The prime minister’s attempts to turn the climate emergency into a US-style wedge issue have dismayed veteran MPs who champion green policies
Rishi Sunak’s decision to drive a “green wedge” between the Conservatives and Labour will take the UK into dangerous new political territory and “the worst kind of culture wars”, not seen for more than 30 years, senior Tory figures and political observers have warned.
Reversals and delays to net zero policy announced last week will be just the start of a general election campaign in which the UK’s longstanding cross-party political consensus on climate will be increasingly at stake. Emails sent to journalists from the Conservative campaign headquarters revealed lines of attack on targets including the independent Climate Change Committee and Labour’s proposed £28bn investment in a low-carbon economy.
Lord Goldsmith, a former Tory minister, told the Observer: “It’s not so much the individual measures he’s announced. It’s more about the language and politics. This is a clear attempt to turn the environment into a wedge issue, as it is in the US. We have managed to avoid that until now, with disagreements mostly being about means, not ends. Sacrificing the environment to culture wars is cynical, devastating and wildly irresponsible.”
Sunak repeated many times that he was still committed to the UK’s legally binding target of reaching net zero by 2050, though experts said the policy changes were more likely to hamper than help. But Chris Skidmore, the Conservative ex-minister and author of the government’s net zero review, accused the prime minister of misleading voters. “It’s especially worrying that false claims and disinformation are being made about meat taxes that have never existed, or compulsory car sharing, or having seven bins. This is completely untrue, and is the worst kind of culture war politics, attempting to deliberately mislead,” he told the Observer.