A Scottish UK minister has admitted that his government has “absolutely failed” by not having a proper conversation with the public when Britain’s 2050 net zero target was enshrined in law.

In 2019, Theresa May’s UK Government embedded a legally-binding 2050 net zero target- while the Scottish Government has set a 2045 legal ambition.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has caused outrage by pushing some key policies including a ban on the sale or petrol and diesel cars across the UK and requirements to replace gas boilers in England further into the future in a politically motivated move.

But the Prime Minister has insisted the 2050 net zero target will remain in place, meaning that more drastic action will be required in the coming decades to reach the aim.

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UK energy minister and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP, Andrew Bowie, who was Ms May’s parliamentary private secretary at the time of the 2019 vote, has admitted that a “national conversation” about what net zero entailed did not take place.

Speaking at a fringe event organised by the Spectator at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Bowie, said despite the failure to have a robust public debate about net zero in 2019, the Prime Minister has started that conversation now.

He said: “I think we have, in one respect, absolutely failed – and that is to have that national conversation to explain clear narratives about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what it will mean to the country and the people.

“We have not done that.”

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Mr Bowie added: “What we saw in the last two weeks from the Prime Minister is the beginnings of that honest conversation that we need to have with the British people.

“The British public support net zero, they can see the economic benefits as well as the environmental benefits.

“China, along with the United States of America and Europe are racing to catch up in terms of investment in new technology including renewables and nuclear.”

The minister stressed that “we do need to have a conversation”, adding that “it was a mistake we didn’t have it”.

He added: “We do need to have that debate now.”

Asked if there is public support for reaching net zero, Mr Bowie insisted that the public do back the strategy, but have concerns about the costs involved.

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He said: “The public are on board with net zero – net zero is an overwhelmingly popular decision that we took in 2019 to legislate to get net zero by 2050.

“People want to see us moving towards a cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy baseload.

“We are leading the world in doing it and the public are very supportive.”

Mr Bowie added: “However, as the Prime Minister said just a few weeks ago, it is important we do this in a proportionate and pragmatic way.

“Going too far and too fast and taking decisions that might make people feel poor as a result means that we end up losing public support for what I think is a very important target.”