Northern England leaders attack ‘depressing’ net zero climbdown

By Andy Bruce

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Politicians and business leaders from the north of England, home to much of Britain’s renewable and green tech investment, on Wednesday attacked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to water down his net zero commitments.

The government signalled it will delay some net zero policies to ease the financial burden on households, with one senior minister saying that “bankrupting the British people” would not save the planet.

“It’s truly depressing,” said Juergen Maier, former boss of Siemens UK and vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a business-led think tank for the north of England.

“I know from the many business people I speak to every week that we are quietly getting on with our net zero plans. Sadly though, this government is no longer with us.”

Sunak will later on Wednesday set out what he called a more “proportionate” approach to hitting net zero emissions by 2050, with a ban on new petrol and diesel cars expected to be pushed back to 2035 from 2030.

In Liverpool, which has high hopes for a tidal energy plant, city region mayor Steve Rotherham said Sunak risked undermining the area’s electric car manufacturing industry.

“A relaxation on these targets risks undermining all of the progress and investment it has taken to reach this point,” Rotherham said.

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, on the north-east coast of England, said jobs were on the line.

“Unless we give industry some certainty, they won’t invest in green energy generation and clean transport,” he said.

Simon Clarke, a lawmaker from Sunak’s Conservative Party whose constituency is in the North East, said the prime minister urgently needed to dispel talk that Britain had become less serious about tackling climate change.

“Not only is that very harmful for inward investment flows into the United Kingdom, but I think that is a very bad political space for the government to be in,” Clarke told Sky News.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Sharon Singleton)