Tory leadership: Don’t ‘sideline’ climate emergency, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak told

Exclusive: World Wide Fund for Nature tells No 10 contenders to remember they were elected on party’s ’greenest manifesto ever’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 21 August 2022 15:34 BST
Tory leadership race: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss support fracking

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are being urged not to “sideline” the climate crisis in their Tory leadership race, amid growing alarm that this issue is being forgotten.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says the contenders for No 10 were elected on their party’s “greenest manifesto ever” and that they must make “clear commitments” to make-or-break green measures.

The contest has seen Ms Truss and Mr Sunak reject certain policy ideas – such as onshore wind and solar farms – that are thought to be at odds with the priorities of the Tory party members who will pick the winner.

It has also coincided with Britain’s startling heatwave, caused by global heating, yet neither candidate has spoken about how the country can best comply with the net zero carbon emissions commitment.

In a letter to the contenders, seen by The Independent, the WWF stated: “Any delay is a denial of reality; the climate crisis cannot be sidelined while our world burns.” Tanya Steele, the WWF’s chief executive, urged Ms Truss and Mr Sunak to make reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels a “central mission” of their premiership.

“There is a clear mandate to deliver this change. Your party won a significant majority in 2019 on the back of their greenest manifesto ever,” she wrote. “The evidence is clear [that] delivering on the promise of that manifesto, to tackle climate change and leave nature in a better state than it was found, is the best way to secure the UK’s resilience against future shocks while creating thousands of new skilled jobs and unlocking innovation across the country.”

The specific commitments sought by the WWF, the world’s largest conservation organisation, are:

  • Invest in energy efficiency measures and the rapid rollout of renewable energy
  • Introduce ambitious farm subsidy schemes that can weather climate shocks such as drought, reducing reliance on fossil-fuel inputs through restoring nature and soil
  • Take on a global leadership role for climate and nature action at the next UN conference on biodiversity – Cop15 in Montreal in December
  • Make the UK a world-leading centre for green finance, eliminating “greenwash” (where companies dupe consumers into believing their products are environmentally friendly)

Kate Norgrove, WWF’s campaigns director, said: “Scorching heatwaves, wildfires and drought conditions aren’t merely signs of summer – this is our world sending us a distress signal. The next prime minister must take heed of our planet’s warning signs and show they will deliver on their manifesto promises on climate and nature, helping to bring our world back to life.”

The WWF says its research shows that investment in green infrastructure would unleash private sector spending, creating 350,000 additional jobs in the construction sector by 2028 and 230,000 jobs in green transport.

Green exports could grow from £5bn to £80bn a year by 2050 if the UK is positioned as a leader in the markets of the future, it argues.

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