Scottish and Welsh ministers call for climate summit after PM’s net zero speech

The environment ministers in Scotland and Wales have called for a UK-wide climate summit following the Prime Minister’s net zero announcements last week.

In a joint letter to Michael Gove – who serves as minister for intergovernmental relations in the UK Government – Scottish Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan and Julie James, Wales’s Minister for Climate Change, say there was “no prior engagement” with the devolved administrations prior to Rishi Sunak’s announcements a week ago.

In a speech from Downing Street, Mr Sunak pushed back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2035, as well as weakening plans to phase out gas boilers and scrapping the requirement for energy efficiency upgrades for homes.

Mairi McAllan
The letter was sent by Scottish Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan, pictured, and Welsh Minister for Climate Change Julie James (Jane Barlow/PA)

The move, which was criticised by environmental activists and some in his own party, was also followed by the approval of the controversial Rosebank oil field near Shetland by the North Sea Transition Authority on Wednesday.

The letter said: “Despite the far-reaching implications of the announcements made – with substantial changes in policy that will impact progress in delivering net zero and have profoundly negative implications for the environment and economy across the UK and further affect the UK’s international reputation – there was no prior engagement with the devolved governments.

“Given that delivery of the climate ambitions of the four nations of the UK are intrinsically linked, this is deeply unsatisfactory.

“In addition, almost a week later, it is hugely frustrating that the UK Government has not provided the level of detail required by such significant announcements.

“We would urge you to provide this immediately to enable devolved governments to fully assess the implications.”

The Scottish Government will write to the UK Government separately, the letter said, “setting out areas in which progress urgently needs to be clarified”, while the Welsh Government has already sought clarity.

The letter added: “Tackling the twin crises of climate change and nature loss is one of the most significant challenges facing people and planet this century and all nations of the UK must work in partnership to complete the net zero journey.

“Delivering progress on net zero requires urgent action and higher ambition from the UK Government on issues reserved to Westminster to complement the action taken under devolved powers.

“The Climate Change Committee has been clear that action by the UK Government is important for delivery of climate change targets around the UK, just as action in Scotland and Wales is crucial to UK targets.”

The ministers went on to push for the summit, chaired by the Climate Change Committee, saying: “Since last week’s process shows the weakness of current arrangements, we are now urging you to establish a new, mutually respectful partnership, with the aim of developing an agreed four nation approach to net zero in a collaborative manner.

“We therefore invite you to commit, in the first instance, to a high-level summit for a four nation approach and to agree with us that our statutory advisers, the independent Climate Change Committee, be invited to chair the summit.”

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “The UK has already overperformed against our previous targets and we’ve cut emissions faster than any other G7 country.

“We are adopting a fairer and more pragmatic approach to meeting net zero that eases the burdens on working people.

“We work closely with the devolved governments to deliver net zero and energy security, including through the inter-ministerial group for net zero, energy and climate change.

“We will continue to use this and other forums to work together to deliver for people across the UK.”