All Tory leadership candidates confirm commitment to net zero

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Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat before the live television debate for the candidates hosted by Channel 4 (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat before the live television debate for the candidates hosted by Channel 4 (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

All five of the remaining Conservative leadership contenders have committed to meeting net zero by 2050.

At a well-attended hustings organised by the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) and chaired by Cop26 President Alok Sharma, the candidates confirmed their commitment to the UK’s net zero target.

Prior to the hustings, all the candidates except Kemi Badenoch had signed the CEN’s pledge to maintain the 2050 target.

As recently as July 12, the former equalities minister had described net zero policies as “unilateral economic disarmament”, while she has previously called the 2050 target “arbitrary”.

Kemi Badenoch has now committed to the UK’s net zero target (PA) (PA Wire)
Kemi Badenoch has now committed to the UK’s net zero target (PA) (PA Wire)

But as Britain saw its hottest day of the year on Monday and temperatures approached 40C, Ms Badenoch joined her fellow candidates in committing to the 2050 target.

Chris Skidmore, former energy minister and chairman of the Net Zero Support Group of Conservative MPs, said he was “delighted” all five candidates have now signed up to the pledge.

He said: “Since the beginning of the Conservative leadership contest, there has been a question mark over the future of net zero and our climate commitments, especially with a few candidates speaking against the idea of a target to deliver emissions reductions.

“The reality is that this is an internationally agreed framework that the UK has led, demonstrating that you can halve your carbon dioxide emissions at the same time as doubling the size of the economy.

“As the energy and climate minister who signed net zero into law three years ago, I know how seriously other countries are watching the UK’s progress to decarbonise. We are seen as international leaders.

“Net zero is also delivering investment and jobs into the north and red wall constituencies that are benefitting from a green industrial revolution. That’s why I’ve spent the leadership contest standing up for net zero and the benefits it delivers now.”

Mr Skidmore added: “We have come a long way in two weeks but I am delighted that we now will have two candidates face the membership, both of whom have committed to net zero and backing action on climate change.”

The hustings was one of the best attended of the campaign, apart from those held by the backbench 1922 Committee, with candidates surprised at the turnout, the PA news agency understands.

As well as net zero, candidates answered questions on nature and biodiversity, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss committing to lead a delegation to the Cop15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December, if elected.

But on Monday evening, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas lashed out at the Tory leadership candidates over their attitude to climate change and net zero.

“The issue of climate change, of nature extinction and so forth simply has not featured in the debate so far and, given the existential threat that it poses to our future, it really is quite shameful that the candidates haven’t said more about it,” Ms Lucas told BBC Newsnight on one of the hottest days in British history.

She continued: “I think one of the frustrations that many of us have looking at the list of things that the Prime Minister, the new prime minister, will have to do is actually an approach on the green economy into the answer. That is the way to level up the country. That is the way to create thousands of jobs all around the country.

“And it is utterly perverse to think of this only in terms of costs. If you look at the cost of inaction, then the cost of action right now is far cheaper.”

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