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Tory leaders ominously quiet on climate change as UK has hottest day in history



So, the Tory leadership candidates have been gradually whittled down in the political equivalent of a cross between the Hunger Games and Love Island. One will emerge as our new Prime Minister, but what do we know of their views on climate change and the environment?


As we all baked in the hottest temperatures on record the candidates remained vague on what they intend to do to support the UK’s aims to reach net zero. There is sufficient worry that Alok Sharma, President for COP26 and a Minister for the Cabinet Office since 2021 has threatened to resign if pledges made in Glasgow are not kept. The trouble being that if he did leave would anyone really notice?


During recent hustings more light was shone on the view of our future PM around net zero. Chris Skidmore, chair of the environment all-party parliamentary group and organiser of the hustings, said that for most people watching this debate “…they were terrified that someone would think they have a mandate to unpick our climate commitments. Alok Sharma was quite tough and made sure that they all got on the record supporting net zero and our climate commitments.”


Many green MPs are concerned that biodiversity hasn’t really been mentioned during the contest, and they are worried that a new prime minister wouldn’t be as keen as Boris Johnson would have been on attending the COP15 biodiversity conference later this year.


Rishi Sunak for instance, the former chancellor and front runner to be PM according to peers and MPs present, apparently dodged the question about whether he’d attend the conference in Montreal, Canada, in December. He said it was “very important”, but did not commit to attending. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, gave the strongest response according to the audience, telling them that not only would she attend, she’d lead a delegation and lead Britain on the world stage. Sunak surprised those present in an otherwise rather finance and tech heavy speech by saying that peat restoration is his “pet project” and is the equivalent of Britain’s rainforest. He vowed to protect it as prime minister. Nothing about renewables, the green economy, and reaching net zero through the promotion of green taxes.


So, as the barometer hit over 40 degrees, trains and planes ground to a halt, and a Red Warning was issued by the met office meaning possible serious loss of life due to the heat, our current PM Boris Johnson went AWOL. COBRA’s meetings gave very little re-assurance and a number of senior Tory party MPs are declaring that the Net Zero thing is all a bit overblown and we should all just slap on more factor 50.


In October 2021, just ahead of the COP26 UN Climate conference in Glasgow, three-quarters (75%) of adults in Great Britain said they were worried about the impact of climate change, according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN). Just over two-fifths (43%) reported feeling anxious about the future of the environment more widely in the past month.


One cannot help but think that whoever takes over at number 10 will need to read the voting population more effectively or be consigned to opposition for a long time.


Julian Barlow is Chair of WWCE