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It was confirmed the following day, that the BBC story that Rishi Sunak’s government would be rolling back some of its net zero commitments, including the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars being pushed back from the proposed 2030 to 2035, and a delay in phasing out gas boilers, was correct.

The leak and subsequent government announcement of a slowing of the pace to targets, comes on top of what, while the title of this article may seem hyperbolic, is not far from the truth after the summer many have experienced this year. Here in the UK, we were met with the typical British gloomy summer of wind and rain, whilst our European and American counterparts have been met with drastic extremes.

It was recorded that July was the hottest average month on record, with many parts of southern Europe reaching unbearable temperatures of 50 degrees. Accompanying these temperatures were raging wildfires, devastating large areas of Italy, Greece, Croatia, Canada, and Hawaii. These events should be ringing the alarm bells louder than ever on the effect that climate change is having; with the destruction of agriculture, homes, and threatened health of locals, with deteriorating air quality and insufficient infrastructure.

While the effects of climate change are more urgent than ever, it seems that in 2023 ESG funds are now facing the effects of global markets, and ESG may not be at the top of every fund’s lists.

Reuters reported in August that ESG investments have been out of favour with UK investors, with a staggering £1 billion in funding having been pulled since May because of continued interest rate rises and persistent inflation, leading investors to seek more stable grounds for returns.

Figures from global funds network Calastone show that the amount investors sold of their ESG funds snowballed to a total of £1.96 billion by the end of August. This has also been reflected by consumers, with The Telegraph reporting that the ‘number of people making decisions with a ‘’planet first’’ mindset nearly halved from 24pc to 13pc between June 2022 and April this year’.

Once the front runners of global change with the momentum of the Paris Agreement in 2015 behind us, seemingly, under Rishi Sunak’s government, matters of ESG in the UK have taken a back seat. While we need to ensure our own energy supplies in light of the Russian war on Ukraine, the new North Sea oil licenses that Sunak has approved have faced huge backlash from both members of his own party and environmental groups, urging him to look at renewable energy sources – with Sunak claiming that it is “entirely consistent with our plan to get to net zero”. 

While Sunak was widely criticised for his move, London Mayor Sadiq Khan hasn’t fared much better at the other end of the spectrum of ESG matters. The controversial ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), aiming to improve the air quality in London, with vehicles not meeting emissions standards being charged £12.50 a day, or a fine, has seen Khan suffer a drop in popularity given that the charges are hitting those who are unable to either pay the charge or afford to get a car that is compliant.

Sunak says the government is still committed to reaching net zero by 2050 but in a “more proportionate way”, however it is increasingly evident that the UK is struggling to find the right balance between the needs of its people and achieving its net zero targets.

Emma Taylor is account executive at Quill PR

Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash