Conservative MPs “inspirational” school climate strikers

- New poll shows only 15% of public oppose strikes –

A survey released today shows that UK public support for the young people’s school strikes over climate change outweighs opposition by more than three to one. This Friday (15 March), strikes by young people are expected to take place globally in over 90 countries - including the UK.

The poll, carried out by Opinium for the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), shows that 53 percent of British adults support children taking time out of school to voice their concern about the impacts that climate change will have on their futures, with only 15 percent opposed to their actions. Young people are even more supportive with 60 percent of 18-34 year olds backing the strikers.

The polling also shows that 70 percent of the public believe it's important that the UK Government reduces greenhouse gas emissions to zero. The UK Government has committed to setting a net zero target; recently asking the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for their advice on how to reach net zero. The CCC will report back on May 2nd, and the UK is set to become the world's first major economy to commit in law to ending its contribution to climate change.

At 5pm this Thursday (14th March), a large group of Conservative MPs, including Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, and Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, alongside members of the Conservative Environment Network MP Caucus, will release a video praising the "inspirational" strikers, highlighting the UK's world-leading record on emissions reduction, and pledging to do more to tackle climate change. The video will be hosted on the CEN website.

Commenting on the findings, Rt Hon Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury said: “The extraordinary passion of the school strikers is inspirational. These are young people whose lives will be much more affected by climate change than the generations leaving them this legacy.

“It is a threat like no other; indeed, security planners at the Pentagon describe climate change as a risk escalator, that increases pressures on migration and instability in vulnerable states. Of course young people don’t want to inherit a more unstable, environmentally degraded world.

“But the strikes also highlight the need for us to better inform people about what action has been and is being taken. In Britain we have a good record but there remains more to do if we want to retain our position as a world leader.”

Since 1990, the UK has cut its emissions by 42 per cent, while its economy has grown by two thirds - meaning faster emissions reduction and better economic growth than any other G7 nation. The Paris Agreement requires nations to set stronger emissions reduction targets, and reach net zero.

Vicky Ford, MP for Chelmsford said: “We have to commit to a net zero emissions target if we are to stop climate change for the sake of ours and younger generations, and to achieve this we need to harness the powers of science and technology and unlock the opportunities from new clean technologies for our country.

“We lead the world in sectors like renewable energy, which now supplies about a third of our electricity supply, but we must continue to support this sector. That includes opening a pathway to market for onshore wind again, developing nascent technologies such as batteries and smart grids, and boosting the energy efficiency of homes.

“The recently published offshore wind sector deal shows the ambition of what we can do, but to achieve a net zero emissions target by 2050, or earlier if possible, we must do more to harness new technology.”

A recent joint letter, from Simon Clarke, together with 182 MPs, asked the Prime Minister to back a UK net zero emissions target ahead of 2050.

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said: “I've led the charge in Parliament for the UK to go net zero emissions on climate change before 2050 and am immensely proud that 182 of my colleagues from across the House have joined me in backing a step that will fundamentally improve the lives of young people in the future.

“This polling shows that a net zero target is not just necessary but hugely popular, and not just within Parliament - over 70% of British people support us in our argument that the UK should aim to cut its carbon emissions to zero in the next few decades.

“We have also seen support from key sectors like farming, with the National Farmers Union pledging to reach net zero emissions. Setting this goal in law will set us on the path to delivering a cleaner, greener country, putting us at the forefront of the race to develop clean technologies and jobs around the UK.”

A report by the IPCC last October highlighted the necessity of reaching net zero emissions - and the difference in risks between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming.

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park said: “Globally, the signs showing the extent and frequency of the impacts of climate change on the natural world are alarming. Heat records are being made, ecosystems are undergoing extraordinarily rapid changes, lands are becoming harder to farm, and the spectre of a global refugee crisis is looming.

“Last year’s IPCC report also tells us that the difference between limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C is dramatic, with lower numbers of people exposed to water stress, fewer at risk of climate-related destitution, and at least some of our coral reefs preserved.

“In this light, it seems absurd and mean-minded to admonish children for missing school to ring the alarm bells. This challenge is gigantic and, despite the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go.”

Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane said: “Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, but some groups more than others. Women, young people and the poorest people in societies globally are the most vulnerable to climate risks, so it’s understandable young women in particular care about this.

