Postpone net-zero targets indefinitely, says Rees-Mogg

He said the Government’s announcement to build more gas-fired power stations is a good first step against the ‘green obsession’.

Rhiannon James
Wednesday 13 March 2024 14:24 GMT
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has hailed the Government’s announcement to build new gas-fired power stations (PA)
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has hailed the Government’s announcement to build new gas-fired power stations (PA) (PA Archive)

Conservative former minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg has called for net-zero targets to be postponed “indefinitely”.

Sir Jacob said the Government’s announcement to build new gas-fired power stations is a good first step against the net-zero “obsession”.

Energy minister Graham Stuart pointed his Tory colleague to the science and evidence which shows there is a climate emergency.

Sir Jacob, the MP for North East Somerset, told the Commons: “We have become fundamentally uncompetitive because of this green obsession.

“We want cheap electricity, and we should have gas and we should have coal and we should postpone net-zero indefinitely, because we are only 1% of global emissions, we are making no difference and the US economy is growing consistently faster than ours because of cheap energy.

“This is a good first step against the net-zero obsession, we need to go further.”

Mr Stuart replied: “I would chide (Sir Jacob) with the science and the evidence which is emerging all the time that there is a climate challenge and a climate emergency, that’s why we’re looking to reduce our emissions.”

The Government has a target to decarbonise the power grid by 2035 as part of efforts to cut emissions by nearly four-fifths, on the way to cutting climate pollution to zero overall by 2050.

We have become fundamentally uncompetitive because of this green obsession

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg

In a speech at Chatham House on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho said there is an ongoing need for fossil fuel gas in the electricity mix, warning “without gas backing up renewables, we face the genuine prospect of blackouts”.

During an urgent question on the proposed gas-fired power stations on Wednesday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson branded the net-zero policy as “madness” and claimed it is damaging the economy.

The East Antrim MP said: “I hope that this decision is an indication of the realisation which seems to be slowly dawning on the Government, of the impact of the madness of its net-zero policy which has damaged the UK economy.

“We have the highest electricity prices of most of the countries in the G7, we have lost vast numbers of jobs in energy-intensive industries, and now there’s a recognition that because of the intermittency of wind and solar that there’s a risk of blackouts, so I welcome this common sense decision.

“But since we’re going to use gas to power these stations, why doesn’t the minister take the next logical step and legislate to allow us to tap into vast UK gas resources that we have, which as the United States have shown, will bring down prices, will give us energy security.”

Mr Stuart said there are “record levels of employment in this country”, adding: “We’re leading the world in tackling climate change, we’ve created more jobs than in any time in British history.”

Shadow climate change minister Alan Whitehead said the Government is trying to “conjure a culture war” with energy policy.

Mr Whitehead also asked how many new gas plants the Government is hoping to build, adding: “There is no mention of that in the 1,500 pages of documents that were published yesterday.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) said she is “tired of this Government shunning any scrutiny of its climate record”, adding the power station plans “risk undermining our climate targets and leaving the country relying on imports of expensive gas”.

Elsewhere in the debate, Conservative MP Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) asked if the new plants will be converted into “low carbon alternatives” in the future.

Mr Stuart replied: “We will be legislating precisely to create that obligation for carbon capture ready and/or hydrogen ready.”

Conservative MP Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) said the hydrogen sector needs to be upscaled for long-term security supply, adding: “For the moment we are slipping behind a bit.”

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