DeSmog

Two Thirds of Anti-Net Zero Tories Wiped Out in UK Election

The result has “buried Sunak’s anti-green agenda once and for all”, said Will McCallum of Greenpeace UK.
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From left to right, outgoing net zero sceptic MPs Steve Baker, Miriam Cates, Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrea Jenkyns and Philip Davies. Credit: Official House of Commons portraits. Design: Adam Barnett

Labour’s landslide victory over the Conservatives has left the party’s anti-net zero wing in tatters. 

DeSmog’s analysis of Westminster’s influential Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) found that two thirds of its supporters are no longer represented in Parliament following the July 4 general election.

Twenty-four of the 37 MPs supportive of the backbench grouping were voted out – a loss of 65 percent of its backers. Outgoing supporters include former energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, former NZSG co-chair Steve Baker, and Net Zero Watch board member Andrea Jenkyns. 

A further five stood down or resigned before the election, among them veteran climate crisis John Redwood.

The group’s former chair Craig Mackinlay, who contracted sepsis in September, has been appointed to the House of Lords by outgoing prime minister Rishi Sunak. Mackinlay has said he would use this platform to campaign for “sensible net zero”. 

The NZSG has actively campaigned against climate action since it was formed in 2021. The group’s joint letters to the Telegraph made front page news, as supporters urged the government to scrap “environmental levies on domestic energy”, “expand North Sea exploration” for oil and gas, and support “shale gas extraction” by lifting the ban on fracking. 

In addition to the NZSG grouping, former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who has become an outspoken critic of net zero since leaving Downing Street in 2022, was voted out on Thursday. 

Campaigners have welcomed the departure of MPs opposed to climate action. “This landslide election victory has buried Sunak’s anti-green agenda once and for all, along with many of its principle architects”, Will McCallum, co-executive director at Greenpeace UK, told DeSmog. 

“Most of the former MPs who sought to sow division and disinformation about net zero have lost at the ballot box.”

Meanwhile, 14 anti-net zero MPs were re-elected, including Labour MP Graham Stringer, who is on the board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s main climate denial group, and Lee Anderson, who defected from the Tories to Reform UK earlier this year.  

Four new Reform MPs were also elected, including party leader Nigel Farage and chairman Richard Tice, both of whom have a record of climate science denial. 

Despite this, campaigners are still positive. McCallum added that “the biggest winners [in the election] – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party – contested this election on strong green policies that will slash emissions, lower bills, and deliver hundreds of thousands of new jobs”. 

“There is and has long been a public consensus on climate action in this country”, he said, and “the new government should feel empowered to be bold”. 

Here are some of the most prominent critics of net zero who have lost their seats: 

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who lost his North East Somerset seat by more than 6,000 votes to Labour’s Dan Norris, was secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy under Liz Truss between September and October 2022. 

While in office he reportedly argued for lifting the ban on fracking for shale gas, and told the head of the UAE’s state investment company, in a private meeting revealed by DeSmog, that people need to “stop demonising oil and gas”. 

Since January 2023, Rees-Mogg has presented his own show on GB News, which regularly broadcasts climate science denial. Rees-Mogg has been a harsh critic of the government’s net zero policies, stating that “the current headlong rush to net zero risks impoverishing the nation to no global benefit on emissions”.

Steve Baker

Steve Baker has led the charge against climate policies in Parliament. Baker was a trustee of the UK’s main climate denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), from May 2021 to September 2022, when he stepped down to serve as Northern Ireland minister. He was co-chair of the NZSG, which operated as the GWPF’s caucus in Parliament.  

At a 2021 Conservative Party conference event, Baker said that much climate science is “contestable” and “sometimes propagandised”, while claiming that some UN climate scenarios were “implausible”.

In February 2022, Baker received £5,000, and a further £10,000 in February 2023, from Neil Record, chair of Net Zero Watch, the campaign arm of the GWPF. 

On Thursday, Baker lost his Wycombe seat to Labour’s Emma Reynolds by more than 4,000 votes. 

Dame Andrea Jenkyns 

Andrea Jenkyns, who lost her seat of Leeds and South West Morley by more than 7,000 votes to Labour’s Mark Sewards, sits on the board of Net Zero Watch, the campaign arm of the GWPF, the UK’s main climate science denial group. 

In March 2023, Jenkyns told Parliament: “Personally, net zero, I think we need to ditch these targets, especially at the moment, and use whatever resources we’ve got under our feet.” She has described herself on Twitter as holding “no-to-net-zero views”.

Miriam Cates

Miriam Cates lost her Penistone and Stocksbridge seat by more than 9,000 votes to Labour’s Marie Tidball in Thursday’s general election. 

Cates was tipped as a rising star of the Conservative party, a “darling” of the Tory right. She is the co-chair of the New Conservatives, a socially conservative faction of the Tory party which received £50,000 in January from GB News investors the Legatum Group.

Cates also sits on the advisory board of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), a right-wing group fronted by prominent climate denier Jordan Peterson

Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in London last year, Cates suggested that “epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion” are being caused by teaching children that “humanity is killing the Earth”. 

Philip Davies  

Philip Davies, who lost his Shipley seat by more than 8,000 votes to Labour’s Anna Dixon, has a long record of opposing climate policies. Davies was one of only five MPs to vote against the UK’s Climate Change Act in 2008. 

He currently works as a presenter for GB News, as does his wife and fellow Conservative politician Esther McVey, who was re-elected on Thursday. 

Liz Truss

A number of net zero sceptic MPs existed outside the NZSG grouping, among them the former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who resigned in October 2022 after just 49 days in the job. As well as appointing Rees-Mogg energy secretary, Truss overturned the UK’s moratorium on fracking for shale gas – a key demand from the Net Zero Scrutiny Group.

Since leaving Downing Street – and in between giving paid speeches to U.S. anti-climate groups like CPAC and the Heritage Foundation – Truss has become an open opponent of net zero policies. 

In her 2024 book “Ten Years to Save the West”, Truss called for the independent Climate Change Committee to be abolished, and attacked the UN COP process, which coordinates international action on climate change. Truss also claimed that while in cabinet she argued against the UK hosting the COP26 climate summit.

On Thursday, Truss lost her South West Norfolk seat by 630 votes to Labour’s Terry Jermy.

‘Watching Closely’

“It’s obviously fantastic news that 30 Tory MPs who’ve lobbied against climate policies are no longer in parliament”, said Jessica Townsend, founder of the MP Watch campaign group, which used DeSmog research in a recent event on “top ten climate denial MPs”.

Townsend noted that seven of the campaign’s list have won seats, including Reform’s Farage and GWPF director Graham Stringer.

“MP Watch will be watching these MPs closely in coming months, as well as the influence fossil fuel companies and their think tanks may have on Labour in Westminster now that the power base has shifted,” she added.

Adam Barnett - new white crop
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.
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Joey Grostern is a freelance climate reporter and researcher for DeSmog since April 2023. His work focuses on news media and has been covered by The Guardian, The Intercept, and The Nation. He also works freelance for Deutsche Welle and Clean Energy Wire in Berlin.

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