“A stable environment is also fundamental for wider social equality. Well-designed homes can reduce emissions along with people’s bills, and create a healthy environment to live in. Restoring natural habitats is good for the climate and can help to improve people’s wellbeing.

“As Conservatives, caring about passing on a better world for future generations is fundamental to our beliefs, and tackling climate change is an essential part of that.”

Polling has previously demonstrated that the number one issue younger voters wanted politicians to discuss more was climate change - and the Conservatives have made tackling climate change a key plank of their offer to younger voters.

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Conservative Vice-Chairman for Youth said: "The school strikes show how much young people care about the environment and challenges like climate change.  They care about the future of the planet. And so do we.

“Conservatives have a proven track record in tackling climate change and expanding renewable energy.  We must be clear about what actions we have already taken, but also listen to the concerns and views of young people about what more we can do.

“Students should not be reluctant to contact their MPs and let their views be known - and the government has also launched projects alongside the British Youth Council to give young people a greater voice in the development of national policy and I hope climate change will form a major part of that."

Notes to editors:

Cross-party MP joint letter on setting a net zero emissions target: https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/joint-letter

Friday’s for Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/events/list

Conservative MPs welcome suite of green measures in Spring Statement

-Long list of environmental announcements included new funding for marine protection and phasing out of fossil fuel heating for new homes–

 

MPs from the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Caucus have warmly welcomed a suite of green measures announced in today's Spring Statement. The commitments delivered on long-held CEN objectives, including the introduction of "biodiversity net gain" - a measure to protect habitats while delivering new housing developments - and the establishment of a Marine Protected Area around Ascension Island. MPs from the CEN Caucus recently met with Secretary of State Michael Gove to press the case for the protection of this precious habitat of marine life. 

Commenting on the Ascension Island announcement, Richard Benyon MP said,

"In the week that we celebrate Commonwealth Day it's right that we acknowledge the wealth of marine life in our Overseas Territories. Ascension Island is a prime example of this, and so I'm delighted that we will be supporting the Island council with funding to protect their waters. CEN MPs spoke to the Environment Secretary about this vital habitat, and the amazing marine creatures that call it home, so it's great to see this funding announced today."

Zac Goldsmith MP added,

“Not everyone has heard of Ascension Island, but it is a biodiversity hotspot which deserves protection. I am delighted that the Government listened to our campaign and will now protect Ascension’s waters in full. As custodians of one of the largest marine estates in the world, we have a duty to defend our oceans from the huge threats of overfishing and climate change – this is an important step to make that happen.”

On the plans to shift away from fossil fuel heating systems within the next six years, Antoinette Sandbach MP said,

"High energy efficiency standards are vital not only to ensure that everyone has a warm place to live, but also to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to make sure that every home, new or old, is fit for the future, and today's announcement on green gas has shown the Government takes this task seriously. I've been working to raise awareness of this issue in Parliament and to my constituents, and we now need to make sure these measures are accessible and affordable to all homeowners."

The Government also announced a review of global biodiversity. Zac Goldsmith MP commented,

"This Government has pledged to leave the environment in a better state than we found it - and to do that we need to fully understand the scale of the loss of species that is currently underway. It means acknowledging that every day here in the UK we are losing more birds, hedgehogs, pollinators and other wildlife - while globally, charismatic species from lions to tigers to rhinos could soon be extinct in the wild. We'll be taking serious steps to combat this deeply worrying trend in Britain with the Environment Bill, and this review will underpin our global efforts to restore nature, so I strongly welcome the Chancellor's announcement today of the review to be chaired by Sir Partha Dasgupta."

Rebecca Pow MP added,

"Alongside the other brilliant policies announced today, the review of global biodiversity could achieve what the Stern Review did for climate change - driving nature up the political agenda and galvanising politicians to action. Today's raft of announcements is yet another example of how the Conservative Party are the true conservationists."

Sam Richards, CEN Director added,

"Today's package of announcements is a real step in the right direction towards fulfilling the promise of the Clean Growth Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan. Environmental protection and economic growth go hand in hand - today the Chancellor fully endorsed CEN's message that a combination of market mechanisms and, where necessary, the right nudges from Government is the best way to protect our environment."

Conservative MPs welcome major boost for offshore wind industry

MPs from the Conservative Environment Network Caucus have welcomed a new partnership between Government and industry that is set to treble the number of "green collar" jobs by the end of the next decade. 

Commenting ahead of the launch of the sector deal, Sir Roger Gale MP said, "Thanet (home of Vattenfall in the U.K.) already benefits from jobs and energy generated by our about-to-expand wind farm.This benefit will grow as storage technology and capacity increases. The more offshore wind the better".

The offshore wind "sector deal" will also boost the number of women and young people working in this growing UK industry.

Rebecca Pow MP said, "It’s great to see the offshore wind sector setting ambitious targets to recruit more women into this dynamic green industry, especially in the lead up to International Women’s Day. I hope this will encourage more women to consider a career in STEM and go for these exciting apprenticeship opportunities."

Renewables generated over 30% of UK power last year, and the shift away from coal to other sources of electricity generation has been a key factor behind the UK's record on emissions reduction.

Robert Courts MP commented, "Offshore wind will play a crucial part in the world's future energy mix. As other countries follow our lead in shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy they will need this new technology - so this sector deal helps us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and secure the jobs of the future."

Since 1990, the UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent while its economy has grown by two thirds. Pupils from around the world UK recently went "on strike" as part of a global campaign for action on climate change.

Richard Graham MP said that the sector deal offered "great opportunities for climate change marchers to find jobs in Europe’s fastest growing green economy, under a Conservative government."

Despite the new offshore wind sector deal, the route to market for the cheapest new source of electricity generation - onshore wind - remains closed.

Simon Clarke MP said, "The recent cost reductions in offshore wind show that not only will power generated by wind help us to tackle climate change, but that it can cut household bills and make industrial energy costs more competitive. We can become the Saudi Arabia of wind power - to make the most of this huge potential the Government should now also provide a route to market for onshore wind developments where there is local support."

NOTE TO EDITORS

 - Details of the offshore wind sector deal can be found here

 - For more information contact Sam Richards on 07745499915.

CEN brings good news about subsidy-free onshore wind to Parliament

CEN teamed up with Vattenfall UK and 10:10 Climate Action group to bring constituents and supply chain businesses to Parliament to talk to MPs about the cheapest source of electricity generation: onshore wind.

Sam Richards, Director of the Conservative Environment Network said, “we know that we need more renewables to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change. Onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy, and we should make sure we utilise it where communities want it.”

Ellie Roberts from climate change charity 10:10 Climate Action said, “we had over one hundred constituents in Parliament calling on their MPs to bring back onshore wind - and tens of thousands of people from across the UK have written to the government stating their support. Over three quarters of the British public back onshore - we’re here to make sure MPs realise it.”

Danielle Lane, UK Country Manager at Vattenfall, the Swedish energy company said, “Low-cost, popular, reliable, jobs-boosting onshore wind, free from fossil fuels, deserves the support of the UK Government. It offers a great deal for the British consumer and the economy and investors like us are determined to deliver on the sector’s great potential.”

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Green conservatives launch new Westminster caucus

CEN has launched its new MPs' Caucus and Membership to give conservative environmentalists a platform to drive their agenda in Westminster. The two groups formalise CEN's structure and offer opportunities to get involved with the Network. Made up of a wide range of Conservative backbenchers including former Cabinet Ministers, current Select Committee chairs, and rising stars from the 2015 and 2017 intakes, the CEN caucus will work together to support bold action from the Government on decarbonisation and conservation.

Sam Richards, Director of CEN said,

"Many MPs have been working for years to promote centre-right environmentalism, but with a dynamic new set of Ministers, and the environmental opportunities from leaving the European Union, interest has grown rapidly in the past year. We're now formalising our network of parliamentary supporters with our Caucus of MPs to drive the agenda forward in Westminster, and our Membership for advisers, researchers and anyone else supportive of conservative environmentalism.

This is the next step in CEN's growth as we promote conservative answers to environmental questions. The Government has made great progress on protecting our environment - from the 25 Year Environmental Plan to the Government's recent net zero commitment - but while there is a lot to celebrate, there's still much more to do to ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we found it."

Ben Goldsmith, the Chair of CEN's Board said,

"As we leave the European Union we have a golden opportunity to protect and enhance our natural inheritance. This new Parliamentary caucus will bring together CEN's wide network of MPs to deliver on our ambitious environmental plans."

CEN MPs have signed up to support action on seven core principles on the natural environment, rural areas, climate change, clean growth, housing, conservation and air pollution.

