Former US vice president and climate change activist Al Gore said Rishi Sunak “is doing the wrong thing” by curbing green policies.
The British Prime Minister is expected to water down environmental commitments in an apparent bid to create dividing lines with Labour ahead of a likely general election next year.
Measures being considered include weakening the plan to phase out gas boilers from 2035 and delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – currently due for 2030 – by five years, it has been reported.
Mr Gore, speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, said: “I think it is unfortunate that he would do that.
“And I think the people of the United Kingdom largely agree that it is the wrong decision.
“But that is for people of the United Kingdom to address. I certainly disagree with him.”
Asked whether Mr Sunak’s plans would set back the net zero cause, Mr Gore replied: “He is doing the wrong thing.”
Mr Gore served as Bill Clinton’s vice president and narrowly missed out on the White House during the 2000 presidential election.
The Democrat politician has been known for his focus on environmental issues and in 2006 fronted the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth about the global impact of climate change.
Conservative Party leader Mr Sunak, in a statement released ahead of a speech in Downing Street later on Wednesday, said he would be setting out a “proportionate” approach to cutting emissions, with a need to be upfront about the “costs and trade-offs” of achieving a net zero carbon economy by 2050.
Chatham House said Mr Sunak’s environmental policy shift would make the UK “an outlier” on the world stage.
Olivia O’Sullivan, director of the UK In The World programme at the think tank, said: “These measures are at odds with the UK Government’s stated foreign policy goal of being a climate leader — shifting away from its own domestic commitments makes it difficult to ask other countries to set ambitious goals.
“At a time when other major powers are making significant investments in the green transition, such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States and the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan — shifting away from investments and commitments on this makes the UK an outlier.”
The Prime Minister opted to stay away from the United Nations’ General Assembly gathering this week in New York, sending his deputy Oliver Dowden in his place to meet with the likes of US President Joe Biden.
Mr Sunak also missed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals summit, also held in New York this week, where climate change was one of the major topics discussed.
The Prime Minister previously blamed “pressures on my diary” for snubbing the Stateside gatherings and insisted he has been “incredibly engaged on international affairs” following criticism over his decision to stay at home.