Where does the UK’s next Prime Minister stand on Climate Change?

21 July 2022 - by Lea Carson

The Conservative Leadership Contest is well under way with the last two remaining candidates now decided following yesterday’s vote, as announced by the Chair of the 1922 Committee.

Penny Mordaunt has been eliminated from the contest after receiving 105 votes in contrast to the surviving candidates, Rishi Sunak (137) and Liz Truss (113).

Given current climate conditions across the UK, many have begun to question the candidates’ positions on climate change and their commitments to the UK’s ‘net-zero by 2050’ target. Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma MP who led the UK’s COP 26 delegation has also expressed his concern over the climate commitments of the UK’s future Prime Minister. He told the Guardian that he would consider resigning as Cabinet Minister and COP 26 President if the new Prime Minister does not commit to a strong net-zero agenda.

The BBC reports that Rishi Sunak MP and Liz Truss have spoken of their commitment to the 2050 net-zero target, with both candidates having also signed the Conservative Environment Networks’ environment pledge (which can be found here).

Whilst now out of the race, Penny Mordaunt MP had been considered the most positive candidate in relation to the opportunities associated with the UK’s transition to net-zero. She had said that net zero, “represents a huge opportunity for jobs and growth.”

Rishi Sunak MP has consistently avoided speaking about climate change or net-zero targets. Sunak does however support net-zero and home insulation. He also added that he would keep green levies in place. However, during his time as Chancellor, Sunak didn’t explicitly profile climate issues, for example climate change was not mentioned in his 2021 budget.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss MP has said that she would honour the 2050 net zero commitment, but that she would like to alter some of the net-zero policies.

In the leadership debate on Friday night, Liz Truss MP said, “We need to remove the green energy levy and find a better way of delivering our net-zero targets.” During her time as Environment Secretary, Truss cut subsidies for solar farms due to their visual impact on the landscape.  

With increasing pressure from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, many are warning the Conservative party that any faltering in commitments to the net-zero target will not only have a detrimental impact on the planet but also on their chances of winning another General Election. A recent opinion poll conducted by the Conservative Environment Network found that more than half of the UK public think the Government should be doing more to tackle climate change and that 77% of Conservative voters are worried about climate change.  

All eyes now look to the following days and weeks as the ballot for Conservative party members opens and the UK‘s next Prime Minister is decided.