All the candidates have backed the Conservative Government over the last twelve years so all are responsible for the horrendous record on Green issues which have encouraged more oil, gas and coal exploitation and failed to properly insulate our housing or implement a Green New Deal to transform our economy.
All the candidates promote economic growth, which leads to more consumption and further damage to the planet. Most of the candidates advocate big cuts in taxation, but none are explaining that this means deep cuts to public expenditure and loss of vital services.
The Conservative Environment Network (CEN), which includes 130 MPs, wrote to the candidates urging them to clarify their stance on environmental issues, emphasising energy and food security. Chris Skidmore, the founder of the Net Zero Support Group of Conservative MPs, has not been impressed by candidate responses. It is clear the UK’s climate goals, which are already far too weak, are under threat.
Fewer than 70 MPs attended a climate briefing from Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance in Parliament last week. None of the leadership hopefuls attended. The briefing was the result of a 37-day hunger strike outside parliament by Angus Rose. He wanted MP’s to understand the scientific presentation that convinced Boris Johnson about climate change. Angus said it was “surprising” those vying to be prime minister did not want to make sure they were up-to-date on “the most pressing issue humanity faces” with leading scientists on hand to distil the key information.
“Hopefully they would do it for their country, for their community … or at least consider their own children, their own grandchildren,” Mr Rose added.
So what have the candidates said so far?
Kemi Badenoch has criticised the government’s already feeble net-zero strategy, arguing in a speech to mark the launch of her campaign that there are “too many policies, like the net zero target, set up with no thought to the effect on industries in the poorer parts of this country. The consequence is simply to displace emissions to other countries,” she added, accusing the government in which she is a Minister of engaging in “unilateral economic disarmament”. She seems oblivious to the fact that green investment is the best way to create jobs and level up the economy. 136 countries have already signed up to net zero by 2050. Badenoch speaks as if we’re alone in the world by working towards net zero when in reality, we’d be alone in the world if we didn’t.
Penny Mordaunt has defended the net zero policy in an article in the Telegraph. She wants lower taxes and “a huge boost for our plans to achieve net zero, where we believe that up to three million green jobs could be generated by 2030, creating the apprenticeships, new jobs, and training opportunities right across the UK”. However, she is a big supporter of both fracking and nuclear power, has generally voted against measures to protect us from climate change and doesn’t like the time pressure on the net zero policy!
Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, has been at war with No 10, preventing policies – from insulation to renewable energy – that could boost the UK’s climate fight. Sunak vetoed moves that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of their cost. He allowed the green homes grant but its administration was botched and ended in disaster. Since then, no significant new green policies requiring public funding have been allowed. At COP26 he promised to meet the target to provide $100bn of climate finance to developing countries but as Chancellor, he has presided over massive cuts to Overseas aid. He offered tax cuts to encourage energy firms to invest in oil drilling in the North Sea.
Liz Truss, despite being the foreign secretary, played almost no role at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow last November and failed to mention the climate in speeches and meetings with her foreign counterparts. She has not yet spoken out against net zero. She formerly worked for oil giant Shell.
Former soldier Tom Tugendhat says “We need a growing economy and to deliver on the opportunities of Brexit.” He has a 10-year plan for growth and promises low taxes. His so-called “Clean Start” includes more nuclear energy and carbon capture technology so we can continue exploiting more fossil fuels-even though this is not yet shown to work at the scale required. He voted against a CO2 reduction requirement for new homes.
A recent report from the Climate Change Committee found ‘shocking gaps’ in Government climate policy and ‘glacial’ progress towards net zero in some areas. But what so many of the Tory candidates are offering in this leadership election fails to reach even Johnson’s minimum standard of talking the right talk. All we’re hearing is either a deathly silence or worse, an outright denial of the challenges we face and the solutions on offer.
So which candidate should be supported? If you have a vote in the Conservative leadership and are concerned about our planet, it is clear you are in the wrong party!