Theresa May has been attacked for giving one of the biggest issues of the age – climate change – a single “cursory” mention in her speech to the Conservative party conference.
Campaigners described the speech as a “worrying” and accused the Prime Minister of “backing the wrong horse” by not doing enough to create a “smart, efficient, renewable energy future” for Britain.
Ms May said her speech, which ran to more than 7,000 words, was designed to answer the question: “What’s my vision for Britain? My philosophy? My approach?”
A number of important economic sectors, including financial services, “life sciences, tech, aerospace, car manufacturing, the creative industries and many others”, were name-checked in the speech.
The one reference to climate change in the speech came in a list of pledges designed to show the UK would make “a bold, new, confident role for ourselves on the world stage” after its planned departure from the European Union.
The Government would ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, she said, which was no surprise as Britain has already agreed to do so as a member of the EU.
Asad Rehman, a climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “Britain will ratify the Paris agreement on Climate Change. Great news.
“But that’s just the start of the action we need. Which is why Theresa May’s cursory mention of climate change in her conference speech is so worrying.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges confronting our generation. People across the globe are already facing killer floods and droughts, and extreme weather is threatening homes and livelihoods right here in the UK.
“If Theresa May truly wants a ‘society that works for everyone’ she must reverse her support for fracking, new runways and other climate wrecking policies and instead invest in renewable energy and new jobs in a green economy, before it is too late.”
Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, noted the G20 group of countries had said climate change was “one of the greatest challenges of our time”.
“It got only a fleeting mention in Theresa May’s speech, yet it should be central to her industrial strategy and professed fairness agenda,” he said.
“As the Paris Agreement comes into force, it is clear that any industrial strategy for the 21st century needs to embrace a low-carbon future.
“The life chances of many countries and peoples will be trashed by a changing climate – the effects of which we’re already starting to see in acute flooding in the north of England which have ruined livelihoods.”
He criticised the Government decision to go ahead with the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, saying it would increase energy bills.
“Theresa May’s Government is backing the wrong horse when a smart, efficient, renewable energy future is the choice the rest of the global economy is making,” Dr Parr said.
And Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of the Green Party, accused the Prime Minister of having “abandoned all pretence of caring for the environment”.
“The accelerating climate crisis is the greatest threat to our security today and it is utterly disappointing that our Prime Minister almost entirely ignored it in her final speech to conference,” she said.
“Our country and our planet deserve better than the blatant disregard of May’s Government.”
However Richard Black, director of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, sought to read between the lines, saying “many things she highlighted lead naturally to actions on both climate change and clean energy”.
“‘A Britain that works for everyone’ implies additional resources for flood protection, because the science suggests a greater flood risk ahead in a warmer climate,” he said, quoting Ms May’s speech.
“‘Global Britain’ implies strong follow-through on the commitments made in Paris, on both cutting our own emissions and on climate finance, because not doing so would antagonise countries whom, post-Brexit, we’re trying to woo.
Climate change protests around the world
Climate change protests around the world
People rally to promote climate protection in Rome, Italy
Hundreds of demonstrators gather in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
People hold hands to form a human chain during a gathering called by ecologist organisations in Marseille, southern France, to protest against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris
Demonstrators clash with French riot police during protests on Place de la Republique, ahead of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, France
Demonstrators clash with French riot police during a protest on Place de la Republique ahead of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, France
A group of people perform during a rally to promote climate protection in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A protester sits next to his sign that reads 'Monsanto the Devil Incorporated ' as he joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Environmentalists dance during a protest near the Place de la Republique after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France
People protest next to characters dressed as wild animals during a march against climate change near the Monument to the Revolution, in Mexico City
Protesters carries a banner while they take part in a protest about climate change at New York City Hall steps in lower Manhattan, New York
People take part in a protest about climate change around New York City Hall at lower Manhattan, New York
People rally to promote climate protection in Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy
A woman holds a globe during a protest for the global climate day in Lugano, Switzerland
Yemenis hold banners as they participate in the Global March for Climate in the old city of Sanaía, Yemen
Protesters dressed as Santa Claus take part in a protest about climate change at New York City Hall steps in lower Manhattan, New York
People gather at the Legislative Palace in Montevideo, during the Global Climate March to demand action on climate change telling world leaders on the eve of a crunch UN summit that there is "no planet B". From Sydney to London, humid Rio to chilly New York, at least 683,000 hit the streets in 2,300 events across 175 countries at the weekend, co-organiser and campaign group Avaaz said, calling it the largest number of people to protest over climate change all at once
A protester dressed as a panda bear marches with others holding banners reading 'stop climate change' through the streets of central Madrid during the Global Climate March
Demonstrators participate in the Global March for Climate in Athens, Greece
A man wearing a Bernie Sanders mask leads hundreds of demonstrators who marched near City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Patricia Hauser joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
A woman holds a poster of a sick Earth as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Hundreds of demonstrators march around City Hall in Los Angeles, California
A demonstrator holds cut-out of US Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
George Patten holds a sign that reads 'No Fracking Ever!' as he joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
Gabrielle Sosa wears 'Rising Sea Levels' sign as she joined hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, California
“‘Making markets work for everyone’ suggests moving to an energy market where community generation and demand-response providers, for example, are able to compete on a level playing-field with the big boys, so cutting bills and increasing security of supply, and so on.”
He said a consultation on plans announced last year to phase out “unabated coal” by 2025 was now six months late.
But he added: “All the steers I’ve had are that Theresa May is committed to a science-based line on climate change, although with her style of Government being much less flashy than David Cameron’s it’s an issue that I think we’re unlikely to see in lights.”
- More about:
- Theresa May
- climate change
- Global Warming
- Tory conference
- Conservative Party Conference
- Conservative Conference