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Rishi Sunak was accused on Tuesday of presiding over a “slow-motion car crash” as the Prime Minister prepares to delay key measures aimed at transforming the UK into a net-zero carbon economy.

Downing Street said the government would always be “pragmatic and ensure costs are not passed on to hard-working families”, amid media reports that the Prime Minister was about to abandon key green pledges.

Downing Street did not deny the BBC report that potential changes Sunak was considering include delaying a planned ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

Ministers are also expected to weaken plans to ban the installation of new domestic gas boilers from 2035, according to people familiar with Sunak’s thinking.

The government wants to delay a 2026 ban on new off-grid oil boilers until 2035, the BBC said.

The prime minister is also expected to say his government will not impose new taxes to discourage flying or introduce new policies to force people to use ride-sharing.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, who produced a report on net zero emissions for Sunak this year, said: “We will look back on this moment like Sunak’s slow-motion car crash Same.”

Sunak is preparing to announce the changes in a major speech ahead of next month’s Conservative Party conference, trying to shake up his government and appeal to swing voters in the run-up to a general election.

The Prime Minister calculated that while voters want the UK to achieve the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, they believe this should be achieved in a way that unfairly penalizes households struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Downing Street did not deny the media reports, while insisting it remained “fully committed” to the UK’s legally binding goal of achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

“Our approach will always be pragmatic and ensure costs are not passed on to hardworking families,” a spokesman said. “We do not comment on speculation.”

Sunak believes he risks putting Labor on the wrong side of the green policy debate, suggesting leader Sir Keir Starmer is overzealous at the expense of families.

The danger for Sunak is that he will alienate many potential Conservative voters because he may abandon the green agenda promoted by his predecessors Boris Johnson and Theresa May.

A Labor spokesman said: “This is a complete farce. The country cannot continue to allow the Conservative government to plunge into complete chaos and stumble from crisis to crisis.”

Skidmore said the ideas being discussed by Sunak could set back the UK’s green agenda by a decade or more.

“It’s like David Cameron promising to tackle the ‘green waste’ problem only to end up with billions of dollars in bills by blocking onshore wind power,” he added.

Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network, which has about 150 Conservative MPs and peers as supporters, said: “Slowing action on climate change would be a serious political, economic and environmental mistake.”

Politicians were rattled in July when local concerns over the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone were widely seen as hampering Labor’s bid to capture the Uxbridge constituency in a parliamentary by-election.

Starmer subsequently distanced himself from the plans of London’s Labor mayor Sadiq Khan, prompting Sunak to rethink various green policies.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative parliamentary party’s leading net zero skeptic, welcomed Sunak’s expected move, saying: “Reducing the burden on taxpayers in a time of inflation is the right thing to do, and Could prove to be an election-winning strategy.”

The car industry has been seeking clarity for months on whether the government will stick to plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

One person close to the government questioned the possibility of delaying the 2030 ban, pointing to BMW’s pledge this month to invest £600m to build the electric Mini at a factory in Oxford. Tata Group agreed in July to build a £4 billion electric vehicle gigafactory in Somerset.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenock said last week that ministers wanted to remain “flexible”.

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