Ross Clark Ross Clark

Sunak will have to water down net zero sooner or later

Rishi Sunak (Credit: Getty images)

The Uxbridge by-election has thrown Labour into a civil war, or at least a civil skirmish. Keir Starmer has told Sadiq Khan to think again on Ulez, and Khan has shown great reluctance to do so. But it has exposed a schism in the Conservatives, too.

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak declared that efforts to reach the government’s net zero target should not be allowed to push up the cost of living for struggling families – leading some to predict that some policies, such as the ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2030, could be scrapped. This has brought out the Tories’ net zero enthusiasts to defend the target, even if it does cost households a great deal of money.

The government seems to favour policies which will hit ordinary people while sparing the wealthy their private jets

Lord Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief of staff when net zero was nodded through the Commons in the dying days of her government, has taken to Twitter to accuse politicians of not being honest when they claim that net zero can be achieved without imposing the cost of living for households. But, he claims, the fact that net zero will cost us all shouldn’t deter the government from pursuing it – because public opinion is heavily on its side. 

The trouble is, the IPSOS poll (from last November) that he links to in an effort to back his point suggests the opposite of what he claims it does (and, indeed, what the headline of IPSOS’ press release claimed). When people are asked whether they support the net zero target in general they tend to say ‘yes’. But when they are asked whether they support specific policies, taking into account the effect on their personal finances, they answer very differently. 

Subsidies for electric vehicles? A net balance of minus 13 per cent of people said they support them. Phasing

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