Rishi Sunak: Foe to British Climate Policy

by Kaitlyn Hladik '25 on November 5, 2023
News Staff


Those paying attention to British politics in recent months may have noticed a lack of initiative towards the climate crisis. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s current Prime Minister, assumed the role at the end of October 2022. His conservative approach to the government has called into question the future of Britain’s climate action, as he has been apathetic about global warming.

BBC News warns that Sunak may weaken the government’s existing green policies, but this will not be clear until after his speech.

These changes will deepen the already existing division between the Conservative Party, who currently hold the majority in Parliament, and the Labour Party. BBC shares that these changes would lessen the burden of climate change on Britain by prompting other countries to “do more to pull their weight.” It will be interesting to see the response to the change in these climate policies from both the post-Brexit European Union and the United States, with both powers bearing the responsibility of instituting effective climate policies.

Sunak has also sided with drivers who are against certain climate change policies, specifically

those who feel threatened by the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. 

Simultaneously, the mayor of London has approved strengthening of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), a daily charge that discourages individuals from driving.

The United Kingdom’s government has a popular pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas

emissions by 2050, demonstrating their prior commitment to climate change. These

commitments were established under former Prime Minister Theresa May. Despite the

presence of this commitment in law, “Sunak said the government would move away from an

‘ideological’ view of net zero. Instead, it would aim to work towards it in a more ‘affordable,’

‘proportionate,’ and ‘pragmatic’ way.” It appears that these delays on policy are not an effort to abandon climate policies entirely, but rather to shift the responsibility of the climate crisis away from Britain. Although the United Kingdom is ahead on international climate commitments compared to other countries, they may not hit their own emission cutting targets.

Many members of Parliament, even members of Sunak’s own party, advise of the dangers that not pursuing these essential climate policies would bring, which include, but are not limited to: additional taxes to discourage individuals from flying, the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and energy efficiency regulations on homes. 

Overall, this delay on policies is a power move and a pre-election challenge. This would create a popular debate within Sunak’s own party, as The Independent reports, “some Tory MPS are considering writing letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister if he goes ahead with the changes,” ultimately jeopardizing the future of Sunak as prime minister.