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‘Pragmatic’ approach needed on net zero, says new Energy Secretary

The new Energy Secretary has said that “pragmatic policies” are needed to get the UK to net zero.

It comes amid reports, in both The Sun and the Mail on Sunday, that the Prime Minister is carrying out an “audit” of net zero policies ahead of the next general election.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly deployed the language of pragmatism and proportionality when discussing net zero, but campaigners and activists have charged him with a disinterest in climate policies.

Writing in The Sun, Claire Coutinho echoed much of the Prime Minister’s language as she attacked Labour and said that policies had to “take people with you”.

She said: “Despite the huge progress this Government has made, we in the UK only account for one per cent of global emissions.

“Put simply, we can’t do this alone, and hard-working families should not be forced to change their lives or have extra financial burdens put on them.

“That’s what Labour don’t understand though — you can’t punish people to reach net zero — you have to take people with you.”

Tory success in the summer’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, won largely through a campaign against the expansion of the ultra low emission zone (Ulez), has led to some MPs to call for Mr Sunak to water down or abandon net zero pledges.

While Mr Sunak has repeatedly said he is committed to cutting carbon emissions, the granting of new oil and gas licences and recent moves to curb green policies have attracted criticism.

Ms Coutinho said: “I understand that we cannot achieve anything if it’s done just by forcing people to stop doing the things they want to do, like going abroad on holiday.

“To do this would be unconservative and it is against everything I stand for.

“Our duty as Conservatives is to put forward pragmatic policies that take people with us.”