Race to become PM uncovers electoral risk on climate change

25th Jul 2022

 

The race to become our next Prime Minister has uncovered some harsh truths about UK climate change policy. In the middle of an unprecedented heat wave, leadership contenders failed to convince they had answers. With an eye on the politics, it was clear there is a hidden scepticism around policy they had all voted for. But, with so much other policy to be concerned with, perhaps they can be forgiven for not appreciating the details, as we, in industry, know them.

So let me throw a small spanner in their electoral thinking, just to give them something to think about.

The costs of reaching Net Zero were mentioned in the debate, but couching the argument in percentages of GDP; promising a swathe of green jobs; the UK leading the world, all frankly miss the point. Here is the danger for politicians. It is the direct impact upon consumers that will matter. It will make or break our net zero ambitions.

Let’s park the total cost to one side for a moment and examine an inherent unfairness that comes with a huge risk of a political backlash. Current government policy states that off-gas grid areas will face legislation before on-grid neighbourhoods, when it comes to restricting sales of “fossil fuel” boilers. They face the challenge of phasing out boilers from 2026, whereas on grid face the same policy from 2035. For the 4 million homes off grid, unless the government accepts biofuels, this means they will be forced to embrace the all-electric alternatives, and retrofit costs, nine years before on-grid consumers do. What is worse for them is that in 2026 the government will make strategic decisions on the future of hydrogen in the gas networks. If positive, consumers on-grid will face no upfront higher costs for appliances or fabric improvements, and a socialised cost for hydrogen conversion spread over many years.

This inherent unfairness is politically unsustainable. Ironically, it will disproportionately hit Conservative politicians hardest. This issue has never been debated seriously by them and my advice to the contenders seeking to become PM, best start thinking about this now.

Best Wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive

 

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