Michael Gove has insisted that the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales is an “immoveable” deadline, but he said some of Rishi Sunak’s climate plans, including the phasing out of gas boilers, should be reviewed.
The housing secretary’s intervention came after the prime minister cast doubt on his government’s net zero agenda following days of ambiguity over climate-related policies.
Mr Gove said “we need to review” plans to phase out gas boilers from newly built homes by 2025, and from all homes by 2035. He warned that costly plans to tackle the climate crisis could create a “backlash” as ministers come under pressure from the Tory right to relax existing pledges aimed at reducing emissions.
Amid cost of living pressures, the prime minister appeared to be considering watering down some net zero policies as he seeks to take a “proportionate and pragmatic” approach to the environment. Mr Sunak declined in an interview to recommit to the ban on the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by the end of the decade, as he warned against heaping “hassle” or extra costs onto families.
But Mr Gove was offering cast-iron guarantees on Tuesday that the 2030 deadline would not be put back. Asked on Times Radio if it was “immoveable”, he replied: “Yes.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “We’re committed to maintaining our policy of ensuring that by 2030 there are no new petrol and diesel cars being sold. I’m sure there are some people who would like to change that policy, I understand. But that policy remains.”
But Mr Gove did confirm that ministers are looking at ways to “ease” the pressure on homeowners, who face a ban on gas boilers by 2035 and will need to comply with plans to ensure that all private rented housing has a grade C energy efficiency rating by 2028.
Asked about plans to phase out gas boilers in favour of heat pumps, Mr Gove told Times Radio: “That is one area that I do think that we need to review … it’s important that new homes meet net zero standards, but one of the challenges that we have is with our existing housing stock.”
Following Mr Gove’s comments, Tory MP and Cop26 president Alok Sharma said: “Good to have Michael Gove clarifying that there will be no change in government policy on new petrol/diesel phase out date.”
Mr Sharma said the focus must now be on “speeding up the delivery of key policies”, including the production of renewables such as onshore wind.
Downing Street had insisted that Mr Sunak stood by the policy, despite his avoidance of the subject in an interview on Monday, after Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said he could not “prophesy” about its future. But government sources are reported to have said that the prime minister is open to a rethink.