CEN MP Rebecca Pow said,

“I’m looking forward to working with my CEN colleagues to make progress on a range of issues, from plastics to conservation, land use issues, clean technologies to reduce greenhouse emissions and much more besides. CEN is a space for ideas to grow and campaigners to come together, and there’s never been a better time for action."

Ben Stafford, Head of Campaigns at WWF said,

“We welcome this commitment by Conservative MPs to make progress on environmental issues. Tackling climate change and reversing nature’s decline are two of the challenges of our generation and we need political champions to ensure they stay high on the agenda. WWF works across the political parties, and hopes this initiative can be part of a race to the top among our politicians to make the UK a global environmental leader.”

Leading the Membership side of the Network will be the CEN Ambassadors, leaders in their sectors who will focus on specific policy areas.

CEN Ambassador Barnaby Wharton, the Head of Policy at RenewableUK, heads up the Renewable Energy brief. Barnaby said,

"This is an exciting next step for CEN, bringing together conservative environmentalists looking to make a difference. There are lots of Conservatives working in this space and it’s vital that the party, at all levels, is talking about leadership on climate and how we best protect our environment. CEN is the perfect platform for that."

NOTE TO EDITORS

The MPs Caucus includes: Peter Aldous, Heidi Allen, Richard Benyon, Alex Chalk, Simon Clarke, Robert Courts, Vicky Ford, Zac Goldsmith, Richard Graham, James Gray, James Heappey, Kevin Hollinrake, Oliver Letwin, Tim Loughton, Scott Mann, Matthew Offord, Rebecca Pow, Amber Rudd, Henry Smith, Sir Nicholas Soames, David Warburton and Sarah Wollaston.

Anyone interested in becoming a member can sign up via CEN's website. Membership costs £20 a year and includes access to CEN's fortnightly newsletter, regular events with MPs, Ambassadors and other members.

CEN supports Green Great Britain Week

Comment on the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference

CEN Director Sam Richards has commented on today's Illegal Wildlife Conference in London, saying:

"This summit comes at a crucial time. We are responsible for pushing some of the planet's most magnificent and majestic creatures to the brink of extinction. Our children could grow up in a world without elephants, without rhinos, without lions, without tigers - we need to act now to prevent the annihilation of species that is currently underway."

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CEN Director comments on the IPCC report

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Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Director Sam Richards has commented on today's special report from the IPCC on Global Warming of 1.5°C, saying:

"Today’s IPCC report shows how important it is that we take action to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The science is clear - beyond 1.5°C the world risks reaching tipping points that would make it extremely difficult to regain control of our climate - and the fires and heatwaves we saw this summer would become increasingly common. Thankfully, with electric vehicles and cheap sources of renewable power like onshore wind, we have the technology to avoid this fate. The Government should set a net zero emissions target to deliver a 1.5 world, and put in place the policies necessary to hit this goal."

CEN welcomes today's government commitment to Net Zero

The Conservative Environment Network (CEN) has welcomed the Government's announcement that it will join the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The Government published a press release this morning stating that the UK will be 'joining the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, an initiative led by New Zealand and the Marshall Islands that will promote long-term planning and ambitious action in support of the Paris Agreement’s collective goals of net-zero global emissions by the second half of this century.'

CEN has been campaigning for a commitment to Net Zero, led by CEN MP Simon Clarke, and has welcomed the news today. Sam Richards, Director of CEN said, "It's fantastic news that the UK will join the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and work alongside allies in the fight against climate change like New Zealand to go net zero by 2050.

We know that in order to stop climate change we need to reach net zero by 2050. Leading the way offers the UK the chance to secure good green jobs - such as manufacturing electric vehicles and offshore wind turbines - while restoring our countryside to act as a sink of any remaining carbon emissions.

A net zero target is hugely popular - a recent poll showed 64% of voters want to reduce our emissions to zero in the next few decades. This bold commitment from the Prime Minister is welcome news for our country and our planet."

Simon Clarke MP delivered a letter to Number 10 on the 11th September signed by 132 MPs calling on the Government to commit to Net Zero by 2050. On submitting the letter, Simon wrote, 'We need to make sure we pass on our planet in good condition to our children and grandchildren. That’s why I was proud to go to 10 Downing Street to submit a letter I have organised this summer, signed by over 130 MPs from all parties and over 50 peers, offering our support to the Government to deliver “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050. This would mean the end of carbon pollution in the U.K. - and would be a huge step towards saving the planet. The falling costs of renewable energy mean we can achieve this goal without imposing higher costs for consumers.'

