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Poland refuses to send more weapons to Ukraine as trade dispute escalates

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Poland will no longer send weapons to Ukraine, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said, in an escalation of tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv that threatens the west’s unity in supporting the country as it battles Russia’s invasion.

The threat is the latest salvo in a trade dispute that revolves around Poland’s refusal to accept imports of Ukrainian grain, in contravention of EU rules, as Morawiecki’s ruling party steps up nationalist rhetoric ahead of next month’s elections.

Last weekend Poland, alongside Hungary and Slovakia, unilaterally extended an import ban on Ukrainian grain, even after Kyiv promised to ensure its exports would not harm EU farmers. That provoked a backlash from Ukrainian officials, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Asked whether Warsaw would still support Ukraine militarily, Morawiecki replied on Wednesday evening on the Polsat television channel: “We are no longer transferring any weapons, because we will now arm ourselves with the most modern weapons.”

Morawiecki’s comments signal a remarkable U-turn from a government that had previously been a linchpin of the EU and Nato’s united front in support of Ukraine, as one of Europe’s closest allies of both Washington and Kyiv.

But on Thursday some senior government officials in Warsaw immediately sought to play down the consequences of the prime minister’s comments, insisting Poland remained committed to helping Ukraine win the war and that no decision had been made about long-term deliveries of weapons.

“At the moment it is as the prime minister said, in the future we will see,” deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin told Polish Radio Plus.

Warsaw has consistently urged the west to provide more weapons and financial support to Ukraine and to increase sanctions and political pressure on Russia.

The threat to block future arms shipments could also derail efforts by the EU to agree a €20bn Ukraine weapons fund for the next four years, which requires unanimity among the bloc’s 27 members and is already being opposed by Hungary.

Western officials sought to play down the remarks as an emotional response to the tensions over the grain dispute and the domestic Polish political context, and would not herald the end of Warsaw’s support for Kyiv’s war effort.

“I just don’t see any evidence of that throughout the bureaucracy in Poland. There is a firm commitment to stay the course,” said a senior US official in response to Morawiecki’s remarks. “I don’t think we will see a dramatic shift in alliance unity.”

One EU official said: “It changes nothing at this stage . . . as always with Poland there is usually a huge gap between their public statements and real actions. The real problem might come if they decide to block the [EU weapons fund] which they haven’t so far and I doubt they would.”

Poland is preparing for a fiercely contested October 15 election, in which Morawiecki’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party needs the backing of its rural electorate to win a third term in office.

Another participant in the grain blockade, Slovakia, is holding an election on September 30 whose frontrunner, Robert Fico, wants to stop aid to Ukraine.

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UK public borrowing comes in lower than forecast

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UK public sector borrowing was lower than the official forecast in August, adding to pressure on the chancellor to cut taxes ahead of the next general election.

Data published on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics showed that public sector net borrowing hit £11.6bn last month. That was £3.5bn more than in August 2022, but below the £13bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK fiscal watchdog.

This was on the back of higher central government receipts that came in at £76.6bn in August, £3.1bn more than in the same month last year and £1.2bn above the OBR forecast.

In the first five months of the current fiscal year, borrowing was £69.6bn. That was £19.3bn more than in the same five-month period last year, but £11.4bn less than the £81bn forecast by the OBR.

The figures will be closely watched by Conservative MPs who want to cut taxes. The chancellor is due to give his autumn statement on November 22, with a general election expected next year.

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, said: “These numbers show why after helping families in the pandemic we now need to balance the books. That becomes much easier when inflation is under control because higher inflation pushes up interest rates, so we need to stick to the plan to get it down.”

UK prices rose less than expected in August, lowering the annual rate of inflation to 6.7 per cent. The Bank of England is due to announce its latest interest rate decision at midday today.

#public #borrowing #forecast

China welcomes Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for summit

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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad arrived in China on Thursday for a bilateral summit in his first visit since a civil war erupted in his country 12 years ago.

Assad’s trip comes as Beijing is seeking to increase its diplomatic influence in the Middle East and as Damascus is being tentatively welcomed back into the fold by regional powers that once backed the Syrian opposition.

His regime has regained control of about two-thirds of the country with the military backing of Russia and Iran, but Assad is still treated as a pariah in the west and he rarely travels abroad.

