The UK’s ambition to become net-zero by 2050 is looking shaky, as the energy crisis pushes prime ministerial hopeful Liz Truss towards policies that will end with Britain relying on fossil-fuels for years to come.
The ongoing leadership contest, which will most likely end next week withTruss being Britain’s prime minister, has seen alarming policies being thrown around to keep Tory members onside.
Truss, and her leadership rival Rishi Sunak, have as yet not come up with any concrete policies to deal with soaring inflation and rising energy bills.
However, what Truss has said during the contest reveals that she, as well as potential new Cabinet ministers, think the idea of the UK reaching net-zero by the middle of this century is part of the reason the country is facing spiralling energy prices and economic ruin.
Lord David Frost, who is tipped to be asked by Truss to accept a senior ministerial position, has recently urged the Government to rethink its policy on achieving net-zero carbon emissions and end the ban on fracking. Current business secretary and likely new chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is also supportive of ending the restrictions in an attempt to ease the energy crisis.
Frost has also supported Truss’s reported keenness to sign off on a push for more oil drilling in the North Sea, which could see 130 new drilling licenses given to companies. She is also against using land for solar farms, telling the Conservative crowd in Exeter earlier this month that “farms shouldn’t be full of solar panels and I will change the rules.”
It is becoming apparent that this new-found negative attitude to renewable energy is merely a knee-jerk response to a crisis that Truss, or her supportive ministers, have no idea how to solve.
Firstly, the current energy crisis has nothing to do with renewable energy in the UK and was caused by Russia cutting off gas supply to Europe after western sanctions were imposed. The Government has also made the situation worse by privatising energy companies, as well as not having the foresight to store more gas when supply was plentiful.
Secondly, simply ramping up production and use of fossil fuels is not going to fix the current energy crisis, as Truss’s plan to just drill for more oil and gas, as well as ending the ban on fracking, won’t lead to extra energy supply- ora drop in prices – for decades.
Outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson is set to make a speech this week urging the next Conservative leader not to give up on investing in green energy in favour of short-term fixes for the cost of living crisis.
Johnson on this occasion is correct. Truss, it seems, is using the energy crisis to push anti-net zero rhetoric that will see the UK’s decarbonisation hopes go up in smoke.
And it isn’t like there aren’t real-world examples of what will happen if Britain fails to do its part to halt climate change: Pakistan is suffering from massive floods, which has so-far killed over 1,000 people, and Europe is going through its worst drought in five hundred years. Britain too is showing signs of creaking under the weight of climate change, with temperatures peaking at 42 degrees Celsius earlier this month, and a lack of rainfall means reservoirs have run dry.
The scientific consensus is that for the world to avoid catastrophic climate change, almost all existing fossil fuel supplies need to stay in the ground. If the incoming Government gives up on its longstanding net-zero ambitions, then not only will the current energy crisis get worse, but the UK will become a fossil fuel pariah in a world pushing for a greener future.