Tory leadership candidates “running away” from net zero, Miliband says

Elliot Chappell

Ed Miliband has accused Conservative Party leadership candidates of “running away” from net-zero emissions after comments from the MPs hoping to replace Boris Johnson have cast doubt on the government’s commitment to its 2050 target.

In a Sky News interview this morning, after the list of candidates was reduced to four on Monday evening, the Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary told viewers that the remaining contenders have demonstrated “climate illiteracy”.

“We’ve got an extreme heatwave, we know the climate challenge, we had COP26 last year – what are they doing? They’re not running towards net zero, they’re running away from it. I mean, what an unserious party that is running away from a climate agreement,” Miliband said.

The Labour frontbencher criticised Kemi Badenoch for her comment that the net-zero target is “unilateral economic disarmament” and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak for having “dragged his feet in the Treasury in investing in the green agenda”.

He added: “Liz Truss, she says fracking is the answer and Penny Mordaunt says the green levies are the main problem.”

On the Labour Party’s commitment at the 2019 general election to “achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030”, Miliband told viewers that the pledge is “still our position” and cited the commitment made by Rachel Reeves last year to invest £28bn per year in a green transition.

All four candidates left in the Conservative leadership election have now backed the government’s target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Badenoch had been the last to say she supports the objective, in a leadership debate on Sunday evening, having previously described the date agreed as “arbitrary”.

The High Court ordered the government to outline how it will achieve the net-zero target after Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project brought a legal action arguing that the climate change strategy had illegally failed to include the policies needed to deliver the promised emissions cuts.

In a judgement handed down on Monday, Justice Holgate said the strategy lacked any explanation or quantification of how the plans would achieve the target and as such had breached its obligations under Climate Change Act (CCA) 2008.

The ruling from the High Court, which came at a time when the UK faced record-breaking heat, has been described as environmental campaigners as a “breakthrough moment” as they said it showed the strategy was in breach of the law.

The net zero strategy, published in October last year, included commitments by the government to end the sales of new fossil fuel cars by 2030 and gas boilers by 2035, but the document did not specify how the plan put forward would be delivered or set out the cuts in emissions to be achieved in each sector.

The UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) issued its most severe warning yet last year in a report, which represented the culmination of 14,000 separate studies, that stated that it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.

The authors of the report concluded that temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, breaching the commitment of the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015, within the next two decades.

They set out five scenarios for the future of climate change with varying degrees of severity but all predicted that the 1.5 degree increase will be reached by 2040, and sooner if emissions are not reduced. Keir Starmer said at the time that the “biggest threat we now face is not climate denial but climate delay”.

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