Labour’s shadow climate secretary has insisted he would “relish” an election fought over net zero with the Tories.
Ed Miliband, the former UK Labour leader, was responding after Rishi Sunak announced U-turns on several key climate policies, claiming plans to replace boilers and end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 were too burdensome on the public.
Despite this, the Prime Minister said the UK’s 2050 net zero target and pledge to cut 68% of carbon emissions by 2030 remain intact – resulting in more drastic action needed in the decades ahead.
Scotland has a legal net zero target of 2045, with a legal pledge to cut 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 75% by 2030.
The move by Mr Sunak is largely a political one, as he attempts to drive a wedge between the Conservatives and Labour ahead of next year’s general election – with Sir Keir Starmer’s party soaring in the polls and arguably little difference in policy.
Speaking to Politico, Mr Miliband welcomed the general election potentially turning into a battle over climate policies between Labour and the Conservatives.
He said: “I relish the prospect of going toe to toe with this government on saying who can make this transition work economically for the British people.
“The idea that Rishi Sunak, who is seen as out of touch with the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, is the answer … I mean, come off it, frankly.”
Mr Miliband told Politico that Labour would revert to the 2030 pledge for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars if his party forms the next government, after Mr Sunak bumped it to 2035.
But the Labour veteran was unable to give clarity over his party’s plans for mandating homeowners in England to switch from gas boilers to sustainable heating systems such as heat pumps.
Patrick Harvie will set out the Scottish Government’s strategy to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030 as part of £33 billion plans to clean up how homes in Scotland are heated.
Mr Miliband took aim at the Prime Minister, suggested Mr Sunak “simply sees net zero as an obligation to be managed, not an opportunity to be seized”.
He added: “That is the way he behaved at the Treasury, and that is the way he's behaving as Prime Minister."
Labour's shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said his party's position would ensure stability for the car industry, some of which criticised the Prime Minister’s move, as well as providing lower running costs for motorists in the long-run.
Mr Miliband said the party did not support watering down obligations on landlords to improve the energy performance of rental homes.
Mr Reed, speaking on BBC’s Newsnight about the gas boiler policy, said: “Labour never subscribed to that proposal.
“It was the Conservatives that were proposing to whack them (household bills) up in the first place, they have now had to reverse.”