Electric vehicle row erupts as Kemi Badenoch warns against petrol car crackdown

Electric vehicle targets imposed on British manufacturers could damage investment, Kemi Badenoch has reportedly warned her Cabinet colleagues as the Tories are urged to realign on net zero policies.

A rule set to be introduced in January will see carmakers required to make sure at least 22 percent of their new sales in the UK are emission-free models – a figure that will increase to 80 percent by 2030.

Any company breaking this rule will have to pay up £15,000 for each non-zero-emission car sold – a policy which major manufacturers Toyota and Ford have described respectively as “challenging” and a “threat” to investment.

A recent Conservative victory in the Uxbridge by-election, widely believed to have been achieved thanks to a focus on Sadiq Khan’s controversial ULEZ expansion, has spurred the Prime Minister to review his net zero policies – despite them being necessary to avoid environmental disaster.

But climate change experts and officials warn that uncertainty about where the Government really stands on the issue could negatively impact investment in green industries.

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Ms Badenoch has been discussing the car manufacturing industry’s concerns with the Cabinet Office, the Times reports.

A spokesman told Politico: “If major car companies employing thousands of people are saying that there’s a problem, then it’s her job to look at ways to ease that problem.”

A persistent issue is the lack of infrastructure in the UK for electric cars when it comes to charging ports.

Ken McMeikan, the chief executive of Moto Hospitality, said the chargers were “sitting there with no power” due to lack of capacity.

He told BBC Radio 4: “Getting the right number of chargers is not a challenge. Getting enough power for those chargers to operate well enough for electric vehicle drivers is a major, major problem.”

He added that by 2030, when the Government has committed to introducing a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the scale of power required is likely to be 12 times what it is today.

But ChargeUK, which is spending £6billion until 2030 to roll out electric charging points, has written to Rishi Sunak today warning that the uncertainty is already itself harming investment and green jobs.

Mr Sunak is facing pressure from MPs on the right of his party to delay the ban until 2035.

The success of a campaign in the Uxbridge by-election which focused on the ULEZ expansion – a policy that was originally suggested by Boris Johnson, whose resignation as the constituency’s MP triggered the vote – has encouraged the PM to reconsider his approach.

He is now reportedly seeking to “weaponise” certain divisive issues in order to win votes, recently claiming to be “on the side of motorists”.

Mr Sunak recently enraged green groups by going ahead with plans to allow more oil and gas drilling in the North Sea but is simultaneously standing by his pledge to achieve net zero by 2050.

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While the push to achieve this is largely supported across the UK, the specifics of how it can be reached – particularly where it intersects with the cost of living crisis – can be less popular.

Robert Goodwill, a Conservative MP who chairs the environment select committee said “it’s not abandoning our climate change promises” to recognise that “the burden of addressing climate change seems to be falling on those least able to pay.”

He added that rural areas will particularly appreciate the show of support for motorists due to unreliable public transport in those parts of the country.

However, there has been little in terms of actual policy changes so far from Mr Sunak.

Speaking to callers on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show this morning, Mr Sunak insisted he was still committed to reaching net zero, adding: “Even when we’re there, we will still need fossil fuels.

“So isn’t it better to have them from here at home, supporting people’s jobs, the economy, public services like the NHS, and being less reliant on Vladimir Putin?”

A 2028 target to ensure rented properties are more energy efficient has been removed, but the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and a 2035 carbon-free electricity target remains.

Jack Richardson, head of environment and energy at Onward, said: “There’s undoubtedly a shift in the vibes coming out of government — we’re hearing more about oil and less about renewables. But in terms of policy little has changed.”

However, he also warned that the shift in the narrative could prove damaging for the effort to fight climate change, saying: “conflicting reports we’ve seen in the papers on this are really bad for investment.”

Former energy minister Chris Skidmore called this week’s granting of fossil fuel licenses “the wrong decision at the wrong time” and warned Sunak he risked being on the “wrong side of history.”

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