There has long been speculation that Syria would seek Beijing’s support for the multibillion-dollar task of reconstructing the war-devastated country. The topic is expected to be raised when Assad meets Chinese president Xi Jinping.

But China has been reluctant to invest in the impoverished Arab state, which is subject to heavy sanctions from western powers.

Syria is grappling with a deepening economic crisis that in recent weeks triggered anti-regime protests in the southern city of Sweida.

Alessandro Arduino, affiliate lecturer at the Lau China Institute, King’s College London, said reconstruction would be on the table when Assad met Xi. But he said this was less attractive for China than many believed, especially with Chinese companies weighed down by an economic slowdown in their domestic market.

Instead, Assad’s visit was an opportunity for Beijing to increase its diplomatic profile in the Middle East, a region it depends on for much of its oil and gas imports, Arduino said.

“First and foremost for Beijing is the narrative about China being not only an economic juggernaut but also a diplomatic juggernaut,” he added.

China has traditionally focused on its expanding trade partnerships in the region and avoided getting involved in politics. But it surprised many in March by brokering an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran that led to the regional rivals agreeing to restore diplomatic relations.

Analysts said that was a sign of Xi’s desire to expand China’s influence across the Middle East, where the US has traditionally been the dominant foreign power. “What happened with the Saudi-Iran deal can be duplicated,” Arduino said.

Assad has made few foreign trips since a popular uprising erupted in 2011 and morphed into civil war.

In May, he travelled to Saudi Arabia for the first time since the conflict began after Riyadh — which previously supported the Syrian opposition — led a regional diplomatic push to have Syria reintegrated into the Arab League.

However, the regime continues to struggle to attract investment for reconstruction, partly because of western sanctions. As the economic malaise has worsened, analysts said Damascus has come increasingly to rely on the export of Captagon, a highly addictive amphetamine, for hard currency. The Syrian pound plunged to record lows in August.

Emile Hokayem, director of regional security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said Assad would “eagerly travel” to Beijing “to embed Syria into a rising axis of anti-western autocratic states” as well as to benefit from Chinese-led connectivity projects.

Hokayem said the Syrian president would want to diversify his international relationships given his acute dependency on Russia and Iran, sponsors that had not provided economic or reconstruction assistance.

“China will carefully assess the merits of being involved in a war-torn devastated narco-state with a dysfunctional government,” he said, adding that Beijing would nevertheless be happy to “poke the US on yet another Middle East battleground”.

#China #welcomes #Syrian #president #Bashar #alAssad #summit

Brussels considers defending EU nations in Ukraine grain dispute

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Brussels is considering whether to defend Poland, Hungary and Slovakia against a lawsuit filed by Kyiv, after the three countries broke EU rules to ban imports of Ukrainian grain that they said were flooding their markets.

The unilateral bans have thrown the EU’s trade policies into disarray and are the most striking signal of disunity among the bloc’s 27 member states over support for Kyiv as it continues to fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, had initially demanded Poland, Hungary and Slovakia reverse their bans, but is now working to “co-ordinate” their legal rebuttals to Kyiv’s filing of a suit at the World Trade Organization.

In a written request sent to Poland, Hungary and Slovakia on Wednesday, seen by the Financial Times, the commission said that “as a matter of EU law” it will “act in these WTO proceedings initiated against member states”, referring to the complaint raised by Ukraine after the three countries imposed their curbs on imports of grain.

The commission added: “The immediate next step is for the commission to respond to Ukraine on these consultation requests on behalf of all three member states.”

Discussions inside the commission regarding whether or not to defend Poland, Hungary and Slovakia were continuing on Wednesday evening, said a person with knowledge of the talks.

The EU executive on Friday lifted a temporary embargo on grain exports from Ukraine into the bloc after it deemed that there was no longer a risk of supplies affecting farmers in five member states bordering the war-torn country, including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. The ban covered wheat, rapeseed, sunflower seed and maize.

Brussels also struck a deal with Ukraine for Kyiv to ensure exports were not harming the five countries.

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia responded by imposing unilateral bans, going against EU policy of acting in unison on trade matters and raising an awkward situation for the commission.

The bloc’s executive must now decide whether to defend the three countries against its own agreement with Ukraine to lift the ban.

