‘Make or break for net-zero’: Rishi Sunak calls a July general election

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced in a surprise intervention that the UK general election will take place on 4 July this year, with green groups stressing that this election could either ‘make or break’ the UK’s net-zero future.

‘Make or break for net-zero’: Rishi Sunak calls a July general election

Environmental organisations are urging all political parties to prioritise the nation's climate and nature in their manifestos.

In a Downing Street speech today (22 May), Sunak called for the dissolution of Parliament at the end of May, prompting an earlier election than anticipated by the nation.

The Labour Party has consistently been ahead of the Tories in national polling, making Kier Starmer the favourite for the UK’s next Prime Minister.

With just under six years left for the UK to meet its 2030 climate and nature targets, including reducing 68% of carbon emissions compared to pre-industrial levels as well as halting nature loss, commitment from all parties in this election is expected to be crucial for achieving these legally binding goals.

Sunak said: “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty.”

The Conservative Party has repeatedly accused Labour of lacking detailed policy plans and of making U-Turns. But the Party has faced significant backlash from the green economy in the past year, for lacking a green industrial strategy and for rolling back certain key net-zero policies. Changing plans on low-carbon heating, building energy efficiency and electric vehiches, Sunak cited the cost-of-living crisis and described his approach as ‘pragmatic.’

Earlier this week, hundreds of finance industry leaders called on the Tory Government to provide greater political certainty for low-carbon investments in the UK, arguing that current instability is driving investors to choose other markets for green projects.

And while the Party claims to be committed to the UK’s net-zero by 2050 goal, the Tory Government has demonstrated constant support for the expansion oil and gas licensing in the North Sea. Green groups have argued that this approach is inconsistent with the UK’s net-zero by 2050 pathway. Indeed, the Conservative Government’s overarching net-zero plan has twice been ruled unlawful in court.

Energy transition questions

The incumbent government has pledged to phase out unabated gas-fired power from the electricity generation mix by 2035, prioritising the expansion of nuclear and offshore wind and retrofitting gas plants with carbon capture.

The Labour Party, however, has set a 2030 target for this milestone and promises a broader approach to various renewable technologies. A key difference in their strategies is that Labour plans to end new North Sea oil and gas licenses.

Nevertheless, the green economy has expressed doubts regarding the sufficiency of Labour’s plans to tackle the climate crisis after the party scaled back its commitment to spend £28bn annually on the green economic transition.

Environmental organisations are now urging all political parties to prioritise the nation’s climate and nature in their manifestos as they outline policy priorities for the next government. Here, edie summarises some of the industry demands.

Industry reaction

Elli Moody, director of policy, campaigns and communications, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE): “This general election will be make or break for the countryside.

“We call on all political parties to recognise the value of the countryside and the role it can play in tackling the challenges that face our country and our planet.

“The next government will be faced with era-defining decisions on housing, environmental protections and energy supply. These will have big impacts on rural communities and our finite supply of land. We urge all political parties to think about the future while tackling the priorities of today.”

Simon McWhirter, deputy chief executive, UKGBC: “With the linked environmental, nature and cost of living crises; this is the most important election in a generation.

“Our buildings are the nexus of how we can solve many of these pressing challenges while delivering homes, offices and public buildings that are warmer, more comfortable, cheaper to run, and which tread lighter on the planet.”

Jamie Peters, climate co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth: “This general election must be a game-changer for people and the planet.

“Now we need to see all parties commit to the strong, green policies needed to tackle the climate and nature crises and ensure we all benefit from a fossil-free future.

“This means vastly scaling up cheap homegrown renewables, investing in insulation and green industries, which would create new jobs, boost energy security and save us all money on our bills for good.”

Martin Baxter, deputy chief executive, IEMA said: “There is a green skills gap looming, with demand for green skills growing nearly twice as fast as the growth in green talent.

“A skilled workforce is vital for net zero. If unaddressed, the Green Skills shortage will compromise efforts to achieve legally-binding net-zero targets and ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels.

“It is increasingly a necessity that all job roles can help contribute to delivering greener outcomes.”

Champa Patel, executive director for governments and policy, Climate Group: “These elections have been a long time coming and can be a watershed moment for the future of the UK.

“Polling shows that addressing climate change is a priority for the British public, a sentiment echoed by our interactions with some of the UK’s largest companies. It’s time for this priority to be reflected in the plans and manifestos of all political parties in the UK.”

Yselkla Farmer, chief executive, BEAMA: “The next Government has a simple decision to make. Create an environment for growth and prosperity based on a successful green economy or drive away billions of pounds of private investment and risk jobs with policy uncertainty and delay.

“Whoever wins the upcoming General Election, they will need to prioritise a stable policy environment, with clarity from Government that allows the innovative, high-impact solutions from industry that will tackle the structural challenges to building a low cost, low carbon and secure energy system.”

Rollo Maschietto, public affairs manager, Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology: “The next administration will make decisions that will determine whether we meet our net-zero targets or fall short.

“The only way to ensure enduring energy security and an affordable energy system is by ending our reliance on volatile imported fossil fuels by moving to renewables and clean technologies.

“This election is a chance for voters to prioritise climate action and for politicians to demonstrate their commitment to a greener future.”

Comments (4)

  1. Rob Heap says:

    The environment, climate change, net zero and beyond are the most fundamental issues that our new government must address, and quickly. More fundamental than Brexit and Covid, yet the electorate is presented with a voting dilemma, yet again, with none of the front runners in the electoral race presenting a manifesto that will deliver.

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    What are “cheap home-grown renewables”????
    Easy answers to difficult questions simply do not exist!

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    What are “cheap home-grown renewables”??
    Easy answers to difficult questions simply do not exist!

  4. Richard Phillips says:

    Sadly, it is very evident that the majority of politicians with the last word on policy, are not to be noted for their in-depth knowledge of matters scientific and technical.
    In France, there is a legal requirement for the top ranking civil servants to be trained in order that the scientists and administrators have had formal training in each others roles, there is thus a mutual understanding.
    How sensible!

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