Government leaving ‘vacuum’ on climate change, says Tory MP

Chris Skidmore said Rishi Sunak needs to set out a vision for action on climate change.

The Government’s “silence” on climate policy has left a “vacuum” that could be filled by opponents of net zero, a senior green Tory has warned.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said the Prime Minister needs to set out a vision to ensure the UK remains a leader on tackling climate change, but at the moment is not doing so.

His comments follow the resignation of Lord Zac Goldsmith, who accused Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in action on climate change and said the UK had “visibly stepped off the world stage and withdrawn our leadership on climate and nature” when he quit as environment minister last week.

Asked whether he agreed with Lord Goldsmith, Mr Skidmore told a conference at the Institute for Government: “You’ve got to keep on making the case, and at the moment there is a vacuum and silence.

“And that’s the challenge, because otherwise that space will get filled. It will either get filled by the Labour Party with their green industrial policy, or it will get filled by the climate delayers and detractors who then dominate the front pages of the Telegraph and the Mail.

“That’s the challenge – if you’re not willing to show leadership, someone else will.”

Mr Skidmore, who has been a prominent voice among green Conservatives and chaired a review of the UK’s net zero commitments in 2022, added that Mr Sunak had made “really strong commitments” on green finance as Chancellor, but now needed to deliver.

He said: “Commitments are just words on a page unless you follow them through and deliver and grind away.”

Climate change review
Chris Skidmore chaired a review of net zero which called for the Government to go ‘further and faster’ with its climate change policies (Joe Giddens/PA)

He added: “Politicians can hope that they can set out individual policies and the public will thank them for the individual policies, but that’s not the case in my experience unless you can stand up and give a vision for who you are, where you’re going, why you need to take the rest of the country and communities with you.

“That’s what’s needed at this moment in time to deliver on net zero.”

Wednesday brought renewed concern over the Government’s climate change commitments as a document leaked to the Guardian suggested Mr Sunak’s promise of contributing £11.6 billion to international climate finance was in danger of being missed.

The document suggested the decision to reduce aid spending to 0.5% of GDP meant meeting the pledge would require a “reorientation” on a scale which “has not previously been achieved”.

The Government denied that the pledge had been dropped and insisted it was committed to delivering the £11.6 billion by March 2026.

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