The commission said member states were “not allowed to take unilateral measures on trade” and that it was “assessing the legally complex situation”.

“We are engaging with the concerned [member states] and will seek to work towards a constructive solution, so there would be no need to further pursue this case,” it said, adding that it could start its own infringement proceedings “to ensure that [member states] are in compliance with their obligations under EU law and their commitments in the WTO”.

As part of its agreement with Brussels to lift the temporary embargo on grain exports, Ukraine said on Monday that it would create a licensing system to “prevent market distortions in the five neighbouring member states”, according to a readout of a meeting between representatives from the commission, Ukraine and the five countries, which also include Romania and Bulgaria.

Romania has not applied unilateral measures but Bulgaria introduced a ban on sunflower seeds from Ukraine on Wednesday after days of protests by farmers.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, referring to Ukraine’s grain exports, that “some of our friends in Europe play out solidarity in a political theatre”.

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UK public support for ‘big government’ hits record high

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Britons’ support for “big government” has hit an all-time high, according to a leading survey published on Thursday, as political parties draw up their campaigns for the general election expected next year.

Some 68 per cent of taxpayers thought government should definitely “be responsible for keeping prices under control”, the annual British Social Attitudes survey found, up from 29 per cent when the question was last asked in 2016 and the highest since records began in 1985.

The large study — conducted between September 7 and October 30 last year, during which time Liz Truss was UK prime minister — found that a record 53 per cent of people thought the government should also definitely “be responsible for reducing income differences between the rich and poor”.

Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at the National Centre for Social Research, which runs the poll, said: Both Conservative and Labour voters have changed their minds about the role of government and about taxation and spending over the years.” 

Voters appeared “to be looking to government to take a significant role in finding a way out of the difficult legacy that the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have created”, he added.

Bar chart of UK share of adults replying that the government definitely should...  showing Public perceptions on the responsibility of the government have changed

Although still well below support among Labour voters, support for government to take on a bigger role has risen sharply among Conservative voters since 2016.

In the survey of 7,000 people, Tory voters were more in favour of the state assuming more responsibilities than they have ever been.

The findings jar with Truss’s call this week for her successor, Rishi Sunak, to cut taxes and rein in the welfare budget. Truss’s ill-fated “mini” Budget, in which she announced £45bn of unfunded tax cuts, ultimately sank her premiership.

Labour has a roughly 18-point polling lead over the Tories, with leader Sir Keir Starmer promising fiscal rectitude and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves ruling out a wealth tax if the party wins power.

Curtice said the “era of smaller government”, which Truss briefly tried to restore in autumn 2022, now “seems a world away”.

Line chart of Total managed expenditures, % of GDP showing UK public sector spending has increased

The NatCen study found that 63 per cent of people thought the government should be providing industries with the help they need to grow, another record high.

Voters also showed no sign of wanting a reversal of the rise in taxation and spending prompted by large government expenditure during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 55 per cent of respondents saying that both should go higher.

This is up marginally from 53 per cent in 2019, and the trend for higher taxation and spending contrasts with a fall in support seen in previous periods of higher spending.

The researchers said the resilient support for higher spending and taxes could signal a permanent shift in taxpayers’ outlook. The survey’s findings suggested Covid might have led voters to reset expectations on the role of the government at a “higher level than in the past, thereby potentially leaving a legacy of greater support for big government than has hitherto been the case”, they wrote.

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Carmakers in UK to face EV sales targets despite delay to petrol vehicle ban

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The UK car industry will still have to meet mandatory electric vehicle sales targets from January, according to people briefed on the upcoming government rules, despite ministers pushing back a ban on petrol cars.

Hours after Rishi Sunak on Wednesday delayed the introduction of the UK ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, ministers contacted industry figures to tell them that planned EV targets still stand, said people familiar with the discussions. 

But sector insiders are worried the goals are now harder to hit for carmakers because the delayed ban on petrol cars will put consumers off buying EVs.

The UK EV sales scheme, modelled partly on China’s quota system, involves manufacturers being required to sell an increasing proportion of zero emission cars every year this decade or face fines of up to £15,000 a vehicle.

