Any attempt to politicise climate action would be a ‘mistake,’ Tory MP says

Chris Skidmore said a group of MPs spoke to the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning about concerns over politicising climate action.

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Wednesday 06 September 2023 14:51 BST
It would be a ‘significant mistake’ for the Conservatives to listen to a small minority of the party politicising climate action, a senior green Tory has said (PA)
It would be a ‘significant mistake’ for the Conservatives to listen to a small minority of the party politicising climate action, a senior green Tory has said (PA) (PA Wire)

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It would be a “significant mistake” for the Conservatives to listen to a small minority of the party politicising climate action, a senior green Tory has said.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said the contents of the King’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament in November will provide the “strongest signal” of the Government’s position on net zero in the lead up to the general election, which is expected next year.

His comments come after nine Conservative MPs rebelled to oppose the flagship Energy Bill at third reading, with some Tory MPs calling it a “recipe for energy disaster” which risks making customers pay more to deliver “cultish” eco-policies.

Green campaigners have grown concerned that both parties could jettison policies aimed at cleaning up the air and decarbonising the economy after the Tories won the Uxbridge by-election off the back of campaigning against the ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez) expansion.

Asked if the Conservative Party could row back on its net zero stance ahead of the election, Mr Skidmore said: “The challenge is that Ulez was not a net zero measure so (we need to make) sure that there isn’t any sort of ability to claim that more green projects costs rather than benefits.”

“The reality is it’s a tiny, tiny microscopic fragment of the Tory party that tends to go on the news and dominate the airways,” he added.

“It would be a significant mistake if the Tory party was to listen to those who don’t represent the rest of the country and certainly don’t represent the future opportunities that investing in net zero and green growth can provide.”

Mr Skidmore said a group of MPs led by Alok Sharma spoke to the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning about their concerns over the party politicising climate action.

“I know if there is any attempt to do so there will be a reaction against that,” he said.

It comes after the former minister spoke about whether the UK is on track to meet its net zero targets at the Reuters Impact event in London.

Britain’s leadership is not just about political leadership

Chris Skidmore MP

Mr Skidmore told the conference on Wednesday: “I think in terms of what we’ve seen from the Climate Change Committee progress report, their confidence has increased that we are on track to meet our carbon budgets by 2027 and then we come off the rails and that’s the real challenge now.”

The Tory MP said he does not believe the UK is “drastically off-track” and Britain is still a world leader on climate action in terms of standards setting, research and non-governmental organisations, despite concerns of waning political will.

“Britain’s leadership is not just about political leadership,” he said.

“When you look at the technological pace of change, regardless of the political situation, actually things are going in the right direction.

“The challenge is maintaining the political momentum and the strategic choices that politicians need to make to provide the certainty to industry and businesses, because if they’re given that certainty they get on with the job and deliver on it.”

He said the Government “is missing a massive opportunity to be able to set out a vision for what the future of Britain can be”.

Making the case that net zero is incredibly popular outside of Westminster and Whitehall and politicians are behind the curb is absolutely vital

Chris Skidmore MP

He added: “What we shouldn’t be doing is hiding our green light under a bushel of saying, ‘We’re slightly embarrassed about all this net zero stuff because we’re slightly worried that we’re going to upset a slightly, a tiny fragment, minority of people’.

“There is no free rider opportunities in net zero. It’s only by leading that you demonstrate market advantage and actually that is the vision we need to set out.”

When it comes to counteracting net zero detractors, the Tory MP said: “We are in a situation where we can’t be emotional. The climate crisis is the crisis of our generation. No other generation has faced one like it but ultimately we’ve got to be rational and demonstrate we can meet disinformation and misinformation with facts, calmly and coolly.”

Mr Skidmore cited Bolton Wanderers Football Club cancelling a rally led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage to campaign for a referendum on net zero.

“Making the case that net zero is incredibly popular outside of Westminster and Whitehall and politicians are behind the curb is absolutely vital,” Mr Skidmore said.

He said the media also has a responsibility not to put the minority of MPs who oppose net zero policies on an equal platform with the rest of the party.

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