Rishi Sunak has insisted he is “absolutely not slowing down” efforts to combat climate change a day after weakening a host of pledges designed to help the UK reach net zero in a shift that drew widespread criticism.
The Prime Minister said he was confident climate targets would still be met when asked if he was prepared for legal challenges against his plans.
He repeated his denial that his move was about playing politics, despite being widely interpreted as an attempt to draw a clear dividing line between his Conservative Party and Labour ahead of a likely general election next year.
Speaking a day after his speech in Downing Street, in which he pushed back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years and watered down the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035, Mr Sunak continued to vigorously defend his policy overhaul.
He was challenged over several measures he claimed he was scrapping, including the possibility of taxes on meat and compulsory car sharing, after his former environment minister Lord Goldsmith accused him of “pretending to halt frightening proposals that simply do not exist”.
The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I reject that entirely.”
“These are all things that have been raised by very credible people about ways to meet our net zero obligations,” he said, citing the Committee on Climate Change as the source of the proposals, although it appears never to have recommended a so-called “meat tax”.
He also shrugged off suggestions he was not listening to the independent Climate Change Committee and emulating his predecessor Liz Truss by ignoring expert advice he did not want to hear.
“I’m very happy to get opinions and advice from everybody and everyone’s entitled to their view,” Mr Sunak said.
“For those who disagree with me, and there are plenty of people as we can see over the last day or two, lots of people who disagree with me, the questions for them, they should explain to the country why they think it’s right that ordinary families up and down the country should have to fork out five, ten, £15,000 to make the transition earlier than is necessary.”