Editorial: Northern Ireland should alter its unrealistic carbon goals, like Rishi Sunak has done for the whole UK

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News Letter editorial on Thursday September 21 2023:

Northern Ireland should follow in spirit Rishi Sunak’s slight retreat on some of his core net zero goals.

One of the prime minister’s u-turns is to put back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035. The later deadline is still far too soon for such a huge leap. The advance of electric cars is an thrilling story of modern technology but to go from barely any such cars on the road to them becoming compulsory in a decade or so is absurd.

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Already the extension of the low emissions Ulez scheme, appropriate for the most central parts of a city as densely populated and polluted as London, where there are multiple public transport options for every conceivable journey, to the fringes of the capital, which is semi rural and where public transport is hopelessly ill suited to the needs of elderly and vulnerable groups, has come to be seen as a cruel burden on the less well off – those who can only just afford their own vehicle. Scrappage of perfectly good, efficient petrol cars when there is no scientific proof of need for their removal in outer London was not noble but rather a contribution to the disposable society.

Mr Sunak is right to say that overly ambitious green targets cause a backlash, as Germany has found – after its even more stupid decision to ditch carbon-free nuclear power. Yet Labour still pledges to end new North Sea oil and gas exploration at a time of real energy security threats.

Meanwhile, NI has agreed to a net zero pledge that Lord Deben, ex chair of the Climate Change Commission, says go well beyond their recommendation. This is hypocritical when NI is behind the rest of the UK in environmental measures and when NI politicians spurn efficiencies in various spheres of public life, but rather demand more funds from London. Thus costly high-mindedness is accompanied by a perpetual fiscal refusal to raise taxes or pay for things.