Truss cabinet sparks fear for climate action

| 8th September 2022 |

Liz Truss looks out onto the skyline from the Corniche Promenade in Doha, Qatar.

The rise of climate sceptics to new prime minister Liz Truss’s cabinet has sparked fear that climate action will be scaled back.

Truss being selected as prime minister by such a small and unrepresentative group of people is a disaster for the UK, and the climate.

Campaign groups have reacted with horror at the rise of climate sceptics to the cabinet under new UK prime minister Liz Truss. 

Truss sealed her appointment with a speech in which she promised to take action this week on soaring energy bills, the economy and the NHS.

The confirmation of Truss as prime minister has alarmed many. During her campaign, she spoke out against solar farms, and in favour of extracting more fossil fuels.

Renewables

“I will make sure we will hit our net zero targets, but we need to do it in a way that protects energy security. Gas is a very important transition fuel, it has half the emissions of coal, it is a good fuel to use as we’re transitioning,” she said in an interview.

Truss has ties to US fossil fuel-linked groups, including the Koch-funded Cato Institute and met with several Koch-funded libertarian think tanks and lobby groups with a history of climate science denial.

These include the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation during a trip to the US in 2018 while chief secretary to the Treasury, according to the climate website DeSmog

Government advisers the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the National Infrastructure Commission have jointly written to Truss to make the case for increased investment in renewables, low carbon heat and energy efficiency.  

Households

The letter states: “We urge you to follow the principles laid out in the British Energy Security Strategy and the Net Zero Strategy. The UK cannot address this crisis solely by increasing its production of natural gas.

"Greater domestic production of fossil fuels may improve energy security, particularly this winter. But our gas reserves – offshore or from shale – are too small to impact meaningfully the prices faced by UK consumers.”

Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party,  tweeted: “Liz Truss being selected as prime minister by such a small and unrepresentative group of people is a disaster for the UK, and the climate.

"Her plans to encourage more North Sea oil and gas does nothing to help households this winter. But it will absolutely fuel the climate crisis.”

Truss being selected as prime minister by such a small and unrepresentative group of people is a disaster for the UK, and the climate.

Cabinet 

Truss’ has also announced her cabinet. Jacob Rees-Mogg is now secretary of state for business, energy and industry. The MP for North Somerset was previously minister for Brexit opportunities. He has previously blamed high energy prices on “climate alarmism”.

This led to then prime minister David Cameron slashing support for incentives for solar, wind and energy efficiency, which has since been found to have added £150 to every energy bill.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace UK, said: “Rees-Mogg is the last person who should be in charge of the energy brief, at the worst possible moment. Appointing him to the brief now suggests the Tories have learned nothing from some years of energy policy incompetence.”

Rees-Mogg has also spoken in favour of more extraction of oil and gas from the north sea.

Governance

Earlier this year, he told LBC Radio: “We need to be thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea. We are not going for net zero tomorrow – 2050 is a long way off. We’re going to need fossil fuels in the interim. We should [use] ours that we have got available.”

Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, said: “Putting someone who recently suggested 'every last drop' of oil should be extracted from the North Sea in charge of energy policy is deeply worrying for anyone concerned about the deepening climate emergency, solving the cost-of-living crisis and keeping our fuel bills down for good.

"Extracting more fossil fuels is a false solution to the energy crisis."

However, Truss also appointed Graham Stuart as climate minister and confirmed he would attend cabinet. The MP for Beverley and Holderness was previously the minister of state at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Stuart has spoken in favour of bolder climate action and against climate scepticism in his own party, was a member of the cross-party group of MPs scrutinising government environment action the Environmental Audit Committee, and chaired GLOBE International, a cross-party network of parliamentarians founded by then senators John Kerry and Al Gore, and members of the European Parliament to improve governance for sustainable development.

Environment 

Meanwhile, North Hampshire MP Ranil Ranil Jayawardena has been chosen as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, replacing George Eustice. He previously worked under Truss as minister for international trade.

Earlier this year, he posted a blog on his website stating: “Economic growth and respect for our planet are by no means two opposites.”

He founded, and chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endangered Species, adding: “I have and will continue to relentlessly make sure that animal welfare remains on the agenda”.

Kwasi Kwarteng is now chancellor. He moves from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), where he was a minister. Before becoming MP for Spelthorne, he worked as a financial analyst.

Assembly

In May, he dismissed protests by Green Deal New Rising and Stop Cambo, tweeting: “Shout and scream all you like, but I’m not going to put Britain’s energy security at risk by shutting off domestic oil and gas production. We will need oil and gas for decades to come. Either we source more of what we need from the North Sea, or import more from abroad.”

However, he has also taken to social media to back renewable energy as a solution to the energy costs crisis. “The more cheap, clean power we generate at home, the less exposed we will be to eye-watering fossil fuel prices set by global markets we can’t control.”

Suella Braverman has been given the role of home secretary. She received £10,000 from a company owned by a leading climate denier to support her campaign for the Conservative leadership, according to the most recent update to the register of MPs’ interests.

Activists XR marked the announcement of the new government with the launch of its September Rebellion. It sent out a spoof press release from BEIS announcing plans for a Citizens’ Assembly to fix ‘climate and costs’, and sent a bus purporting to be a campaign by Truss promoting the assembly round Westminster.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for The Ecologist. She tweets at @Cat_Early76.

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