The changes do not jeopardise our trajectory towards Net Zero – indeed they put us on par with Europe and ahead of many countries around the world. What they do is ensure that our journey can be done in a way which is sympathetic to the struggles of families, often in rural communities, who need support to make the change. I have families in my constituency who are off the gas grid, live in houses which are not suitable for heat pumps due to their construction, even with significant investment. One can take a purist argument and say that people should live in well insulated modern homes with zero emission heating, but many don’t and should not be forced to be cold, face financial ruin, or leave their homes.
The Prime Minister was extremely clear in his statement, which I would encourage my constituents to read in full if they have not done so, that we cannot move towards net zero by simply wishing it and ignoring the impact or practicality of any changes. We need a plan which takes people with us, accepts that banning things is simply not the best way to promote change, and takes account of the economic constraints facing families at a time that alternatives remain costly, often problematic, and still reliant on expensive imports which have significant environmental impact. The Government is committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements the UK has made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.
There is nothing to stop anyone who can afford to make changes to do so – indeed the government has increased the amount of money that they will pay towards a heat pump installation from £5,000 to £7,500 which is one of the most generous schemes in the world. What the changes mean is that people who cannot change due to technological or environmental issues, or who cannot afford to change, will not be forced to do so for a few more years. The same applies to electric cars.
The UK has set the most ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels – and is the only major economy to have set a target of 77 per cent for 2035. This follows progress over the past decades to cut emissions faster than any other G7 country, with the UK having already slashed emissions by 48 per cent, compared to 41 per cent, in Germany, 23 per cent in France and no change at all in the United States. Because of the progress we have already made, the UK’s share of global emissions is now less than 1% – and it is because of this over-delivery on reducing emissions that we have the space to take a more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach to reaching net zero.
I believe it is important that we meet our international agreements and promises, but the Prime Minister is right to ensure that we do so in a way that takes the burden off working people and families across the country who are facing financial pressures.