Government delays net zero climate change pledges: The small business reaction

Government delays net zero climate change pledges: The small business reaction
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Fri 22nd Sep 2023

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced the easing of several green policies which he says is about taking a "more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach to reaching net zero" and "easing the financial burden on British families".

Sunak said he is still committed to the UK reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the target should not be "at the expense of British citizens who are continuing to face higher costs of living".

During a press conference in 10 Downing Street, the prime minister announced the following changes:

  • The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been moved back by five years to 2035.

  • The ban on installing oil and LPG boilers, and new coal heating, for off-gas-grid homes has been delayed until 2035, instead of phasing them out from 2026.

  • An exemption to the phase out of fossil fuel boilers from 2035 will be introduced for poorer households.

  • Policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties from 2025 have been scrapped.

  • Policy ideas requiring people to share cars, eat less meat and dairy, be taxed to discourage their flying, and have seven bins to hit recycling targets have been ruled out.

He also said the boiler upgrade grant has been increased by 50% to £7,500 to help households who want to replace their gas boilers with a low-carbon alternative, and a new £150m Green Futures Fellowship will support at least 50 leading scientists and engineers to develop green technologies and climate change solutions.

Rishi Sunak said:

"This country is proud to be a world leader in reaching net zero by 2050. But we simply won't achieve it unless we change.

"We'll now have a more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach that eases the burdens on families. All while doubling down on the new green industries of the future. In a democracy, that's the only realistic path to net zero.

"We are going to change the way our politics works. We are going to make different decisions. We will not take the easy way out. There will be resistance – and we will meet it. Because I am determined to change our country and build a better future for our children. Nothing less is acceptable."

We asked small business owners for their views on the government delaying and scrapping some of its green commitments.

Small businesses react to delay of net zero pledges

Ruth Bradford, Enterprise Nation member and founder, The Little Black & White Book Project:

"The news fills me with sadness, anger and fear. Our government has to lead by example. How are we all supposed to believe tackling climate change is important if it isn't seen as a priority by those in power?

"It feels like we are going backwards instead of encouraging sustainable businesses like mine, and inspiring innovation to create greener solutions. All for chasing votes. At the moment it feels like it is a country that no one cares enough about to stick to the right decisions for the greater good. I want our leaders to take action before it's too late."

Alexandra Birtles, Enterprise Nation member and co-founder, In Good Company:

"It's irresponsible for the government to jeopardise climate pledges and make sustainability a political issue. Small businesses are already struggling, and this only undermines the crucial work that many, ourselves included, are doing to be more sustainable.

"They shouldn't be saying that cost and green are mutually exclusive. Of course, some things will cost more money, but many green initiatives such as optimising energy usage, reducing waste, and sharing resources can lead to cost savings.

"We know that customers want businesses to prioritise sustainability and ethics and small businesses are crying out for more help to get there, but instead the government is basically saying don’t bother, which is just wrong."

Jess Carter, co-founder, Planet & People CIC:

"This is the decisive decade. The way that we respond to challenges of the climate and nature crisis will determine the health and prosperity of future generations to come.

"We need a healthier environment strengthened by a greener, more resilient economy. There is no time to waste. Strong leadership is critical to the success of the national net zero strategy which will reduce costs, grow a green and thriving workforce and limit our environmental impact.

"The government u-turn will not only undermine the confidence of our clients but will slow progress to healing our broken planet."

Artem Minaev, co-founder, PlayToday:

"Small businesses, often operating on narrow profit margins, encounter unique challenges when attempting to embrace environmentally friendly technologies and practices. While the government's climate objectives are commendable, they can inadvertently impose financial burdens on small business owners who grapple with the need to swiftly adapt to new regulations and sustainability mandates.

"In this context, postponing specific commitments may offer smaller enterprises a lifeline, affording them the necessary time to implement these vital changes without jeopardising their financial stability.

"A sudden and radical shift towards stringent climate policies carries the risk of triggering job losses and financial instability for small-scale enterprises. In contrast, a measured approach that includes delayed implementation of certain commitments could facilitate a smoother transition. This phased approach enables businesses to progressively adopt sustainable practices while averting potential adverse economic consequences."

Related Enterprise Nation resources

Enterprise Nation's Plan it with Purpose sustainability advice hub

How service-based businesses can have a positive impact on the climate

Small business sustainability: The key steps to net zero

How to achieve net zero for your business

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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