As recently as July, cabinet member Michael Gove had categorically denied that the government would alter the planned ban, saying that “the policy remains”.
He added: “We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold. I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand, but no, that policy remains.”
Sunak has previously hinted at changes to climate change-based policies that in his view “unfairly impact the public”. In July, he said the UK would “make progress towards net zero” but “in a proportionate and pragmatic way” that “doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives”, adding: “That’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”
Sunak’s comments in July came after ministers, mainly from a new group of right-wing Conservative MPs, called for a rethink on some green policies.
In response, he said: “I’m standing up for the British people because I’m also cognisant that we’re living through a time where inflation is high. That’s having an impact on household and families’ bills. I don’t want to add that. I want to make it easier.”
The ICE ban, arguably the biggest policy change to hit the automotive industry to date, would mean only hybrid and electric cars would be allowed to be sold from 2030, with sales becoming EV-only from 2035.
The move has also been adopted by the European Union.
When asked about his commitment to the ban – which was three years ago brought forward from 2040 to 2030 as part of an effort to accelerate the government’s 2050 net zero target – Sunak said: “Of course net zero is important to me. So, yes, we’re going to keep making progress towards our net zero ambitions and we’re also going to strengthen our energy security.”
But he said other avenues should be explored too. “I think the events over the last year or two have demonstrated the importance of investing more in home-grown energy, whether that’s more nuclear or offshore wind. I think that’s what people want to see and that’s what I’m going to deliver.”