How will the government’s net zero policy announcement affect those in the Lewes District?

The Government’s intention to delay implementing key national green policies aimed at achieving net zero was discussed at Lewes District full council on Monday, September 25.
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday, September 20, that he will push back a ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, slow plans to phase out gas boilers, and rejected calls to regulate efficiency for homeowners.

Sunak reiterated plans to expand oil and gas developments in Britain’s North Sea and drill for fossil fuels. He also announced that the ban on onshore wind will be lifted.

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Emily O’Brien, Cabinet Member for Climate, Nature and Food Systems, addressed this at the full council meeting: “I’ve been contacted by both residents and other councillors who have been deeply concerned by last week’s widely publicised announcement… and asking what this means for our council.

Councillor Emily O’BrienCouncillor Emily O’Brien
Councillor Emily O’Brien

“As you will know, like many councils, we have taken a more ambitious approach to addressing the climate emergency than government targets and timescales, by a climate emergency in 2019 with an aspiration to achieve net zero for our council and if possible our district by 2030, rather than 2050.

“Many of our local measures depend on national government policy, as when we estimate the level of greenhouses gases being emitted in our district, we take into account for example how quickly people will be moving to heat pumps, and transitioning to electric cars, and these all things which are affected by last week’s announcement. So they could impact our efforts to do the right thing locally.

“In response to this week’s announcement, therefore, I’ve asked our officers to look urgently into the implications of this announcement for our own local plans, including the refresh of the Climate and Sustainability action plan which we aim to complete for March next year. We will be reporting back on these through cabinet, and the climate scrutiny panel.”

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Environmental groups are expected to challenge the decision in court as the government has a legal obligation to set out in detail how it will meet its 2050 target, with clear carbon budgets for different sectors.

Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, said: “Upfront costs, to either buy a new electric car or move away from a gas boiler are still high for families struggling with the cost of living and giving people more time to make the changes needed when they naturally would be replacing their car or boiler means we can reduce the impact of change while still meeting our carbon reductions by 2050.”

James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes, said: "There are massive opportunities from British industry and manufacturing as the whole world needs these new technologies to transition away from carbon. With government backing we could build them right here in the UK, but the Conservatives have once again turned their back on British industry.

"They have also shown they have no respect for our natural environment by granting permission to drill for oil in the South Downs National Park near Winchester and in the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea. Neither project will reduce the price we pay for energy, but will be major acts of environmental vandalism.”