• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

‘Utter madness’: Truss and Sunak accused of failing to address climate crisis ‘as the world is dying’

·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Viewers of the Tory leadership contest could be forgiven for thinking the world isn’t in the grip of a climate emergency.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and home secretary Liz Truss have been accused of a lack of ambition and knowledge on the subject in their exchanges on Monday evening, despite last week’s record UK temperatures.

The climate crisis was spoken about for less than two minutes during the hour long programme, with more time dedicated to discussions on what clothes and jewellery the candidates were wearing.

Ms Truss highlighted food waste as "a particular problem", and said she would end the green energy levy, which makes up between 9-12 per cent of energy bills and helps fund initiatives such as renewable energy projects or home insulation.

Mr Sunak said: "I take advice on this from my two young daughters who are the experts on this in our household."

Speaking about recycling he told viewers: “I know it’s a pain, you need lots of bins, but it is very good for the environment.”

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

He also encouraged innovation to "solve the problem".

But the candidates failed to tackle how road transport, fossil fuel-dependent energy and heating systems and agriculture – in particular meat and dairy production – are among the biggest sources of emissions in the UK.

Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham was among those who reacted angrily to the candidates’ response to the worsening crisis.

"My throat is sore,” he tweeted. “I’ve never, ever shouted so much at a TV in all my life.

"The world is actually dying and they’re still in the playground."

Gary Lineker retweeted University of Kent’s Dr Charlie Gardner, an academic and activist who has previously taken part in Extinction Rebellion direct action protests, agreeing that the lack of leadership on the climate crisis was "utter madness".

The wording of one question was criticised with host Sophie Raworth asking the two candidates: "What three things should people change in their lives to help tackle climate change faster?"

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer wrote on Twitter: “So glad the breakdown of our planetary life support system got a whole two minutes based on a premise originally written by fuel lobbyists.”

Green groups said the candidates’ performance was "incredibly disappointing".

A fire burns in east London during the heatwave on 19 July. (REUTERS)
A fire burns in east London during the heatwave on 19 July. (REUTERS)

Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, told The Independent: “There was an enormous elephant in the room last night as the leadership candidates failed to properly discuss how they plan to tackle the climate crisis, just days after the UK sweltered in temperatures never before experienced in this country.

“While both candidates made warm noises about the importance of reducing energy waste, such as home insulation, the lack of tangible commitments to deliver on this meant we can’t be sure they will actually take it seriously.

“Rishi Sunak’s track record of scrapping and blocking green homes investments and Liz Truss’ focus on ditching green levies, which help insulate poorer people’s homes, certainly means they’ve got a lot of reassuring to do. They’ve got six weeks to rectify this and set out exactly how they plan to get the UK off fossil fuels and cut people’s bills, making clean, renewables the backbone of our energy system.”

Chris Venables, head of politics at think tank Green Alliance, said: “The candidates were right to talk about the importance of supporting innovation and investing in energy efficiency to tackle climate change last night.”

“But it’s incredibly disappointing that neither candidate has begun to set out even the beginnings of a credible plan to deal with the energy bills crisis that is set to engulf the country this winter.

“Rapidly expanding renewables and rolling out a nationwide programme of home insulation is the answer to lowering energy bills, as well as driving growth in the economy.”

Friends of the Earth’s political affairs manager, Adam Barnett, told The Independent: “Despite last week’s unprecedented, health-threatening heatwave, climate continues to be glaringly overlooked by the candidates vying to become our next prime minister.

“While Rishi Sunak spoke about the need for home insulation, both failed to grasp the huge opportunity to boost energy security, create jobs, and tackle both climate change and the cost-of-living crisis by investing in the UK’s huge potential for renewables.”

He added: “If Sunak and Truss are serious candidates for prime minister, they should be willing to present an equally serious offer to the public on how they will deal with the climate crisis.”

Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham hit out at the candidates’ performance on climate (PA)
Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham hit out at the candidates’ performance on climate (PA)

The criticism comes amid concerns that nations are not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis.

The UN has warned the existing path countries are on will “feed the scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe”, with “delusional” governments around the world giving the greenlight to yet more fossil fuel projects by oil and gas companies

The UN has called for a tripling in the investment in renewable energy, and an immediate end to subsidies for fossil fuel firms.

The UK’s next prime minister will be selected by Conservative Party members, which make up just 0.3 per cent of the UK’s population.

A second debate between Ms Truss and Mr Sunak is due to take place on Tuesday.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting