Net zero slumps to bottom of Tory members’ priority list

Hitting net zero came bottom of a list of ten policy areas, behind cutting personal taxes, increasing defence spending and strengthening Britain’s global standing in YouGov survey.

Most pressing concern is winning the next election!

Right now these are the people with our future in their hands. Scary! – Owl

George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk

Conservative Party members care very little about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, polling shows.

Only 4 per cent of those surveyed said that hitting the target of net-zero emissions by 2050 was one of their three priorities for the next Tory leader.

Members said the most pressing concern was winning the next election, followed by controlling immigration and helping families with the cost of living, a YouGov survey for The Times showed.

In April a poll for the think tank Onward found that 64 per cent of all voters supported the government’s plans to hit net zero. Nine per cent were opposed.

In the YouGov poll, 56 per cent of the Tory party members surveyed said that winning the next election was the most important issue. Hitting net zero came bottom of a list of ten policy areas, behind cutting personal taxes, increasing defence spending and strengthening Britain’s global standing.

Alok Sharma, the cabinet minister who led the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow last year, has threatened to resign in protest at “lukewarm” commitments by Tory leadership candidates on the environment. He said that the failure of the five remaining contenders to commit themselves unequivocally to net zero emissions by 2050 risked causing “incredible damage” to British diplomacy.

Sharma told The Observer: “Anyone aspiring to lead our country needs to demonstrate that they take this issue incredibly seriously, that they’re willing to continue to lead and take up the mantle that Boris Johnson started off. I want to see candidates very proactively set out their support for our net-zero agenda for green growth. This is absolutely a leadership issue.”

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who came third in the first and second ballots of Tory MPs on Wednesday and Thursday, has promised to suspend the green energy levy to help households struggling with the cost of living. This would cost £4.2 billion a year.

Sharma said that the policy would not address the real cause of higher bills. “We need to very clearly understand what is actually driving the price of energy. It isn’t green levies, it is the wholesale gas price,” he said.

In 2019 the government committed itself to the 2050 target via an amendment to the Climate Change Act. Other candidates who have suggested they might change environmental policies if elected Tory leader include Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat. Badenoch called the 2050 target “arbitrary”. Tugendhat is reported to have told a hustings of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers that he thought the date should be delayed. However, he later reaffirmed his commitment to the target.

Asked if he would consider resigning if a candidate who was weak on net zero were elected, Sharma, 54, said: “I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in.”

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