Rishi Sunak is doing what's 'right' on climate as he claims detractors 'don't care about families'

Rishi Sunak's watering down of climate pledges is the "right" thing to do, according to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said - as the prime minister says detractors "don't care about the impact on families".

Last night, Mr Sunak announced a raft of changes to the UK's climate pledges, including delaying the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by five years to 2035.

The prime minister said he was making the changes because the previous plans were unaffordable and unachievable - and the UK is still on track to reach net zero by 2050.

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However, as Sky science and technology editor Tom Clarke explained, the decision seemed to be more about politics - and the general election expected next year - than the climate.

And Ms Badeonch told Sky News this morning: "This is not some sort of cynical ploy."

"This is the right thing to do, and I fully support the prime minister."

Mr Sunak defended his change of direction this morning, saying the UK remains on track to hit "all our international and domestic targets" after he watered down green policies.

"The reason I have confidence in that is because we've over-delivered on all of our carbon budgets to date," the prime minister said.

"Plus, we can see that the cost of some of these new technologies are falling far faster than people had predicted. Offshore wind is a great example of that, costs today 70% less than we predicted in 2016. And the adoption of new technologies is happening far faster than we thought, electric vehicles being another good example.

"So, when you put all of that together, run the numbers as we have, we're confident we're on track to deliver net zero, and we can do it now in a more proportionate and pragmatic way."

He also brushed off criticism of his plans, saying "there are people who approach this with more ideological zeal where they just don't care about the impact on families".

The move has been welcomed by some Conservative MPs, who, believing it may be popular with voters, have been calling for green policies to be delayed to avoid exacerbating the cost of living crisis.

But it has been opposed by sections of the business community, opposition parties, and climate change campaigners - including Al Gore.

'I'm quite pleased this has happened'

One of the critics of the move was Lord Goldsmith, a Conservative former minister.

Ms Badenoch said: "I know Zac Goldsmith very well. He is a friend... I fundamentally disagree with what he has said.

"We are listening to the concerns people are raising with us. Most people in this country do not have the kind of money that he has."

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Last week, Ms Badenoch visited the BMW MINI plant in Oxford as the company announced it would build its next generation electric vehicles there, securing government funding in the process.

She was asked if yesterday's policy shift was known about when she announced the deal.

The business secretary said: "Well, I had been making representations to the prime minister - he had not made his decision known to all of us.

"But these were conversations that we were having, So I'm quite pleased that this has happened."

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Public support green policies

The car industry was one of the most vocal critics of the government's changes, as many had planned to stop selling ICE vehicles in seven years' time.

Ford was the most sceptical, saying the new path undermined the "ambition, commitment and consistency" needed for the UK.

Ms Badenoch pointed out the US car giant made the statement "without even hearing what the announcement was", and added that Toyota welcomed the move.

When asked about criticism from the chief executive of EON - who claimed the changes would mean people have to live in draughty homes - Ms Badenoch urged the leader of the energy giant to "actually look at what the prime minister announced".

Daisy Powell-Chandler, the head of energy and environment at polling company Public First, told Sky News the public tends to hold a dim view of parties that water down green policies.

She said: "The public aren't very keen on that, including Conservative and Labour swing voters.

"Most people think that the government should be doing more rather than less to reach net zero.

"So about three times more people think the government should be doing more on the environment than think they should be doing less.

"And there's an extraordinary consensus right across the age range. For example, climate change these days is amongst people's tier-one concerns.

"It's just below things like the NHS, but it's still up there in the top five on most trackers."

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Sarah Jones, Labour's shadow industry and decarbonisation minister, told Sky News her party would return the deadline for ICE sales to 2030, but would not unpick other parts of the changes announced yesterday.

She said that on heat pumps, for example, the government "has utterly failed" to get close to the previous target, and that it was more important to focus on insulating homes first.