I was on the board at BT and Barclays – Conservatives must take the climate crisis seriously

Both candidates in the race for the Conservative leadership have committed to net zero, yet targets alone are not enough

Tory leadership race: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss support fracking

As Conservative Party candidates receive their ballot papers for the final leadership vote, the ongoing leadership our government and innovative British companies are displaying in the fight against the climate crisis is one of the best examples of Global Britain.

The Glasgow Climate Pact, negotiated through months of wrangling with hundreds of other countries and agreed at the Cop26 climate summit, was a triumph of British diplomacy. The UK government, which passed a commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050 into law, deserves its reputation as a global climate leader.

Just eight months later, while the UK still holds the chair of the UN’s Cop climate process, it is essential that candidates who aspire to lead the Conservative Party and our country commit to uphold that climate leadership at home and on the global stage.

Green policies may seem like fair game when promising to cut red tape. Yet the reality is this agenda couldn’t be more important for addressing the greatest challenges our country faces. Millions of families are justifiably concerned about how they will afford to heat their homes this winter. That’s why the UK needs leadership that will work with business to realise the incredible benefits and opportunities of climate action.

A household of four would see its annual energy bill reduced by £2,500 through a more rapid switch to clean energy, according to recent research from We Mean Business Coalition. This is a moment when the UK can become a global leader in key industries like clean tech, sustainability services, and show other countries how beneficial this switch can be.

Over 280,000 UK jobs would also be created by an accelerated switch to clean energy on the road to net zero.

I am pleased to see that both candidates remaining in the race for the Conservative leadership have publicly committed to the UK’s net zero by 2050 target. Yet targets alone are not enough. A UK government fully committed to climate leadership could create the policy environment and investments to unleash the incredible potential of British business.

From my time as lead non-executive director for the British government, I know how quickly and effectively the state can deliver, when there is clear direction from the top. I therefore urge those who aspire to lead our government and country to be courageous, to understand the very real threat of the climate crisis to human society – evidenced by the unprecedented heatwaves we saw recently – and to act in the public interest.

I also know from conversations with business leaders how companies are already taking the decisions and making investments to deliver on their own science-based net zero targets. Hundreds of British companies are working to cut their emissions in half by 2030, but they need government help to make these commitments a reality.

That is why business groups, working with Cambridge University’s UK Corporate Leaders Group have urged that “the next prime minister must centre climate policy and continue delivery of net zero and regenerating the UK’s nature”.

Business leaders are pragmatic and want stability and consistent policies. This allows them to increase their own investments at the pace required and avoid the risk of stranded assets or rising costs.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

Delivering supportive policy measures will bring down the cost of clean technology, enabling businesses to capitalise on growing global markets. For the British economy, this will not only generate new jobs but also increase UK exports because we can gain competitive advantage in these industries.

It will also help with the critical levelling up agenda to disperse growth across the country, increase investment coming into the UK and improve air quality and therefore public health as a result of the move away from fossil fuels.

Put climate action at the heart of government decisions in order to tackle the energy and cost of living crises. Continue our global leadership and support UK business to deliver a safer and cleaner future for the economy, for our communities and for our children and grandchildren.

Sir Ian Cheshire is chair of Channel 4; Spire Healthcare Group; Menhaden Capital, and a non-executive director at BT. He is also the chair of the corporate climate group, We Mean Business Coalition. He was previously CEO of Kingfisher plc; chair of Barclays Bank UK, and the non-executive chair of Debenhams

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in