How will the next Prime Minister view the climate crisis?
The Conservative and Unionist Party leadership contest has been whittled down to two candidates who will now face the Tory party membership, with one of them becoming Prime Minister by September 5th 2022. A new poll shows that out of ten policy priorities, hitting net zero ranked last for Tory party members.
The last two standing, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are the only two candidates who during a live TV debate categorically supported the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050. The other three candidates on the stage caveated their responses using the potential negative impacts upon the economy and the population to justify a tepid commitment to net zero. Kemi Badenoch subsequently backtracked on her climate sceptic comments a few days later. The vast majority of the roughly over 160 thousand party members who get to vote for the next prime minister are demographically very different from the greater electorate and thus have different policy priorities.
The policies put forward by the candidates have been thin, as they usually are in party leadership elections, however, we can still get a hint of their opinions on what action the next government could take depending on which one of them wins the contest.
The former chancellor earlier this year unveiled a policy paper in response to the energy crisis that was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The focus was put on wind and solar power and even investment into nuclear, a source of power that is being relooked at this year in light of a global energy crisis, even in countries such as Japan which since the Fukushima disaster has been vehemently anti-nuclear. Sunak did attempt a grant scheme to help Britains insulate their homes but it ended badly with little progress to show. He also scrapped VAT for home insulation but many criticised that as not having gone far enough considering how consequential it is to the UK’s goal to reach net zero. You can view Sunak’s climate voting record here.
During her time as Environment Secretary under David Cameron, Truss stated that English farmland is blighted by solar farms, then subsequently cut government subsidies for said farms. Despite not voicing support for it in the past, last week she backed the UK’s goal to reach net zero. This may be perceived as a position to bolster her candidacy as party leader amongst the more ideologically right wing of the party (in the first rounds fellow MPs voted and then in the final round the members will make the decision from the two candidates). Truss has promised to end ‘green levies’ on energy bills i.e. a tax that discourages environmentally unfriendly sources of energy or heating; she claims that halting the tax will help people through the cost of living crisis. You can view Truss’s climate voting record here.
Although we do not yet know who will be the next Prime Minister, what we do know is this; they will not be climate change deniers, unlike other former and current world leaders and fellow Tory MPs, but they may disappoint many in their effort to catalyse change within a multitude of highly polluting sectors and might also perform poorly in their implementation of drastic climate policies that are urgently needed.
Do you think the climate crisis should be a top policy priority? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
Written By Neil McLoughlin
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