Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to tackling climate change could come under criticism with the publication of a review into the UK’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 set to be published in the coming weeks.
The review led by departing Tory MP Chris Skidmore and The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will be published in early 2023.
In September, the government announced plans for the 3-month review. Skidmore was asked to consider how the country could deliver “maximum economic growth and investment” alongside the Government’s climate change ambitions, while also considering the need for energy security and the costs for the public.
A Government spokesperson stated it remained “absolutely committed to net zero, but with Russia weaponising energy across Europe, we must make sure we reach our target in a way that protects energy security and does not place undue burdens on businesses or consumers. We thank Chris Skidmore MP for his efforts in producing this rapid review and will publish it in the new year.”
In response to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the UK, among many others, applied severe economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin and halted imports of gas. This energy shift has seen Europe experience the biggest energy crisis in decades, which in turn sparked a severe cost of living crisis.
The UK government looked to bolster its energy security through the use of fossil fuels by confirming its support for a new oil and gas licensing round and lifting the ban on onshore fracking for gas production.
In November, shortly after taking office, it was announced that Rishi Sunak would not be attending COP27, the global climate conference being held in Sharm El-Sheik from 6 – 18th.
The decision had been widely criticised, with Parliament’s cross-party environment group calling on Sunak to attend the summit in Egypt. After receiving criticism, the Prime Minister retracted his decision and announced he would join other representatives at the conference.
Whilst in attendance Suank told world leaders and delegates it was morally right to deliver on promises on tackling climate change – but also economically right, reducing energy dependency and providing new jobs and growth.
However, in December Sunak faced further condemnation from environmentalists, after the Government gave the green light for a new coal mine in Whitehaven in Cumbria, the first of its kind for 30 years.
At the time, Communities Secretary Michael Gove insisted the scheme would be a net zero emissions project, even as experts warned that it sent the wrong signal to the industry about climate commitments to cutting emissions to zero overall.
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