UKSIF’s response to the PM’s watering down of the UK’s net-zero commitments

September 2023

What the PM announced:

 As you will no doubt have seen, the Prime Minister announced a series of changes to a number of the government’s existing net-zero policies.

This included:

  • Delaying the bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, and on installing oil and gas boilers, to 2035.
  • Granting an exemption on banning oil and gas boilers to households which will find it most difficult to switch to less-polluting alternatives.
  • Raising the Boiler Upgrade Grant from £5,000 to £7,500

 The Prime Minister also announced new measures aimed at helping the UK reach net-zero by 2050.

  • A “fast track” scheme for planning permissions, available for certain major projects. 
  • Prioritisation of projects for grid connections.
  • The new £150m Green Futures Fellowship to support scientists and engineers to develop new green technologies.

 No detail was given on when and how changes to the planning regime and the national grid would be made. The Prime Minister also offered no analysis or evidence to show how the changes he announced will get the UK back on track towards meeting the 2050 net-zero target.

 The Labour Party has announced that it would maintain the 2030 petrol and diesel car sales ban and would continue to require landlords and homeowners to meet new home energy efficiency standards. Labour has not yet commented on whether it would support the increased Boiler Upgrade Grant, nor whether it would support the exemption for some households to not have to replace their boilers.

 UKSIF’s response:

 After being tipped off to the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, we issued our first statement:

James Alexander, Chief Executive of UKSIF, said:

 “Despite growing warnings from the investor community, the government continues to wobble on its climate commitments, damaging investor confidence and putting the UK’s economic future at risk. 

“The UK has a strong record in tackling climate change, but any backwards steps will undermine confidence in our transition to net-zero, deterring investment away from the UK and putting at risk the jobs and growth that come with it.

“Transitioning to net-zero presents a huge economic opportunity, as leaders in the US, EU and elsewhere recognise, but ignoring investor invoices will only reduce the UK’s share of this global prize.”

This statement was picked up by several trade outlets and led to James being interviewed by the New York Times. He later appeared live on LBC, once again expressing our concern that the government’s lack of clarity and consistency is damaging investors’ confidence and risking the UK’s chances of beating other countries in the race to capture investment in sustainable projects.

We also signed onto a letter to the Prime Minister co-ordinated by the think-tank, E3G, expressing businesses and investors’ “deep concerns” about the PM’s policy changes.

 Following the PM’s speech, we issued our second statement:

James Alexander, said:

“When we are already falling behind our net zero targets, the Prime Minister has today announced that he will water these down further, with no economic or scientific evidence to show how this new approach will keep the UK competitive as a destination for green investment for decades to come.

 “From electric vehicle production and charging infrastructure to cheaper renewable energy, tackling climate change and progressing towards a net-zero future presents huge economic opportunities for the UK, creating jobs, lowering bills, and further promoting our energy security.

 “To achieve this, though, private investors need clarity and certainty from government to help finance the transition to a thriving and competitive low-carbon economy. The Prime Minister’s speech did not deliver, and as a result the government’s once-proud climate record, and the UK’s ability to reap the economic rewards that the transition can bring, are in real peril. 

 “While we welcome the PM’s commitment to making urgently needed improvements and changes to the UK’s power grid, it remains unclear how these changes will be delivered. There is no time to waste – The UK is already at risk of falling behind other countries who are forging ahead with huge incentives to accelerate net-zero investment.”

We will consider what opportunities there may be to amplify this message in the national media – there may be greater opportunities for investors to have their voices heard after the coverage of the political impacts of the story has quietened down, and journalists start to look for other angles.

 What we will do next:

We now plan to take the following steps:

  • Continuing our close engagement with civil servants and policymakers to make sure investors’ concerns about the government’s change in approach are heard.
  • Co-ordinating with industry groups and wider stakeholder groups in response to the PM’s speech and ahead of the Autumn Statement.
  • Encouraging our members to speak directly to civil servants and policymakers, and to take advantage of the media’s interest in the impact of the PM’s announcement on investors and businesses.
  • Engaging with the Labour Party to understand and influence their response to the PM’s speech, and to ensure they set out a pro-investor approach to reaching the UK’s net-zero targets.