Modest tweaks will be made to the scheme, but an initial target requiring 22 per cent of each carmaker’s sales in 2024 to be zero emission will remain, as will the goal of 80 per cent in 2030, said people briefed on the arrangements.

Interim targets, which include a provision that more than half of new car sales are EVs in 2028, may change slightly, they added. 

Although in 2030 manufacturers will be able to make 20 per cent of their sales through petrol, diesel and hybrid cars, that proportion will shrink every year in the run-up to 2035. 

Full details of the UK scheme are expected to be published by the government later this week.

Government insiders said the continuation of the EV sales scheme showed ministers were still serious about shifting Britain towards electric cars.

Ministers are convinced that various flexibility measures built into the scheme, such as manufacturers being able to over achieve in future years they miss early EV sales targets, will ensure that none of the companies pay penalties. 

But carmakers have warned that Sunak’s new 2035 deadline for a ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars, part of a wider watering down of the government’s net zero goals, will deter consumers from buying EVs.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the car industry trade body, said the delay to 2035 would lead to “confusion” among motorists.

“The concern is this does cause consumers to delay their purchase,” he added. 

The SMMT this week sounded the alarm over falling demand for EVs from consumers, many of whom are put off by high car prices and inadequate charging infrastructure.

Currently anyone buying an EV through a company car scheme or salary sacrifice programme receives generous tax incentives.

However, purchase incentives for consumers were wound down by the government last year.

Hawes said the delayed ban on sales of petrol cars “must be backed up with a package of attractive incentives and measures to accelerate charging infrastructure to give consumers the confidence to switch” to EVs.

The government has been approached for comment.

#Carmakers #face #sales #targets #delay #petrol #vehicle #ban

UN chief criticises ‘foot-dragging’ and ‘naked greed’ for lack of climate action

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UN secretary-general António Guterres told world leaders that they were still “decades behind” in moving away from fossil fuels as he launched a scathing critique at the UN’s inaugural climate ambition day in New York.

“We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels,” Guterres told leaders as he kicked off a day-long climate summit held immediately after the UN’s general assembly. 

“Humanity has opened the gates to hell,” he warned, noting that the world was on track for a 2.8C temperature rise since pre-industrial times.

The Paris Agreement, signed by almost 200 parties in 2015, agrees to limit the rise in global average temperatures to well under 2C and ideally to 1.5C.

In his address, Guterres called on the countries that had benefited the most from fossil fuels to make an “extra effort” to cut emissions, and criticised “shady pledges” from businesses and financial institutions on attempts to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaders from 34 governments along with seven non-government bodies, including Californian governor Gavin Newsom, London mayor Sadiq Khan, the World Bank president, the chief executive of insurer Allianz and the head of the UN’s Green Climate Fund, addressed the summit.

Several leaders directly attacked the fossil fuel industry, including Newsom, whose state is suing the major oil companies and accused them of “playing each and every one of us in this room for fools.”

“They’ve been buying off politicians. They’ve been denying and delaying science and fundamental information that they were privy to that they didn’t share or they manipulated. Their deceit and denial going back decades has created the conditions that persist here today,” he said.

The most prominent speakers were German chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU president Ursula von der Leyen, who brought more ambitious renewable energy commitments.

But China and the United States, the world’s biggest polluters, as well as India and Japan did not speak at the summit. The backtracking on green policies by the UK government, previously regarded as a climate leader, was also reflected in the absence of the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

Other big polluters that were absent from the UN invitation to bring upgraded climate plans, and pledges to the Green Climate Fund, included fossil fuel reliant countries of South Korea, Australia and Norway.

But US president Joe Biden said in his address to the UN general assembly the previous day that the heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and flooding that had ravaged countries around the world in recent weeks told an “urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels”.

The world has experienced its hottest June to August season on record, and the world’s top scientists have warned that global warming is “more likely than not” in the near-term to reach a 1.5C rise since pre-industrial times. 

This is distinct from a long-term rise in average temperatures of 1.5C that was set as a goal in the Paris climate accord in 2015. On this basis, the world has already warmed by 1.1C

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#chief #criticises #footdragging #naked #greed #lack #climate #action

Foreign investors still shunning China despite signs of upturn

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Foreign investors have dumped a further Rmb23bn ($3.15bn) of Chinese equities so far this month following record outflows in August, despite tentative signs of an improvement in the world’s second-largest economy.

