Alok Sharma warns he may resign if new Tory leader ditches net zero pledge

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Resignation could be on the cards for Alok Sharma if the new PM does not deliver on net zero targets  (PA)
Resignation could be on the cards for Alok Sharma if the new PM does not deliver on net zero targets (PA)

Cabinet minister and Cop26 president Alok Sharma has warned he may quit if the new prime minister does not take a strong stance on climate change.

Mr Sharma’s intervention in the Tory leadership race comes as the UK braces for record-breaking temperatures as high as 41C this week.

The extreme weather has prompted the Met Office to issue a red ‘danger to life’ warning and the government to hold two emergency Cobra meetings.

In an interview with The Observer, Mr Sharma accused some candidates of being “lukewarm” on net zero in the bid to become prime minister.

He said: “Anyone aspiring to lead our country needs to demonstrate that they take this issue incredibly seriously, that they’re willing to continue to lead and take up the mantle that Boris Johnson started off.

“I want to see candidates very proactively set out their support for our net zero agenda for green growth.”

Pressed on whether he would quit if the new prime minister took a weak stance on net zero targets, he said: “Let’s see, shall we? I think we need to see where the candidates are. And we need to see who actually ends up in No 10.

“I hope every candidate realises why this is so important for voters generally and why it’s important for Conservative supporters. And I hope that we will see, particularly with the final two, a very clear statement that this is an agenda that they do support.”

When asked a second time, he said: “I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in.”

The government is currently working towards cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4 (PA)
Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4 (PA)

Of the five remaining candidates in the contest, only Kemi Badenoch has said she does not support the UK target of getting to net zero emissions by 2050, describing it as “unilateral economic disarmament”.

The others have indicated varying degrees of enthusiasm for the policy, which is unpopular with some sections of the party amid concerns about the impact on the economy.

On Friday, foreign secretary Liz Truss said she would impose a temporary moratorium on the green levy on domestic energy bills, arguing there were better ways to achieve the net zero target.

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