This week saw the presentation of a letter to Theresa May, calling on the government to cut UK emissions to “net zero” before 2050, going beyond the target agreed by the UK at the 2015 Paris climate change convention.

A total of 131 MPs – a fifth of the House of Commons – backed the zero-carbon goal, which the government has already pledged to examine this autumn.

Attitudes towards environmental issues have tended to break down on the left/right ideological divide. The signatories to the letter do include more Labour MPs than those of any other party, but they also include 38 Conservatives. A hefty chunk is from the centrist wing of the party, such as Damian Green, the prime minister’s de facto number two until he was forced to resign last summer.

In addition though, the signatories number arch-Brexiteers such as Tom Tugendhat, the foreign affairs select committee chair tipped as a potential future leader of the Tory party.

This marks a big sea change. Even five years ago, the idea of transitioning to a zero-carbon economy would have been regarded by most as belonging to the realms of science fiction.

But the strides made in the low-carbon generation space mean net zero is a goal increasingly viewed as business sense.
A good place to start would be to accelerate the phase-out of new diesel and petrol cars. The PM ducked the opportunity to take that option at the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit this week. But it seems she has more room for manoeuvre on this issue than she might have thought.

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