Selling through China’s Stock Connect schemes, which allow foreign investors to trade onshore equities, has been at a slower pace so far than during the previous month when $12bn worth of stocks were sold through them. Yet Chinese equity markets are still on track for one of their biggest net monthly outflows this year.

China’s CSI 300 index of top stocks has remained flat this week, despite better than expected figures for retail sales and industrial production being reported on Friday last week, and a moderate improvement in the official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) released late last month. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises index has shed 2 per cent this week.

“We think the economy has already bottomed, that has been confirmed by data,” said Dong Chen, head of Asia macro research at Pictet Wealth Management. “In terms of the market . . . what we’re seeing is overall sentiment continues to be very downbeat.”

Industrial production rose 4.5 per cent year on year in August. Retail sales, a gauge of spending that had remained consistently weak, added 4.6 per cent. Both measures came in higher than analyst had forecast, and exceeded growth rates reported for them in July of 3.7 and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

The manufacturing sector PMI for August also came in marginally higher than expectations, ticking up to 49.7 from 49.3, edging closer to the 50-point reading that separates expansion from contraction. Separate figures showed that new loan issuance at Chinese banks also rose sharply in August, beating forecasts.

“Usually global investors in previous cycles tend to move earlier,” Chen added, on the lagging response of the stock market to the better numbers.

Several investors said that while economic performance was showing signs of finding a bottom, so-called “peak pessimism” for foreign investors might trail any improvement in economic performance, given the concerns over US-China relations and Beijing’s regulatory crackdown against the private sector in recent years.

Other investors flagged domestic issues, such as slumping house prices and high levels of local government debt, as signalling that economic woes could continue.

With property making up some 70 per cent of household wealth, flagging real estate sales and house prices would impede any consumption-led rebound, said Prashant Bhayani, Asia chief investment officer at BNP Paribas Wealth Management.

“Without property bottoming, people don’t feel comfortable spending, because it’s the biggest proportion of their wealth,” he said.

He added that, while hopes for a “bazooka” stimulus following China’s politburo meeting in July had been dashed, the government would need to continue to unveil “incremental measures” to support equities, such as more efforts to boost the property market and incentives to increase consumption.

“It feels like we’re bumping on the bottom, the question is what’s the upside?” Bhayani said.

Despite months of poor economic performance this year and a string of property developers missing payments on international bonds, Beijing has so far limited property support to measures such as lowering payment requirements and mortgage rates.

It has also unveiled measures to support stock markets directly, cutting a levy on share trading for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis and allowing for greater leverage in equity trading.

Sunil Tirumalai, Mumbai-based executive director for GEM equity strategy at UBS, said investors were waiting for sustained policy support from Beijing after a post-Covid rebound fizzled out.

“Any way you cut it, Chinese equities are cheap,” he said. “I think the market is taking it very sceptically: let’s see more stuff on the ground that gives us confidence before we start buying.”

#Foreign #investors #shunning #China #signs #upturn

What Sunak’s net zero pivot means for UK climate goals and the next election

Rishi Sunak’s weakening of Britain’s net zero targets has prompted ire among ecologists, business leaders and many of his own MPs.

But the UK prime minister believes he can win public support for his package of delays and tweaks to policies that impose financial burdens on voters — while creating a political trap for the opposition Labour party ahead of the next election.

He also hopes to appease rightwing voices in the Conservative party and the media calling for a net zero slowdown.

Sunak claimed the UK could reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 without having to inconvenience the general public. Experts are sceptical.

Christian Brand, a professor in transport, energy and climate change at the University of Oxford, said the delay to the ban on petrol and diesel cars “would increase emissions from the sector by hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon”.

This would make meeting the UK’s medium term carbon targets “even more difficult, if not impossible”, he added.

What has the prime minister announced?

Sunak’s most contentious decision was to delay the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, a move that has infuriated some carmakers.

He insisted the shift meant the UK was now aligned with countries such as Germany, France, Australia, Sweden and US states including California and New York.

The prime minister argued that the upfront cost of electric cars was still “higher” than their fossil fuel equivalents and admitted that UK charging infrastructure was still insufficient.

