Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has labelled Rishi Sunak a “climate delayer” after the UK chancellor said almost nothing about climate change in his speech at the Conservative Party conference today.
Sunak spoke about the post-pandemic economic recovery and promising new jobs in science and technology, but campaigners said the virtual absence of climate change was a “damaging sign” ahead of the COP26 summit due to start in Glasgow in under a month.
It comes after reports that the Treasury, under Sunak’s control, has been blocking green policies on infrastructure and home insulation which experts say are needed to meet the UK’s net zero emissions target.
Ed Miliband, ex-Labour leader and the party’s current shadow business and energy secretary, said on Twitter: “Rishi Sunak’s near total silence on climate, the biggest economic challenge we face, is deeply worrying.
“The sole mention went to the green homes grant — which he slashed funding for. Climate action offers huge potential to create jobs – it’s terrible he fails to recognise this.
“It’s a huge contrast with Labour where [shadow chancellor] Rachel Reeves has put climate action at the heart of our agenda, pledged to be the first green chancellor and set out the investment to do it.”
Miliband went on to call the government “climate delayers”: “No wonder the government are such climate delayers when this chancellor has no interest in it.”
‘Stuck in the 1970s’
Sam Alvis, head of green renewal at Green Alliance, said: “The chancellor spoke about the importance of strong public finances and preparing the UK’s economy for the future, but he made no mention of the green investment we need to secure our future prosperity.
“With the chancellor dragging his heels, the government will struggle to deliver its promise of green growth and jobs across the country.”
He added: “Rishi Sunak may speak the language of a modern politician, but his priorities are stuck in the 1970s.”
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “Rishi Sunak’s failure to even mention the climate and nature emergency is a damaging sign ahead of the UK-hosted global climate conference.
“He argued that leaving future generations to foot the bill is ‘economically irresponsible’ and ‘immoral,’ but failed to join up the dots on climate investment.
“Coughing up more cash for green infrastructure now would save enormous costs later and create millions of new jobs across the UK.
“At a time when we need spending commitments for a zero carbon future, Rishi sounds like he’s preparing to take a big step backwards.”
The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.