Net zero should not be about ‘hairshirt’ policies, says Sunak

Achieving net zero must be about focusing on jobs and growth rather than so-called “hairshirt” policies that raise bills, the Prime Minister has said.

Rishi Sunak has recently made moves to curb green policies after the Conservatives pulled off a shock by-election victory in Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The Tories cited Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan’s widening of the ultra low emission zone (Ulez) as the deciding factor in their win.

The Ulez scheme, which since August covers all London boroughs, means vehicles that do not meet emissions standards incur a daily charge of £12.50.

Since the July by-election result, Mr Sunak has argued he is on the side of motorists and used a visit to Scotland this summer to announce plans to grant more than 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

Speaking to reporters at his hotel in New Delhi where he is attending the G20 summit, the Prime Minister said: “Net zero done in the right way can be very beneficial for jobs.

“And that is what we want to make sure that the story is about.

“The net zero story for me shouldn’t be a kind of hairshirt story of giving everything up and your bills going up.

“That is not the vision of net zero that I think is the right one for the UK.”

The Tory leader said he stood by the principle of achieving a net zero carbon emission country by 2050 but that policies to reach that goal must look to “spread opportunity”.

He added: “The vision of net zero that I think commands the most support and is the right one is one that recognises that it is important for our kids and our grandkids and the environment to leave it in a better state than we found it, I believe that.

“But we need to do that in a way that creates jobs for people and spreads opportunities.

“This is about: how can we develop new technology for small modular reactors in the UK? How can we make sure that electric batteries continue to get better and better?

“If we can make it a story about jobs and opportunity and reducing bills, then that is the positive way to use net zero as a way to further drive growth.”