The Conservative Environment Network (CEN) invited both Conservative Party leadership candidates to provide more information about how they intend to deliver their environmental commitments and what their environmental message for swing voters will be at the next general election.
We're delighted to publish Rishi Sunak’s message to CEN’s network of over 150 parliamentarians, 400 councillors, and 500 grassroots supporters.
I have two daughters, both of whom are passionate environmentalists, and I am absolutely committed to leaving our environment in a better state for the next generation.
As Conservatives, we have a powerful record on delivering for the environment. Last November we led the world at COP26 with nearly 200 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact to ‘keep 1.5C alive’. We won historic commitments from countries to act on coal, cars, cash and trees.
Our landmark Environment Act 2021 will clean up the country’s air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste and make better use of our resources. I am entirely committed to delivering all of the provisions within the Act.
I want to be clear that I believe that the environment and farming can and must go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. If we want to maintain and boost our food security, we must take care of the natural assets that support it, such as soil. I am committed to the reform of farm payments.
I have responded to each of your specific questions below.
Will your policy response to the cost of living and energy crises prioritise green solutions like insulation and renewables and be consistent with our net zero target?
Yes. I have been clear that my first priority will be to tackle inflation. Any government that I lead will provide direct support to ensure that those that are most vulnerable receive the help that they need to pay their energy bills.
I will lead a national effort to increase our domestic energy supply and cut our energy waste. We need more offshore wind, more rooftop solar and more nuclear. We need to insulate millions of homes and ensure that people know about the steps that they can take, at no cost, to improve the efficiency of their homes.
We cannot rely on imported energy so I will legislate for the UK to be entirely energy independent by 2045 to accelerate investment. In terms of my specific plans, a new Energy Security Task Force will draw on the best of British private and public sector energy expertise, reporting to the Prime Minister and a new Department for Energy.
I would introduce reform to drive up North Sea gas production, scale up domestic gas storage, reform the regulations and licensing regimes so offshore wind, rooftop solar and nuclear can all be built and scaled up much faster. I would rapidly implement the Energy Security Strategy so that the UK produces 50 GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2030 (including floating offshore wind) and 24 GW of electricity from nuclear by 2050.
I also want to reassure you that offshore wind will not be built at the expense of marine protection. We are world leaders when it comes to marine protection and on my watch, that wouldn’t change.
At the 2021 Spending Review, I committed to £3bn of spending on energy efficiency over the next three years. I will prioritise schemes that improve the energy efficiency of homes and launch an energy advice service in England to help families reduce their energy consumption.
What role will net zero play in your plans to accelerate economic growth?
Green technology and green jobs are an exciting opportunity for the UK - these are jobs of the future. At COP26, I spoke about my vision to rewire the global financial system for Net Zero to underpin green growth. I am committed to doing so.
I would drive forward some of the ambitious action I announced at COP26, including a new capital markets mechanism to issue billions of new green bonds. Financial institutions and publicly traded companies must publish plans detailing how green their investments and their own businesses are. Ultimately, the City of London is one of the world’s major financial centres and we have a responsibility to lead the way.
We need to ensure we remain at the forefront of green technology and keep creating jobs in low carbon industries. As Chancellor, I was responsible for funding for research into green technologies, carbon capture and conservation projects. That included a £1 billion fund towards retrofitting public-sector buildings to reduce carbon emissions. I also launched a pilot scheme aimed at decarbonising social housing through measures like heat pumps, insulation and double glazing. I want to see more of this. Likewise, the Green Recovery Challenge Fund has created jobs in nature recovery and conservation, which I want to see more of.
I also see an important role for Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage to play a role in supporting the UK’s energy and industrial sectors through the transition to net zero. As Chancellor I put in place the funding to support the development of four CCUS clusters by 2030, which I believe will protect vital industries and jobs in the UK.
What Brexit opportunities will you seize to reform regulations to enhance the natural environment and unleash clean technologies?
