A climate advisor has torn apart Liz Truss’ energy plans, warning that her policies are “completely at odds” with the UK’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 amid an urgent climate crisis that is threatening humanity’s survival.
Amid an energy crisis that has seen bills soar for millions of Britons as global prices of gas sprial out of control at the mercy of Vladimir Putin, Ms Truss has pledged to help the UK distance itself from the volatile international markets by boosting its homegrown supplies.
To do so, she claims she will aim to issue at least 100 oil and gas licenses for drilling in the North Sea, while also pledging to lift the ban on fracking (the process of extracting shale gas) which the Conservatives introduced back in 2019.
However, environmental campaigners argue that fossil fuels like oil and gas should be kept in the ground as burning and extracting the fuels emit harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, speeding up the rate of global warming.
But amid scorching 40-degree heatwaves and brutal drought across Europe, which many climate scientists agree is directly linked to climate change, Ms Truss has been accused of disregarding the urgency of the crisis. This is despite an international panel of scientists warning in a report for the UN that the climate crisis is now a “code red” for humanity whcih can only be averted if the world acts now.
Sir David King, head of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, told the Independent: “We’re looking at a situation where the crisis is with us here today. But we don’t recognise that when we say ‘let’s go ahead and start new fracking operations in this country.
“It beggars belief. What it seems to show is that the leadership in the government does not understand the nature of the climate crisis.”
But Ms Truss did not pledge to completely abandon the UK’s net zero target, a legally binding commitment that experts say needs to be met by reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels and instead by boosting Britain’s renewable energy capacity.
The Prime Minister told the Conservative Environment Network in the run-up to her election win: “I was an environmentalist before it was fashionable, joining my parents on marches about saving our planet from CFCs and harm to the ozone layer.
“In these tough economic times, I will put the interests of people and businesses at the heart of our Net Zero agenda and harness the full power of free enterprise as a clean, green jobs-creating machine.”
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She went on: “I know there are enormous opportunities ahead for our country in our drive towards Net Zero. We are leading the way in the industries of the future, making everything from hydrogen-powered buses to the world’s largest offshore wind farm.”
However, the Prime Minister also made comments that were perhaps at odds with her earlier statements, saying that farmers fields’ shouldn’t be “full of solar panels”. But arguably the most alarming move that Ms Truss has made is making Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been accused of climate scepticism, the energy secretary. The move sparked serious concerns among environmental campaigners, fearful over his previous calls to “squeeze every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea” and his support for fracking.
Shaun Spiers, the executive director of the Green Alliance think tank, told the Guardian: “It matters who is in the cabinet. Without strong proponents, the net zero agenda will be in danger.”
A group of MPs from different political parties have also sent a letter to Ms Truss have also warning her not to risk scuppering Britain’s chances of reaching the 2050 net zero target. The letter reads: “The decisions your government takes will have a noticeable impact on the lives of people across the country and indeed our entire planet.
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“We hope that as prime minister you will continue to support measures to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner in this country, whilst also being a global champion for climate and nature on the international stage.”
And while some experts argue that gas can be used as a transition fuel as Britain gradually weans itself off the fossil fuel, taking advantage of its own resources while Putin bleeds Europe dry, Sir David claimed that the Government is using this as an excuse.
He told the Independent: “The immediate consequence of the Russia-Ukraine war is that energy prices have gone shooting up. The response to that [should be] to build more renewable energy – we can use an extension of an already successful operation.
“The opposite is to say ‘let’s use this as an opportunity to develop our oil and gas reserves’ – using the war as an opportunity to do this, knowing it has nothing to do with managing the short-term problems of the war. All of that indicates massive cynicism at the top of government. What they’re saying is ‘we’re not going to be in Government in 2050, but we don’t believe in the net-zero target’.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Number 10 Downing Street and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment.