UK industry unites to condemn scaling back of Net Zero targets to 2035

On Wednesday 20th September, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK Government is changing the legislative plans for achieving UK Net Zero by 2050, an announcement that has enraged many within the sector.
UK industry unites to condemn scaling back of Net Zero targets to 2035
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The announcement by the Prime Minister involves two key changes: One of them is the easing of plans to phase out new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030 - which has now been pushed back to 2035 – and the other is the scrapping of plans to phase out gas boilers in favour of heat pumps, also by 2030, which has similarly been pushed back to 2035.

The Prime Minister also appeared to suggest that some British consumers would not be required to make the boiler replacement, commenting that exemptions will apply to those hardest hit “so they never have to switch at all”.

The announcement has been widely condemned across British industry and across the world, including by renowned climate campaigner and former US Vice President Al Gore.

Neil Yates, CEO, of Watt Electric Vehicles, said that the decision to scale back the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car and light van sales sends completely the wrong message to industry and customers and that the UK can and should be a global leader in zero emission mobility.

“The Government needs to be strategically consistent and introducing greater levels of incentivisation to bolster consumer confidence, further promoting a burgeoning industry, not creating uncertainty by moving the goalposts” said Mr Yates. “It is especially disappointing given the crucial role UK Government has played in promoting the development of electrification technology through the superb innovation infrastructure and funding made available by Innovate UK and the Advanced Propulsion Centre. As a result of the support received from these forward-thinking organisations, Watt Electric Vehicle Company has been able to expand its business over the last three years, rapidly accelerating the development of our lightweight zero emission platform technologies.”

Mr Yates added that since the 2030 ban was announced three years ago, vehicle manufacturers, electrification technology suppliers and fleet operators have been working towards the same targets, which has provided the direction and clarity needed to keep the UK on track for net zero and that many forward-thinking public and private sector organisations have firmly committed to decarbonising their fleets.

In the UK green hydrogen sector, Bramble Energy believes that the UK’s potential to achieve Net Zero will be severely hampered by green policies being dictated by general elections every four years and that the announcement from the Government to push back the ban on petrol and diesel car sales to 2035 is a clear example of this.

“If we are to ever have a positive effect on preventing climate change, investment and bold targets need to be upheld, and alternative fuels such as hydrogen are a hugely significant element of this” said Dr Tom Mason, Bramble Energy CEO. “Beyond electric vehicles, the development and implementation of alternative fuels like hydrogen, which Bramble Energy has made ground-breaking steps towards, will be fundamental to achieving Net Zero, and this announcement from the Government is a disappointing step back on the path towards Net Zero.”

VisNet, the entity, owned by EA Technology, behind a real-time monitoring device that operates in and optimises low-voltage substations, urged caution so that momentum in the country’s process of decarbonisation is not lost. Dave A Roberts, Managing Director of VisNet, commented that the 2030 target served to provide a “clear signal to ‘nudge’ citizens, fleet operators and businesses in the right direction” and that changing the rhetoric de-prioritises the vital transition, creating uncertainty for industry and energy network providers while also risking job creation in the sector. Mr Roberts urged the Government to consider introducing interim targets on the sale of new vehicles to ensure that the sense of urgency is maintained and to provide reassurances for industry and network providers.

Munro is another company that has expressed deep concern about the roll back of net zero targets, despite its relief that the timeline hasn’t slipped beyond 2035. It is seeking reassurances that this date will not be postponed further.

A statement by the company said that it believes the decision squanders an opportunity for the UK to take a leadership position in the transition to a cleaner and greener transport economy. The company believes that the automotive industry had sufficient notice of the 2030 deadline and had made investments accordingly, citing as examples investments by TATA, JLR, and BMW in EV manufacturing facilities and gigafactories. Such investments are predicated on stability and certainty. This is threatened by the government’s statements, which have the potential to fuel Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) around electric vehicles. Delaying the ICE vehicle ban could mean affordable second-hand EVs remain out of reach for longer, costing the public more in the long run.

Furthermore, the delay in implementing the ban could potentially make it difficult for start-ups to raise the capital needed for innovation. Munro believes that maintaining a clear commitment to the 2030 deadline is crucial for fostering a robust EV ecosystem in the UK.

Hargreaves Lansdown is a Bristol-based financial services company which sells funds and shares and other financial products to investors. In a note of optimism, Tara Clee, ESG Analyst at the company said that the amount invested in responsible funds has grown by 74 percent since 2020 according to Investment Association (IA) data, while Hargreaves Lansdown’s own data shows strong demand from investors of all ages. However, Ms Clee also said that the UK Prime Minister had weakened the country’s commitment to net zero and that it should be the consumer that makes the choice about automotive technology not the government, because of the high upfront costs.

“He also pushed back on commitments to rolling out heat pumps by a decade, and scraped carpooling, policy on diets and meat tax, flight taxes, and increased recycling” said Ms Clee. “He also stated that he would not ban oil & gas in the North Sea – and blamed Putin. As well as the negative environmental and economic impact of these statements, the PM risks being out of step with many investors – and voters. While Investment Association data reveals investors have been selling ESG funds in recent months, the short-term figures masks a bigger, longer-term pattern.”

REM has received many more similar statements from businesses and other entities up and down the country, including:

Trade association Solar Energy UK

Northern UK charging network Be.EV, electrification business VEV (VEV is owned by Vitol, a world leader in energy)

UK100 – the cross-party network of local leaders committed to ambitious action on Net Zero and clean air

New Automotive - the transport research group that contributed to bringing forward the UK ICE ban from 2040 to 2030

These are just a small selection compared to the great many more statements appearing in the wider media since the Prime Minister made his announcement, which also appeared to criticise “burdensome recycling schemes” and non-existent claims that the Government was planning to make people change their diet by imposing “meat taxes”.

For additional information:

Watt Electric Vehicles

Bramble Energy



Hargreaves Lansdown

Solar Energy UK



New Automotive

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