Rishi Sunak has been warned he is making “the greatest mistake of his premiership” after it emerged he is preparing to row back on a raft of green policies.
The prime minister is expected to delay the proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars, which was due to begiun in 2030.
The phasing out of gas boilers is also set to be delayed – but Sunak will insist the government is still committed to achieving net zero by 2050.
In a statement tonight, the PM – who will set out his plans in a major speech on Friday – insisted he wanted the UK to meet its commitments “in a better, more proportionate way”.
He said: “I know people are frustrated with politics and want real change. Our political system rewards short-term decision-making that is holding our country back.
“For too many years politicians in governments of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs. Instead they have taken the easy way out, saying we can have it all.
“This realism doesn’t mean losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments. Far from it. I am proud that Britain is leading the world on climate change.
“We are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements we have made internationally – but doing so in a better, more proportionate way.
“Our politics must again put the long-term interests of our country before the short-term political needs of the moment.
“As a first step, I’ll be giving a speech this week to set out an important long-term decision we need to make so our country becomes the place I know we all want it to be for our children.”
But Tory MP Chris Skidmore, the government’s former net zero tsar, said: “If this is true, the decision will cost the UK jobs, inward investment, and future economic growth that could have been ours by committing to the industries of the future.
“It will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere. And ultimately the people who will pay the price for this will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of inefficient fossil fuels and being dependent on volatile international fossil fuel prices.
“Rishi Sunak still has time to think again and not make the greatest mistake of his premiership, condemning the UK to missing out on what can be the opportunity of the decade to deliver growth, jobs and future prosperity.”
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “This is a complete farce from a Tory government that literally does not know what they are doing day to day.
“Thirteen years of failed energy policy has led to an energy bills crisis, weakened our energy security, lost jobs, and failed on the climate crisis.”
Lib Dem climate and energy spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: “What Rishi Sunak should see in front of him is the opportunity to embrace the industries of the future and protect the coming generations from the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“Instead, he has cowered to the delayers and deniers like the disgraced Liz Truss and adopted wholesale their policies.
“This Conservative government has done nothing but damage our nation and this would be the most destructive move yet.”