Our membership of the European Union did very little to boost the natural environment. In fact, nature has been in decline for decades. Between 1932 and 1984, we lost 97% of our species-rich grassland. Five species of butterfly have become extinct in the last 150 years. Our farmland bird indicator stands at less than half its value of 1970. We can and must do better.
I am fully committed to implementing the Environment Act 2021 in full, and in particular I would draw your attention to the 2030 species abundance target. Our freedom from the European Union has allowed us to put in place a domestic framework for both agriculture and fisheries. I am committed to the agricultural transition. On fisheries I am clear that we should be working to ensure that we have the most sustainable fleet in the world.
We can use our freedoms to unleash our potential and follow science. For example, I would ensure that we pass our Genetic Technologies legislation which will help our farmers to improve yields and reduce their reliance on pesticides.
I also used our Brexit freedoms as Chancellor to extend the VAT relief available for the installation of energy saving materials and include additional technologies and remove the complex eligibility conditions.
There is no point leaving the EU to keep everything the same. I will respond in full to that Nature Recovery Green Paper, and I am committed to reforming Arms Length Bodies so that they actually deliver for our environment. Too many of them were set up simply to implement and enforce EU law and are no longer fit for purpose.
What further action will you take, if any, to respond to public concern about water pollution and to clean up our rivers?
We all depend on water and I want to ensure that we have a holistic plan to both protect its supply and clean it up. It was a Conservative government that set out the expectation, through a new policy statement, that water companies must take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows and ensure that they are delivering for the environment and consumers across the country.
Through the Environment Act, we have put in place a package of measures to reduce the harms from storm overflows. There are duties on water companies to do so, as well as duties on them and the Government to increase monitoring, reporting and transparency regarding the use of storm sewage overflows. The Government has consulted on a number of ambitious targets under the Environment Act, including targets to clean up our water by reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment - and I will implement these. When it comes to a holistic plan for water, we need to preserve assets like chalk streams.
I also want to be clear that I will crack down on water companies and address their performance. They must be held accountable for the excessive use of storm overflows, and for unacceptable leakage and mains bursts. We have seen some record fines put in place in recent months, but I do not rule out going further.
I will continue to fund programmes like Catchment Sensitive Farming. To ensure a holistic approach to water management, I will bring together neighbouring water companies to collaborate on their water plans, and to improve the enforcement ability of both OFWAT and the Environment Agency.
How will you maintain the UK’s international leadership position on climate and nature heading into the climate and nature COPs later this year?
Last year, we led the world at COP26, winning big commitments on coal, cars, cash and trees. We brought together 145 countries from around the world, containing 90% of the world’s forests, all of whom promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. That is huge. We must now make sure that we are building on that. We have taken a global lead in so many areas; campaigning to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030; and the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.
The UK continues to hold the COP presidency until November, and ahead of the next summit in Egypt it is vital to keep up pressure on nations around the world to meet the pledges they made in Glasgow. That includes ensuring delivery against the commitment that the UK led to bring to an end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector.
The UK’s global leadership in financial services gives us a platform to demonstrate global leadership in the development and success of green finance. The UK’s first green bond issuance in 2021, while I was Chancellor, was a great example of how the UK continues to be world leaders in green finance. And I remain committed to making the UK the world’s first net zero aligned financial centre. Additionally, while I was Chancellor, the UK became the first major economy to require mandatory reporting on climate-related risks and opportunities across the economy, in line with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
The strength of our international leadership on climate and nature is underpinned by the success of our policies at home. We have shown and must continue to show that we can cut emissions while growing our economy, that we can bring down the cost of abatement and build up our natural capital. Proving that we can deliver on our climate and nature commitments enhances the quality of life of our citizens and strengthens our voice on the world stage.
Views expressed in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of the Conservative Environment Network. If you are a CEN supporter, councillor, or parliamentarian and would like to write for the CEN blog, please email your idea to email@example.com.