RISHI Sunak is coming under pressure from the right of his party to rethink the UK’s climate commitments, with the Scottish Greens saying the UK Government "can't be trusted" with the environment. 

According to The Times, after the Conservatives’ victory in last week’s Uxbridge & South Ruislip by-election there are tensions within both the Tories and Labour about the cost of environmental policies - with the expansion of London’s Ulez emissions scheme widely blamed for Labour’s loss.

Tory MPs are demanding a radical rethink of net-zero policies, with former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for a delay to the 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and the end of green levies on energy bills.

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He told GB News: “What works is getting rid of unpopular, expensive green policies and that’s a real opportunity for us.

“I would get rid of things that apply direct costs. Having a long-term ambition for net zero is different.”

The PM is said to be sticking with the 2030 date as well as the overall aim of achieving net zero by 2050.

However, the newspaper reports that he has not prioritised these issues. One person who has worked closely with Sunak told the newspaper: “He’s just not interested in it. He’s not opposed to it – he’s just not interested.”

Another said: “The PM thinks we’ve got to take the public with us on this. You can’t impose on people.”

In response to the reports, Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell told The National: “Time and again the Tories have shown that they can’t be trusted with our environment. The world is burning around us, but they are doubling down on fossil fuels and seem opposed to making even the most basic changes.

“Net-zero targets are meaningless if you refuse to take any action to meet them. We need bold and urgent climate action, but what they are offering is even more climate wrecking oil and gas exploration while trying to use our climate as part of their cynical culture war.

“We only have to look to Greece and other European countries to see the crisis on our doorsteps.

“We won’t have any second chances. All governments need to be recognising the severity of the situation, but Downing Street is refusing to do the bare minimum.”

Some of the policy changes being considered include the “Aston Martin exemption” to the 2030 deadline, which would give small carmakers longer to convert to electric vehicles in England.

A government source said: “The strategy doesn’t change but the tactics might do. We are looking at unpopular stuff that’s not really delivering.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove (below) signalled yesterday that landlords would have longer to adapt to rules requiring rental properties to have at least a C energy efficiency rating.

The National: Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove said council staff should work similar five-day patterns to taxpayers (Lucy North/PA)

A 2025 deadline for new tenancies and 2028 cut-off for existing leases will be delayed, it is understood.

Elsewhere, Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK could “max out” North Sea oil and gas reserves and still hit net-zero carbon emissions on time.

Local government minister Lee Rowley told Times Radio it was important to “tread more lightly on Earth” but to do so “in a way which works”.

He added: “What Uxbridge shows is that we have to do this in a careful manner.”

What has Rishi Sunak said? 

Following the initial reports, Sunak has said that he does not want to add to the pressure households are experiencing from high inflation amid the challenge to get the UK to net zero on carbon emissions by 2050.

He told reporters in Worcestershire: “I’m standing up for the British people because I’m also cognisant that we’re living through a time where inflation is high.

“So, yes, we’re going to make progress towards net zero, but we’re going to do that in a proportionate and pragmatic way that doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives – that’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”

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Asked whether he is continuing with the target for banning new fossil fuel car sales, Sunak insisted: “We’re going to keep making progress towards our net zero ambitions”. He did not explicitly back it.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later said it “remains our commitment”, but added: “It is right that, if the situation changes and new technology evolves, we keep our approach under review and make sure that it is the right one.

“Equally, at a time of global high inflation, which is hitting the public hard, we need to make sure that we’re getting the balance right.”