Rishi Sunak’s climate rollbacks at odds with latest international net zero advice

Report calls for less politics and more money on net zero pathway

Rishi Sunak in Aberdeen

A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has laid out advice for achieving net zero, which has led campaigners to air their anger at how at odds it is with the UK prime minister’s recent energy policy rollbacks.

Environmental campaign groups have slammed the prime minister as ‘out of touch’ and completely at odds with international expert advice, over his recent announcement to water down a series of key climate and energy policies.

It comes as the Net Zero Roadmap, published today, stated that the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was still achievable, but only due to record growth in clean energy technology and investment from world leaders.  

The energy experts said that greater ‘global momentum’ and ‘bolder action’ was now required this decade to achieve the necessary goals on the net zero pathway, warning there must be less politics and more money going forward.

“Governments need to separate climate from geopolitics, given the scale of the challenge at hand,” said IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol.

However, the advice flies against the wind of Rishi Sunak’s recent roll back of net zero pledges, campaigners have been quick to point out.

Greenpeace UK’s senior climate campaigner, Charlie Kronick, said the recent report comes to highlight just how out of touch Sunak is with current expert advice, posing the question ‘whose advice is he listening to?’

“With the public, business leaders and world-leading energy experts all in agreement that climate rowbacks are a bad idea, it begs the question of whose advice Sunak is listening to,” asked Kronick.

“The only clear winners are the oil and gas companies, and the ideologues on his own backbenches.”

With experts calling for faster action to ditch fossil fuels and highlighting how narrow the goal post is to prevent global temperatures rising even more, it risks Britain being an international outlier on green development.    

“Rowing back on climate policies just at the time we should be speeding them up will also hit our economy hard, leaving us trailing behind other countries on the green economy, undermining investment confidence for growth in key industries, like renewables, clean heat and electric vehicles,” said Kronick.

Not only is Sunak out of touch with international advice, but also with potential Tory voters, with a recent poll highlighting overwhelming concern by Blue Wall voters for climate and environment policies.

Nearly three in four voters in Tory heartlands said climate policies will influence how they vote in the next election.  

The Stop Rosebank campaign group emphasised their frustration at Rishi Sunak being at odds with the general international advice on net zero.

Stop Rosebank responded: “The International Energy Agency has said AGAIN that we can’t have new oil and gas projects if we’re going to stay within a safe climate. So why is the UK government still considering approving massive new oil and gas fields like Rosebank?”

A feeling echoed by Friends of the Earth, who wrote: “The International Energy Agency has announced fossil fuel demand must fall by A QUARTER by 2030 to limit global warming.

“Meanwhile the UK government is weakening green policies and planning to ‘max out’ oil and gas?!”

(Image credit: Simon Walker / Number 10 – Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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