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Race for PM’s work raises questions about UK climate leadership


Britain’s two prime minister contenders, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, have clashed over tax cuts and spending in heated TV debates. But one issue received little airtime in the race for Downing Street – climate change.

As members of the Conservative Party begin to vote, some climate campaigners fear the ambitious emissions reduction strategy planned by outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson will falter under his successor – although Sunak and Truss say they support net zero.

In a letter to the BBC after the broadcaster’s one-on-one debate last week, climate activists and organizations said it was “unacceptable” that the issue was “skimmed over in just 2-3 minutes”.

“Whoever leads the next government…must show leadership on this issue and prove that they are serious on keep its commitments to climate and nature,” said Katie White, director of campaigns for green group WWF, who co-signed the letter.

Under Mr Johnson in 2019, the Tories won a majority ‘on the back of their greenest manifesto ever’, so candidates must explain how they will deliver on those promises, she told the Foundation Thomson Reuters in an email.

Last November, Britain hosted the COP26 talks in Glasgow, two years after becoming the first wealthy member of the Group of Seven (G7) countries to pass legislation committing to net zero emissions. greenhouse effect by 2050.

But experts fear that the country’s global situation leadership on climate could weaken at a crucial time, as the difficult work of implementing policies begins.

This could have implications for action on climate global risks if a country seen as a leader backtracks on its commitments, leaving room for diplomatic maneuvering for others to do the same.


Both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss pledged in July to meet the government’s net zero target by signing an environmental pledge from the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) – a green forum supported by more than 130 Conservative MPs.

But their limited announcements so far have left some climate experts and activists feel nervous.

Truss wants to suspend green levies added to energy bills, while Sunak said he would fund energy efficiency measures by taking money from heat pump subsidies and would not relax the ban on onshore wind farms in England.

The debate seems to be arace down “framed by a backlash against green spending by a small group of Conservative MPs called the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said Chris Venables, policy officer at think tank Green Alliance.

“It sends signals globally on the UK‘s credibility on this issue,” he said.

Whoever takes over as Prime Minister in September will have to answer to the entire electorate and not just the Tory members, who count on 200,000.

Several polls have shown strong public support for climate action, and a recent survey by center-right think tank Onward found that could be key to winning seats in the next election.

The new leader will also inherit a full roadmap to reach net zero.

“Unlike almost every other country in the world, the UK now has a strategy for almost every sector of the economy to decarbonise,” said Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK independent Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The CCC warned in its recent progress report that despite a strong strategy and bold goals, the implementation of climate policies have fallen far behind.

“Now we have a secondary question: well, are they actually going to be delivered?” Mr. Stark added.


Mr Johnson’s successor will also take over at a fragile time for the international community climate diplomacy, such as UKWar rain disrupts global energy supply.

“Since COP26…the global situation has, in general, become more complicated,” said Bernice Lee, research director at Chatham House, a think tank.

“Energy security has become more central,” she said, adding that the issue would be a priority in the next UN cycle. climate negotiations, the COP27 in November in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Tensions between developed and developing countries could escalate as rich countries fail to provide adequate financial support, Ms Lee said.

Rich countries are falling far short of their pledge of $100 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said last week.

COP27 will be an “account” for Britain as its first without hosting functions or as part of the European Union, said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Since COP26, she has declared that the country climate diplomacy has become a “one-man diplomatic effort” of COP President Alok Sharma, a former business minister under Johnson, who will step down at the November talks.

She said Britain needed to be nimble and use its significant “soft power” to lead the way, like London’s green finance. leadershipstrong civil society organizations and leading academics.

“If the UK wants to be a world leader in climatethat’s what he’s going to have to do,” Ms Kyte said.

“And it will take more than Alok Sharma’s air miles.” – Reuters