At the end of July this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged that he would ‘max out’ the UK’s oil and gas reserves. This he did whilst revealing a new round of North Sea oil drilling.

Sunak doubled down on this newfound green policy scepticism when he announced more scaling back of key climate action policies, such as delays to the ban on new combustion engine cars from 2030 to 2035, weakening plans to stop installing new gas boilers by 2035, and no longer requiring homeowners and landlords to meet energy efficiency targets of Grade C and above.

Going Anti-Green

As far as the Prime Minister’sclimate action policy goes, his outlandish statements have drawn plenty of criticism. Climate experts warn that these plans could be catastrophic if followed through. Sunak, however, defends the idea of using our North Sea oil reserves, believing that this is the most effective way of keeping the country’s energy secure, driving down energy prices, and helping to avoid relying on energy imports from ‘hostile’ exporters such as Russia.

Interestingly, even before the start of the war in Ukraine, the UK only imported 4 per cent of its gas from Russia, with most of its imports coming from Norway.

For many years, climate experts have been crystal clear about the dangers of continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Given that the UK is a major world power, Sunak’s green policy scepticism becomes all the more alarming. There is a typical kind of ignorance and denialism about climate action at play here that we usually see in films — and doesn’t that always end well?

Spanish MEP, Javi López, described Sunak’s announcement as a ‘suicidal decision’. Whilst this may be harsh language, López’s point is clear; for the leader of the United Kingdom to suddenly go anti-green is a dangerous turning point for the UK, Europe, and the world.

Electoral Games

One might argue that this is a controversial issue for Sunak to be so passionate about with likely less than a year to go until the next General Election — which Labour are expected to win. However, it appears that Sunak and many of his compatriots are leaning into green policy scepticism almost as a last-resort electoral tactic.

This was also evident in the recent Uxbridge byelection that the Conservatives narrowly won. An important part of their campaign was to complain about plans for the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) to be expanded. This struck a nerve with ‘motorists’ and the like, helping the Conservatives to retain their seat in Uxbridge.

For the world’s climate defenders, the Conservatives’ volte-face feels like a dangerous tactic that could lead to the encouragement of misconceptions about climate policy. The fear is that Sunak’s strategic move could set a precedent for green policy scepticism within mainstream British politics and the media.

The Green Faction

Despite many Conservative MPs backing Sunak and his green policy scepticism, there is also a wing of his party who are ashamed of the Prime Minister’s seeming unconcern for our planet’s future. Divisions within the party are opening up and questions are mounting about the efficacy of Sunak’s administration.

All this should give Keir Starmer and the Labour Party more reason to be excited about the upcoming election. Sunak’s decisions on climate action policies have been unpopular with many. This gives Starmer and his party the opportunity to drive a new green agenda that would resonate especially well with younger voters.

A green agenda would also gain Labour a hub of supporters from all around the world. Starmer has the perfect opportunity next month to counter Sunak’s recent statements at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

A National Embarrassment

Earlier last month, it was announced that Sunak would not be attending the ongoing annual UN General Assembly. This made him the first Prime Minister in over a decade to do so.

At first, it was reported that the PM would not be attending due to a busy schedule, but it has since been suggested that the real reason was to avoid severe embarrassment.

The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, called upon world leaders to take part in the Climate Ambition Summit alongside the UN General Assembly. However, Guterres emphasised that only countries with real ambitions in the fight against climate change will be able to participate. Merely showing up, wouldn’t have cut the mustard for Sunak and the UK.

So, while the world’s major superpowers strategized on how to limit climate change, the leader of the UK sat this one out.

The Prime Minister is setting Britain on a dangerous path towards lacklustre climate action and the risk of exclusion from future important global climate efforts. If Rishi Sunak has any concern for Britain and the world’s future, he must change his policy goals.

Indulging the green sceptics to avoid pressure can only bring short-term gains for the Conservatives.  As we edge closer to the General Election, the Prime Minister will have to face serious questions over his ability to lead Britain into the future. To practically ignore the issue of climate change is not something to be taken lightly or to be done without expecting consequences.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.