September 20, 2023 - 11:54am

News today is dominated by the intention by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to delay the introduction of key green policies. But a glance at the most recent polling on the issue raises the question: what took him so long?

The latest YouGov polling from last month shows that an overwhelming majority of 2019 Conservative voters — the coalition that Sunak must hope to retain to keep his majority — are opposed to the specific policies that are being “watered down”.

According to the Prime Minister’s plans, which were leaked to the BBC, a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, slated for 2030, will now not come into force until 2035, bringing Britain into line with the European Union’s plans. An edict banning new gas boilers will similarly be delayed.

Conservative voters will be happy about this. Although the ban on the sale of new cars by 2030 was once hailed by the Government as a “historic step towards net zero”, YouGov found that 76% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 are opposed to it.

The Government’s “ambition to phase out all new and replacement natural gas boilers by 2035” is opposed by 59% of those who elected the Government, with 29% in support.

The BBC also reports that policies deterring flying, eating, lax recycling and driving will not be introduced. This is likely to receive an enthusiastic response from those who voted the Government into office four years ago. 86% of them oppose the introduction of new taxes on gas bills and 51% are against increasing taxes on long haul flights.

Among those who voted for the Conservatives in 2019, a solid 61% support the Government’s longer term target of reducing Britain’s carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2050. This was a manifesto commitment, included in Boris Johnson’s guarantee to the country. Only 32% of those who voted for the Conservatives oppose this plank of their platform.

Conservative voters favour some specific Net Zero policies. They support constructing more onshore wind farms by 75% to 19% and building new nuclear power stations by 63% to 23%. 

A backlash is beginning to the news of the back-pedalling, but the signs are that the 2019 voting coalition will be pleased.