The New Yorker:
The British Prime Minister has rolled back the country’s policies on reducing emissions. To what end?
By Sam Knight
Since Rishi Sunak became Britain’s Prime Minister, almost a year ago, in the middle of a national financial breakdown, his premiership has been defined by trying to make things go away. He wants inflation to halve. He wants the gigantic waiting lists for treatment on the National Health Service to shrink. He wants refugees to stop risking their lives by crossing the English Channel in unsafe inflatable boats. He wants to make the climate crisis somebody else’s problem. On Tuesday evening, the BBC reported that Sunak was preparing to either renounce, or soft-pedal, some of the country’s most important policies to reduce its carbon emissions: a ban on the sale of new gas- and diesel-driven cars would slide to 2035, from 2030, while other plans to phase out gas-and-oil-fired boilers would be relaxed. In an unusual, late-night response to the leaked information, Sunak insisted that Britain was still committed to reaching “Net Zero by 2050 . . . but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.”
If Sunak’s track record on climate is anything to go by, then “proportionate” means new licenses for oil-and-gas exploration in the North Sea; Britain’s first new deep coal mine for thirty years, which was approved last December; and the scrapping of a range of incentives to improve home insulation or to switch to electric vehicles, which Sunak oversaw as Boris Johnson’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sunak has never seemed to take the future of the planet seriously. Johnson, to give him his due, brought his customary, shallow bluster. In 2021, Johnson treated the cop26 climate-change summit, in Glasgow, to the joys of his egomania and manic charm. In 2022, weeks after becoming Prime Minister, Sunak had to be shamed by party colleagues and international criticism into attending cop27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, at all.
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