Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has warned that the next Conservative Party leader must have a strong stance on tackling climate change in order to win her support.
Speaking to an audience at the Business and Climate summit in London on Wednesday, Rudd said: “When I consider who to back as leader of the Conservative Party and future prime minister, knowing where they stand on this issue, which is so important to me, will be absolutely central to who I support.
“I will be very clear about that, very vocal holding everyone to account.”
Rudd’s comments come as potential Tory leader candidate Boris Johnson is faced with having to defend his stance on climate change after much criticism that he’s flirted with climate science denial in the past through his Telegraph columns.
But Johnson isn’t the only potential new party leader to have a questionable position on climate change.
Michael Gove once pushed for global warming to be removed from the national geography curriculum and Andrea Leadsom, known for her ardent support for fracking, had to ask whether climate change was real when beginning as Energy Minister.
Both Gove and Leadsom have today announced their candidacy for leadership.
Brexit and Climate Change
Ruling herself out of the leadership contest, Rudd indicated her hope to continue her position in the next government, stating that government remains committed to acting on climate change.
However, she admitted that the vote to leave has made this more difficult.
“While I think the UKs role has been made harder by the decision made last Thursday,” she said, “our commitment to dealing with it has not gone away.”
Reminding the audience of the work the UK did to help bring about the Paris Agreement last December, she used the stage to stress to vote leave campaigners “We must not turn our back on Europe or the world”.
The Climate Change Act “was not imposed on us by the EU. It was delivered with cross party support by the UK parliament.”
Fifth Carbon Budget
Rudd reassured the crowd that by the end of Thursday, the Government would announce the level of the fifth carbon budget, which sets emission reductions for 2028 to 2032.
Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO at IIGCC, a group of investors who proactively manage their climate risk said: “If the minister confirms that the UK Government has chosen to accept and implement in full the advice of the independent CCC based on the latest climate science, then investors will be delighted.”
“Against a backdrop of intense uncertainty arising from the Brexit decision it is vital the UK government uphold its commitment to action on climate change by setting a strong fifth carbon budget.”
With the government likely to closely meet the recommended target, climate economist Lord Stern said: “We should recognize that the UK may need even more ambitious targets as its contribution to the goal in the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two Celsius degrees.
“The Fifth Carbon Budget will provide some confidence for investors that the UK will, outside the European Union, continue the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
But while Greenpeace Director John Sauven welcomed the “much needed reassurance” from Rudd, he said “soothing words are not good enough.”
“Green investor confidence in the UK was shaky before Brexit because of the government’s ever changing and incoherent policies, which neither minister seem willing to get to grips with even now.”
Energy and the EU
When asked about how the UK would interact with the EU on Energy, Rudd admitted that she didn’t yet have the answers.
“The fact is I’ve got to make sure to deliver the best on clean secure affordable energy targets, with the EU, with other countries that help us address issues of security. Interconnectors are going to be critical going forwards, I hope we’ll be able to maintain a very close relationship in delivering on energy.”
Rudd told the conference that “investment in renewables has increased by 42 percent since 2010” that “in 2014 30 percent of all of Europe’s renewable energy investment took place here in the UK” and that annual support was expected to double to over 10 billion during this parliament.
However, the UK began their investment from a low bar, as the year before, only the Netherlands, Malta and Luxembourg had less renewables as a proportion of their energy mix in the EU.
By 2020, the average EU country will have 20 percent renewables. The UK target stands below this at 15 percent.
Rudd also made it clear to the audience that keeping the lights on was the main priority saying the government would continue to put first and foremost the ‘capacity market’ which secures consistent electricity supply through coal gas and diesel generation.
“Beyond that”, she said, “we will continue to invest in clean energy.”
Photo: DECC via Flickr