Sunak has also relaxed the 2035 phaseout target for the installation of new gas boilers, and delayed a ban on new oil boilers from 2026 to 2035. He is introducing an exemption on both types of boilers for a fifth of households so they will “never have to switch at all”.

Other changes Sunak announced included abandoning tougher energy efficiency rules for landlords.

Could Britain have met the targets anyway?

Take-up of electric cars in the UK has accelerated, accounting for one in five new cars sold in August. Industry figures said the 2030 target helped drive sales.

“This is the biggest industry transformation in over a century and the UK 2030 target is a vital catalyst,” said Ford’s UK chair, Lisa Brankin.

But it was still an ambitious target to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030. Parts of the industry have been warning about the slow rollout of charging networks for electric vehicles for years.

“The widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the UK can’t be realistically achieved without the corresponding charging network to accommodate it,” said Gordon Balmer, head of forecourt lobby group the Petrol Retailers Association. 

The group said it had “consistently argued that the ban on new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 is a date without a plan”.

There had been similar division over targets to install heat pumps. The government has said it wants about 600,000 heat pumps to be installed per year by 2028, helping to replace the gas-fired boilers that heat around 80 per cent of UK homes.

In theory, setting out a 2035 phaseout of the installation of new gas boilers was meant to provide an incentive for industry to come up with cheaper, smaller versions of electric heat pumps. But that plan has not gone smoothly, partly owing to the costs of installing the devices, and take-up in the UK has lagged far behind European countries.

Introducing the exemption for certain households, Sunak said it was wrong to force a family living in a Darlington terraced home to pay £10,000 in upfront costs. He promised the government grant scheme for households to replace their boiler with a new heat pump would be increased by 50 per cent to £7,500.

Jenny Curtis, managing director at Swedish developer Vattenfall’s UK heat business, said changes to the phaseout of gas boilers risk “removing the incentives for building owners to switch to lower carbon alternatives”.

Sunak has also nipped in the bud a growing backlash from an estimated 1.3mn people with oil boilers, mostly living in rural England.

By scrapping a plan to phase out off-grid oil boilers from 2026 to 2035 Sunak has neutralised what could have been a potent rebellion from voters in the Tory shires.

What are other European countries doing?

The UK’s pushback has been echoed in Europe as governments start to enforce ambitious EU-set climate targets.

A phaseout of combustion engines in new cars by 2035 almost hit roadblocks in April when Germany refused to sign off on the law until more allowances had been given to “e-fuels” — carbon neutral fuels that can be used in combustion engines.

The French government similarly made a last minute stand against new EU renewable energy targets in May in order to gain more allowances for its nuclear industry. 

The German government’s ban on new gas boilers from January 1 next year — dubbed the “heat hammer” — has prompted an intense popular backlash.

What are the political calculations?

Sunak hopes to persuade voters that his path will mean Britain hits its 2050 climate goals in a “pragmatic” way while shielding vulnerable voters from high costs. He has portrayed Labour as “eco-zealots”.

Recent polling has suggested support has waned for some of the government’s green policies amid a cost of living crisis and since the Conservatives started using green issues to drive a wedge between them and Labour.

According to a YouGov poll conducted last month, only 36 per cent of voters backed a petrol and diesel ban by 2030, down from 51 per cent in 2021, in the run-up to the COP26 climate conference. Among Conservative voters, support fell from 41 to 19 per cent in the same period.

However, 72 per cent of those polled said they supported the government’s goal to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and 79 per cent supported new onshore wind farms. Nearly half supported increasing taxes on long-haul flights.

What will Labour do in response?

The anger from some business leaders about the policy upheaval could play into Labour’s hands in the short term as it tries to cast itself as a responsible government-in-waiting.

But the Labour leadership now faces a dilemma over whether to reinstate any or all of the delayed policies on their original timeframe.

Within minutes of the speech, the Conservatives posed a series of questions for Labour, including challenging the party to say whether it would return to the 2030 target for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

The answer came back immediately: Yes. Labour said it would work with industry to meet the 2030 target, arguing that families would ultimately be better off because electric vehicles had much cheaper lifetime costs.

However, Ed Miliband, shadow climate change secretary, was conspicuously silent on the changes to boiler policies, implying that Labour could accept the new status quo.

Additional reporting by Alice Hancock in Brussels

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