Liz Truss has spoken out against solar farms and cut funding for them in a previous ministerial role. Image: Number 10/Flickr
Following two record-breaking heatwaves, a drought and a flood that has displaced millions in Pakistan, shocking events in 2022 alone have demonstrated the urgent need to tackle the climate and environmental crises head on.
There are some issues that should be particularly high on the PM’s agenda. According to environmental think tank Green Alliance, upgrading the energy efficiency of homes, scaling up renewables, scaling down fossil fuel use and securing good outcomes for nature at the upcoming COP15 biodiversity summit should be key areas of focus.
Yet the need for urgent action on climate and the environment comes against a backdrop of the cost of living crisis, causing many politicians to backpedal on green rhetoric.
In recent weeks, MPs and ministers — including Liz Truss herself — have been advocating for everything from fracking to scrapping green levies and increasing oil and gas production to combat spiralling energy costs.
Ignoring these calls will be key if she is to stick with net zero ambitions and transition Britain into a cleaner, greener society, with Friends of the Earth pointing out that “the energy and climate crises go hand-in-hand and can be solved together”.
So we’ve looked at what the new PM can do to tackle our climate and environmental woes in their first 100 days. We’ve done the same for issues surrounding the cost of living crisis, levelling up and housing.
Failure to implement a m programme of home insulation across the country has already cost ordinary people dearly.
According to analysis by Carbon Brief, cuts to energy efficiency and other green funding under David Cameron’s government have added £2.5billion to energy bills today.
Insulating homes would save ordinary people money while cutting carbon emissions. As such, Green Alliance recommends the new PM amend the Energy Bill to ensure delivery of an energy efficiency rating of C for all social and rented homes by 2028, and B for all non-domestic premises by 2030.
During Truss’s first 100 days, Green Alliance says they should compel the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to produce a plan for achieving a 95 per cent zero carbon power sector by 2030, reaching 100 per cent by 2035.
To generate more solar power, the think tank would recommend that Truss extend solar capacity and funding, bringing forward planned network investment to speed up the process.
While she is busy amending the Energy Bill, they should also add a “net zero statutory duty” for energy regulator Ofgem, Green Alliance said. This would speed up deployment, according to their analysis, and allow the UK to move away from fossil fuels more quickly.
The PM should also look to significantly increase the UK’s ambition on offshore wind, the think tank said. As well as helping Britain to meet climate targets, this would create thousands of skilled jobs.
While she is speeding up the development of renewables, they should simultaneously be scaling down the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.
In their first 100 days, the PM will be required to make a decision on a proposed coal mine in Cumbria. Almost all environmental think tanks, NGOs, and even the government’s own climate advisers believe the mine is “indefensible” and should be rejected.
There has also been some discussion around potentially lifting a moratorium on fracking to increase the UK’s energy independence. Green Alliance said this should not be lifted as it’s a “red herring” when it comes to energy independence.
On oil and gas, Green Alliance said the “energy profits levy” (or windfall tax) on oil and gas producers should be extended beyond 2025.
They also said the investment allowance – which allows oil and gas companies to claim back tax when they invest in the UK – should be removed, with the funds instead used to support households with energy costs.
The pollution of rivers, seas and lakes in England and Wales has become a key concern for the public and a problem that Truss will find it difficult to avoid.
First thing’s first, said Christine Colvin of The Rivers Trust, she “needs to take pollution seriously and revitalise the power of the Environment Agency with more budget, a turn-around strategy, a re-motivation of their current staff and a much stronger audit of the ‘self-reporting’ by the water companies”.
Colvin also called for faster prosecutions for repeat pollution offenders, whether that’s a water company spilling sewage or farmers polluting rivers with agricultural waste.
Microplastic waste could be tackled with new regulations to add filters to washing machines, while the PM should boost numbers of environmental officers to check up on farms where pollution may be occurring.
Finally, in their first 100 days, Truss should look to conclude current inquiries into water regulator Ofwat and act “decisively” to implement recommendations, Colvin said.
Vast swathes of England continue to suffer drought. This is thanks in part to the dryer, hotter weather, and in part to water companies’ failure to stem leakage and prepare for potential drought situations.
Once the PM takes office, they’ll need to focus on preparing for both “droughts and deluge”, said Colvin – and “more concrete and chemicals” are not the answer.
On the policy side, they’ll need to “urgently revise” water company targets to prevent water leakage, Colvin said, as well as implementing Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act to make sustainable drainage for housing developments standard – avoiding future flash flooding.
Victoria Zeybrandt, policy and research manager at Policy Connect, suggested the new PM should set a national “per-capita consumption target” for water, which should be considered “within the wider context of overall water use” to conserve supply.
“Rather than rolling back on fundamental nature protections, as the leadership candidates have hinted at, people also want to know government’s got the basics covered when it comes to safeguarding our natural world,” a Greenpeace spokesperson said.
When it comes to policy opportunities on nature for the new PM, the Biodiversity “COP15” summit in October will be key.
They would recommend that the PM lead a prime ministerial delegation at the conference to boost ambition at the UN conference, while outlining “robust plans” for meeting the UK’s own target of protecting 30 per cent of nature by 2030.
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