‘Reckless’ and ‘catastrophic’: Christian climate activists slam government’s delay on UK’s climate targets

Wed 20 Sep 2023 by Premier Journalist

Christian conservation groups have voiced strong opposition to the government’s decision to postpone a deadline on sales of petrol and diesel car sales by five years.

The ban was due to come into force in 2030, but Rishi Sunak met with Cabinet members on Wednesday, and has announced he’s pushing it back to 2035.

Responding to leaked reports of the change, Christian Aid’s Head of UK Advocacy and Campaigns, Jennifer Larbie, said:

“The UK has the 8th largest historical emissions in the world, that means, as a country, we have contributed more to the climate crisis than most.

“By undermining our climate commitments Sunak is showing a woeful disregard for the world’s most vulnerable people. It’s utterly reckless.”

The Home secretary, Suella Braverman, has called the Prime Minister pragmatic, and says the government can’t tackle climate change by “bankrupting the British people”, saying:

“It’s right that he (the PM) assess the situation as a whole, taking into account bank balances, livelihoods, and the cost of living challenges people are facing.”

Conservative MP, Miriam Cates, who’s a Christian, voiced her support for the plans on social media, arguing that the 2030 target would boost China’s economy, while creating hardship at home:

“Reducing emissions is important, but since UK produces 1% of global CO2 to China’s 28%, pushing up the cost of living for ordinary families just to get more (Chinese) EVs on the road makes no sense.”

For once, climate activists and car makers are on the same side.  Ford’s UK chair Lisa Brankin says the auto industry is “investing to meet the challenge”, and says a change to the deadline would undermine the “consistency” they need from the government.  The company has a £40bn commitment to electrifying its cars, and plans to launch nine new electric models by 2025. 

Andy Lester, Conservation Director of the Christian climate charity ARocha, told Premier that a government delay will spell disaster for the UK:

“It’s catastrophic for the climate, it’s catastrophic for our international reputation.  We have obligations to meet 2030 and to move fast towards ‘NetZero’, if we’re going to avoid the worst effects of climate change… It’s a disaster for the Conservative Party. It’s a disaster for our nation. And it’s utterly awful, if we want to get on top of climate change and be seen as the world leader that he claims we are.”

He argues that to prioritise finances will mean far greater losses in the future.

“He [Mr Sunak] knows that we still are in an age of austerity and people are struggling to make ends meet, but that is nothing compared to what we are going to be facing as a nation in terms of food supply in terms of floods, damaged properties, drought etc, if we don’t grab hold of climate change and push rapidly for the kinds of change that we need at scale…  He is looking at the election and not beyond it.”

Lester acknowledged that sticking to a 2030 deadline may cause significant financial anxiety for many people due to the cost of electric vehicles, but says the idea that making greener choices is only for the well-off, is wrong: 

“For all of us, we have an opportunity to look at our lifestyles, whether it’s what we eat… how we fill our car… the type of vehicle we’ve got, how much electricity we have on in the house, what light bulbs we have our sources of power, all of those things. And so we can make differences, even if we don’t have a significant income. It cannot be just for the rich, and I think what’s being painted as, ‘You can only be green if you’re wealthy’, is the completely the wrong message”.

In a statement to Premier Paul Cook, Head of Advocacy at Tearfund, said:

“Defeatism, delay and despondency should have no place in our response to the climate emergency. What we need at this crossroads in human history, in the lead up to COP28, is the innovation, urgency and perseverance to stick with commitments to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable way of living.

“There are legitimate concerns about the cost to ordinary people as we make the transition, but these should be met with solutions that can be funded through initiatives such as proper carbon taxes on the worst producers of fossil fuel pollution.

“Globally, countries are pressing forward with action on climate change and a green economy revolution, creating tens of millions of new green jobs and industries of the future. If the UK holds back, it will not only be terrible for the environment and for people living in poverty, but also catastrophic for the UK economy.

“Rishi Sunak must not backpedal on global commitments to reach net zero, doing so will harm people living in poverty and is not in the UK’s best interests.”

The Prime Minister insists he’s ‘not watering down’ the UK’s green targets, and says he thinks the plan will command ‘very broad support’ – because it will protect families from ‘unacceptable costs’.

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