Government leaks saw rumours surfacing that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak planned to row back some of the government’s commitments on net-zero – cue panic from Downing Street to get its side of the story out ASAP. 

The announcement due at the end of the week gets pushed up 48 hours, landing squarely in the midst of this Editor’s issue deadline. A few tweaks and rewrites are worth it to bring you up to date with the latest twists and turns, however!

We cover the full story on p6 of this issue, however Rishi Sunak has made some major policy shifts on net-zero. There is definitely a significant ‘rowing back’ on the scale of ambition, as anticipated in the days prior.

Significantly, there is now a major exemption to the government’s planned gas boiler sale ban in 2035, allowing households that will struggle to make the switch to heat pumps or other low carbon alternatives to continue to purchase gas boilers. The government expects this exemption to currently apply to about 20% of UK homes.
Additionally, the proposed phase out of oil and LPG boiler installations for off-grid homes has been moved back from 2026, to 2035.

On top of that, plans to compel landlords to upgrade the EPC ratings of their properties to at least C before they could be rented have now been outright scrapped.
These changes definitely raise an eyebrow as to how the UK will manage to meet its net-zero 2050 obligations, but Mr Sunak has given his assurances that these measures will still keep the UK on course.

One policy change that the government can’t be accused of backpedalling on, however, is that it has committed to raising the value of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant by 50%, to £7,500. This will make heat pumps more affordable for many, and it will be interesting to see whether this results in a significant uptick in take-up of the scheme.

Whether these changes to net-zero policy will result in the Prime Minister’s “more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach that eases burdens on families” still remains to be seen, however.