Shapps says ‘difficult decisions’ to be made on pace of net zero commitments

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps (left) with United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (Kin Cheung/PA)
Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps (left) with United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry (Kin Cheung/PA)

Grant Shapps has said the Government needs to “weigh up difficult decisions” in approaching its earlier commitment to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

The Energy Secretary warned he would be aiming to avoid putting “people under the cosh” with the pace at which green policies are introduced.

Speaking a press gallery lunch in Parliament, the minister also refused to rule out a leadership bid, saying “who knows what will happen in the future.”

Asked about a recent report from the Government’s own climate advisers which found a lack of progress on reaching net zero targets, Mr Shapps said he does not “have to agree” with them or accept their recommendations.

The Government has committed to a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 and a transition to fully zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

Mr Shapps said on Thursday he was “pretty confident we will get there” but added: “The Government have to weigh up these difficult decisions between going faster and slower”.

He added: “We understand that we need to get to this. I also… understand that we need to do that in a way that does not cause families undue hardship. It can be very nice running an electric car, they’re quick, they’re clean, but we’ve got to see the market develop, we’ve got to see the prices converge, and there’s every reason why they should… There are many benefits to getting there but I want to make sure we get there in a way that is not putting people under the cosh.”

He said he was “hugely grateful” for the work of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – the independent body which advises Government on the environment – but that their recommendations were not binding.

Mr Shapps also appeared to suggest that hydrogen may not be the answer to removing carbon emissions from domestic heating networks.

It comes after the CCC’s latest progress report described the Government’s efforts to scale up action towards reaching net zero as “worryingly slow”.

In June, Lord Goldsmith resigned as a minister in the Foreign Office with a portfolio for the environment and climate change, citing the Prime Minister’s “apathy” towards those issues.

Mr Shapps also appeared to hint that he may throw his hat into the ring for the Tory leadership in the future when pressed on whether he still has ambitions for the top job.

“Who knows what happens in the future. All I know is we have wisdom and experience to guide the way for this country which is why I think that now, that person is Rishi Sunak,” he said.

Elsewhere, Mr Shapps echoed Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s cautious tone on China, saying he did not believe in “exclud(ing) them” but in taking a hardline stance where appropriate.

But he also likened Beijing to the British Empire, suggesting it wants to “operate under their world order”.

“They do want to change the world, to operate under their world order. That is no surprise, we did that when we had an empire, the Americans have done that, the Dutch did it before us. That’s the way large economies and empires operate,” he said.