Tory Conference: PM must come clean on how dirty energy policies can deliver climate goals

Press release
Climbdowns shatter any pretence Sunak takes once-prominent climate leadership role seriously
  Published:  29 Sep 2023    |      3 minute read

       ***Friends of the Earth spokespeople available for interview or briefing throughout conference ***   

With Conservative Party Conference starting this weekend in Manchester following government U-turns on crucial green policies and a raft of new oil and gas licences, Friends of the Earth is calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to show how the sums still add up to deliver on key climate targets.  

The environmental campaign group is warning that recent moves to weaken green policies - including scrapping vital energy efficiency measures for renters and delaying the 2030 target on electric vehicles – as well as giving the green light to the colossal new Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Sea, throw its ability to meet legally binding UK climate targets and global goals into doubt.   

The Prime Minister’s recent rollbacks have been met with criticism from businesses, climate scientists and global onlookers, creating much discontent even within his own party. Unveiled the same day Mr Sunak missed high profile UN climate talks in New York, his government’s climbdowns have shattered any pretence the UK is taking its once-prominent climate leadership role seriously, while undermining collaborative international efforts to effectively respond to climate change.  

Friends of the Earth agrees with the Prime Minister that fairness should be at the heart of climate policymaking, but his proposals will undoubtedly cost the nation – already hard-pressed by a brutal cost of living crisis – much more in the long run. By scrapping energy efficiency measures for rented homes, tenants will miss out on over £1bn in savings on their sky-high bills annually, while delaying the phase out of gas boilers, also announced, will keep households hooked on expensive gas for longer.  

The move also deals a blow to the UK’s economic prosperity, by failing to take advantage of the huge opportunity presented by the green transition and the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that could be created in emerging clean industries. It puts the UK well behind other countries, including the US and the EU, that are already establishing themselves as leaders in the industries of tomorrow.  

Last week, Friends of the Earth lawyers wrote to the government seeking urgent clarification on how Mr Sunak’s decision to weaken environmental policies will impact its existing legal challenge on the government’s climate action plan. Further litigation is an option.  

Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said: 

"The Prime Minister’s unravelling of vital climate policies last week was made up of exactly the cheap ploys and short-termism he railed against. 

“In one fell swoop he’s put not just UK, and international, climate progress at stake, but dismantled crucial measures during a cost of living crisis that would actually help people hold on to more of their hard-earned cash. What’s more, he’s undermined business confidence and failed to harness the huge green growth potential of transitioning to a zero carbon future.    

“Friends of the Earth has successfully taken the government to court once - we’re willing to do it again if these new proposals fall short. We urge the Prime Minister to come clean on how his reckless policy reversals can possibly deliver on our climate goals.” 

Friends of the Earth is of the view that the government’s current climate action strategy - the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP) - is too risky and will not deliver on legally-binding carbon budgets. The government’s own climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), found only credible plans for less than a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to meet them. Friends of the Earth mounted its legal challenge over the strategy, alongside ClientEarth and Good Law Project, earlier this year. 

 Despite assurances the Prime Minister is committed to the UK’s climate goals, it remains unclear how they will feasibly be met, with a government press release stating only that it “will bring forward comprehensive new reforms in due course.” 

Friends of the Earth lawyers will carefully study any revised plans for meeting UK carbon budgets, and stand ready to take further legal action if the Prime Minister’s sums fail to add up. The environmental group urges the Prime Minister to set out how his government will ensure they do so at his party’s upcoming annual conference.  



Notes to editors:  

1. Friends of the Earth spokespeople will be available for interview or briefing throughout the conference.  

2. A briefing on Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge over the government’s climate action plan can be viewed here