Most Tory members don’t believe established climate change science, survey finds

Boris Johnson to chair first meeting of ministerial committee ahead of global warming summit in Glasgow

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 03 March 2020 18:50 GMT
Claire Perry O'neill says Boris Johnson admitted he 'doesn't really get' climate change

Fewer than half of Conservative party members believe that human activity is responsible for climate change, according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 1,100 Tories found that almost one in three (32.9 per cent) think that “global warming is happening but human activity isn’t driving it”, while nearly a tenth (9.7 per cent) said they did not believe that climate change was happening at all.

Just 48.5 per cent of those taking part in the survey for the ConservativeHome website agreed with the consensus among climate scientists that the planet is getting warmer and that human activities are driving the change. Some 8.9 per cent said they did not know.

ConservativeHome editor, the former Tory MP Paul Goodman, said: “Our sense is that Conservative MPs will be very roughly where our panel is – although we have to admit that we’ve no evidence for that.

“But if roughly a third, say, believe that human activity doesn’t drive global warming we can add that much less than a third are vocal about it.”

The results were released a day before Boris Johnson is due to chair the first meeting of a new cabinet committee on climate change.

The prime minister has come under fire for failing to convene the committee sooner, including by former MP Claire Perry O’Neill, who hit out at Mr Johnson’s inactivity after she was sacked as president of the United Nations COP26 climate change summit to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November.

In a letter in February, just days after being fired, she told Mr Johnson the government was “miles off track” in its preparations and said promises of resources and leadership from the prime minister “are not close to being met”.

In particular, she said: “The cabinet sub-committee on climate that you promised to chair, and which I was to attend, has not met once”.

Preparations for the COP26 summit will be on the agenda of Mr Johnson’s committee when it meets on Wednesday afternoon.

Ministers will be asked to set out what their departments are doing to assist the battle against global warming and their priorities for the year of climate action declared by the prime minister last month, said Downing Street.

Claire Perry O’Neill
Claire Perry O’Neill (Getty)

Regular meetings of the committee will provide an opportunity to hold government departments to account for their actions to tackle climate change, said Mr Johnson’s spokesman.

But Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Aaron Kiely said: “They certainly have a lot of work to do, and a lot of ground to make up. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that convening such an important meeting with only months to go until the crunch UN climate talks shows a government not putting this front and centre, where it should be.

“Show-piece meetings won’t combat environmental and ecological breakdown. It’s policy that counts, not pledges, so let’s see some decisive action starting with big commitments in next week’s budget.”

Full members of the new committee include Mr Johnson, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, business secretary – and Ms O’Neill’s successor as COP26 president – Alok Sharma, chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, environment secretary George Eustice and environment minister Zak Goldsmith.

Also attending Wednesday’s meeting will be chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, housing secretary Robert Jenrick, international development secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, transport secretary Grant Shapps, international trade secretary Liz Truss and energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng.

ConservativeHome questioned a panel of 1,136 party members.

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