The decision by the Truss government to put Jacob Rees-Mogg, a notorious climate sceptic and advocate of squeezing every last drop out of our North Sea oil stocks, in charge of UK climate policy, when we are co-presidents of the UN’s Cop climate conference, is a heinous crime inflicted on future generations.
Donnachadh McCarthy www.independent.co.uk
It sends a message to the world that the UK believes that all nations should likewise squeeze every last drop from their reserves, a message if acted upon, would ensure global temperatures would soar above a civilisation-ending 6C rise.
As Rees-Mogg announced the lifting of the fracking moratorium and a huge new round of fossil fuel licences for the North Sea, my first thought was the complete lack of democratic legitimacy for these extremist actions.
The announced policies are the antithesis of the 2019 Conservative election manifesto, which promised that they would not borrow to fund day-to-day spending, and would fund farmers to protect the natural environment, ban fracking unless categorically safe, lead global fight on climate change, and invest £9.2bn in energy efficiency.
But what the Truss government is doing is borrowing over £60bn to subsidise day-to-day fossil fuel consumption by homes and businesses, having failed to invest in insulation and enough renewables over the last 12 years. It is deregulating environmental protections for endangered species habitats, and “reviewing” the promised environmental payments for farmers to replace the EU’s CAP, with a view to reverting to payments per acre to increase “productivity”, which would benefit the richest landowners, at the expense of protecting soils and nature.
It has abandoned the fracking moratorium, despite the British Geological Survey reporting that associated earthquake risks were still unquantifiable.
The chancellor’s statement did include a tiny rise of £0.3bn per year for home insulation, a sum that will reduce energy bills for a paltry few hundred thousand homes, when 2.4 million homes a year were being insulated in 2012, prior to the Cameron government’s cuts.
A second source of illegitimacy is that Truss’s parliamentary majority is not based on a majority of votes cast in the 2019 election. They won only 43.5 per cent of the vote, but due to the UK’s unfair electoral system, this gave them a majority of 80 seats.
If the Liberal Democrats got an MP for every 38,300 votes that it took to elect a Tory MP, then they would have 96 MPs and held the balance of power. But as it took over 334,000 votes to elect each Lib Dem MP, they got only 11 MPs. If we had a legitimately fair electoral system, Truss would not be able to pursue this new extremist climate and nature destructive agenda.
Finally, there is the illegitimacy that these policies are the opposite of what the general public has supported in endless opinion polls over the last 12 years. Nearly two thirds of the public support redirecting the billions allocated to North Sea oil & gas expansion to renewable energy technologies and insulation/energy efficiency.
The government’s Public Attitudes Tracker shows that, by a majority of two to one, the public oppose fracking for natural gas. In a YouGov poll, 49 per cent backed renewables as their top priority for government investment, with just 7 per cent backing nuclear power. In an ECIU survey on the energy price crisis, 51 per cent saw renewables and insulation as the best way to reduce reliance on gas. Only 9 per cent backed expansion of North Sea oil and gas exploration, and a tiny minority of 8 per cent backed fracking, as the best long-term solution.
In the midst of Truss’s destructive extremism, there were two positives. Her deregulatory extremism did miraculously include ending the insane seven-year Tory ban on onshore wind farms in England. And the second piece of good news, is that Labour were putting the creation of a carbon-free electricity grid by 2030, at the centre of their economic plans for growth and better paying jobs for British workers.
We now need to shout from the rooftops that our new empress Truss is devoid of any legitimate electoral clothing for her announced climate and ecological destruction. A general election must be held immediately, so that whatever existential climate choices are being made, they have the legitimacy of an electoral mandate.