Manufacturing groups have expressed their disapproval of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to relax some of the country’s net zero emission targets, calling it a “huge setback” for the sector. In a letter to the Financial Times, leaders of 15 manufacturers’ trade bodies, including Make UK and the Chemical Industries Association, criticized the move, stating that it sent the wrong signal and implied regression rather than progress. Sunak’s decision, which included a delay in the ban on new petrol and diesel cars and a dilution of the phaseout of fossil fuel boilers, has faced backlash from environmental campaigners and within his own party.
The manufacturing groups highlighted that these changes pose a significant obstacle for manufacturers who have prioritized transitioning to net zero emissions. They emphasized that small and medium-sized enterprises in the automotive supply chain would be particularly affected. The International Energy Agency (IEA) also criticized the British government’s decision, with its executive director, Fatih Birol, stating that advanced economies should be leading the way in climate action rather than reducing ambitions. The IEA’s report emphasized the need for increased investment in clean energy worldwide to achieve global net zero by 2050.
The manufacturing trade bodies also expressed concerns about the uncertainty created by the government’s decision and its impact on the UK’s international competitiveness. They argued that manufacturers require stability and confidence to make investments, and frequent changes in policies directly affecting businesses could hinder the UK’s position as a leader in green technologies. The groups called for a long-term industrial strategy that promotes innovation in areas such as net zero and artificial intelligence and suggested the establishment of a mechanism like a Royal Commission to ensure policy consistency and stability.
Overall, the manufacturing groups’ criticism stems from their belief that the relaxation of net zero targets undermines the progress made by manufacturers in transitioning to greener practices. They argue that the government’s decision could have detrimental effects on businesses, particularly those in the automotive supply chain, and risk the UK falling behind in the global green technology market.