NOTE TO EDITORS

The Government press release can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-expertise-to-help-developing-countries-tackle-climate-change-and-move-to-cleaner-energy

For more on the MP letter: https://www.simon-clarke.org.uk/news/protecting-future-our-planet

Sam Barker RIP

CEN's Director, Sam Barker, died on August 6 after an 18 month battle against cancer.

Sam was CEN's director from May 2016 until this summer. He was a superb colleague and a great friend. His humour, intelligence and kindness were an inspiration to us all, as was his gentle determination to make the world a better place.

Sam was a highly effective campaigner for social justice and environmental stewardship and was very popular around Westminster and beyond. We will all miss him greatly.

The Conservative Environment Network will commemorate Sam’s contribution to politics and the environment through a Memorial Lecture and prize for Green Conservative of the Year.

We hope to host the first lecture and prize in 2019 and intend it to serve as a reminder of Sam's contribution and the continuity of his legacy.

We send our deepest sympathy and condolences to Sam's parents, his wife Xanthe and their two children, Alethea and Nathanael.

CEN Board

Ben Caldecott

Adrian Gahan

Ben Goldsmith

Isabella Gornall

Benet Northcote

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CEN Chairman Ben Goldsmith celebrates a successful year and welcomes new director

The Conservative Environment Network welcomes its new Director, Sam Richards. Sam, a long time campaigner for conservative environmentalism, joins from roles in Parliament, Nissan, and most recently as Head of Strategy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

He takes over from Sam Barker who has been working part-time, and is now leaving the organisation as he continues treatment for cancer. Mark Holmes, who has been acting as Interim Director for the last 12 months, is also leaving at the end of the month to pursue other opportunities.

Ben Goldsmith, CEN’s Chairman, said:

“I want to pay the warmest possible tribute to Sam Barker and Mark Holmes. Sam brought full-time professional leadership to the organisation. Sam’s insights and experience have set the bar high for our organisation’s work. His decade of experience in public policy and civil society has added immeasurably to our work and to the conservative environmentalist cause. We all wish him well as he continues to undergo treatment.”

“Mark has had a tremendous impact in the 12 months he was leading CEN’s work. Through his engagement with a wide network of Ministers, advisors, MPs and UK civil society we have helped to secure significant wins for the environment. He has facilitated high profile print, TV and radio coverage of our work, praise from the Prime Minister at PMQ’s and a string of highly successful events. Mark’s excellent political judgement has been invaluable in turbulent times and we wish him well for the future.”

“I’m delighted that Sam Richards is joining CEN as our permanent Director. We’re lucky to have him and I look forward to supporting his leadership of CEN going forward.”

Sam Barker said:

“CEN has always set the standard for Conservative Environmentalism. It has been a privilege to be part of that.

I’m proud of the legacy our work is creating in Government. Michael Gove’s dynamism at Defra is legendary. Greg Clark and Claire Perry are fighting for a future-focussed industrial strategy, for decarbonisation and ending dirty coal use, Boris is working to expand Marine Reserves. The Prime Minister is committed to fighting plastic pollution, and to protecting the Paris agreement. All this depends on a groundswell of support from conservative activists, councillors, MP’s and peers, with whom it has been a privilege to work. CEN publications and events have provided the impetus for much of this change. It is great to be handing over to a talented operator like Sam Richards.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to the board and the many others who have supported me and my family in a crazily unexpected situation. Life throws odd curveballs, but the support of friends, and the opportunity to keep campaigning has brought lots of joy!”

Mark Holmes said:

“It has been a pleasure to work across UK politics and civil society to promote conservative environmentalism through the Conservative Environment Network. CEN has helped shape the debate both in and out of government and bolster the argument for higher environmental standards and innovative approaches to policy making. I would particularly like to thank the CEN team and our champions in parliament for their support. I wish Sam Richards every success leading CEN. ”

Sam Richards said:

“I’m thrilled to be joining CEN at such an exciting time for the organisation and the conservative environmentalist movement. As the UK leaves the European Union and looks to strengthen its climate targets, there are huge opportunities to change how we approach environmental issues in the UK and beyond. I’m looking forward to continuing CEN’s unique position at the heart of the UK environmental movement.”