Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has moved to rule out the possibility of a referendum on the UK’s commitments to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as a former home secretary called for the government to “review and reflect” on its approach.
Speaking to ITV on Wednesday during a visit to Leicester, Mr. Sunak said: “I think actually there’s agreement on it. Most people are committed to getting to net zero but getting there in a proportionate and pragmatic way. That seems to me the common sense approach to doing this that has broad support.”
He added: “The path to net zero has got to be one that we tread carefully, that we bring everyone along with us on that journey. We will bring people along with us as we do, we’ll not unnecessarily burden them with extra hassle or extra cost as we do it. That’s my overall approach to net zero.”
Priti Patel Critical of Approach
It comes as those on both sides of the net zero debate have accused the government of sending mixed signals, following the recent approval of new contracts for gas and oil licences in the North Sea.
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel told The Epoch Times via email: “The government needs to review and reflect on its approach to net zero targets. Hitting households and businesses with higher costs and taxes is causing concern and a more strategic and realistic approach is needed.
“We all want to see action taken to develop new technologies and innovation to improve energy efficiency and reduce the impact of carbon and this needs to be done in a sensible way that has the confidence of the public, protects our freedoms and keeps costs down.”
The prime minister’s position remains fixed on achieving the 2050 deadline, despite a YouGov poll in November 2022 commissioned by pressure group CAR26 (pdf) suggesting that support from the general public for a referendum on net zero was far stronger than opposition to it.
Members from a faction of Conservative MPs in the so-called Red Wall seats, who have long been opposed to mainstream government policy on the issue, have also spoken out following Mr. Sunak’s comments.
‘Chasing Approval’ From ‘Woke Eco-Zealot Crowd’
Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North, told The Telegraph on Wednesday that he is in favour of a referendum “given the complexity of this issue and its far-reaching consequences.”
Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, told the outlet: “Just like Brexit, the government needs to make sure the public are on board with such radical changes, and that they hear the arguments and can make an informed decision.