They say that politicians often operate in a bubble, removed from the rest of us. They have a blinkered view of reality, distorted by privilege and power.
But a stark reminder of the disconnect between reality and political discourse has been laid bare this week.
This week the UK has smashed its temperature records, surpassing the landmark 40 degree Celsius record. As the country sweltered, its railways ground to a halt as rails buckled. Dozens of fires broke out in the capital. Houses were gutted by fire. The London fire brigade had their busiest day since the Second World War.
As families searched through the smouldering ashes of their burnt out homes, the Conservative Party was picking the final two candidates to be its new leader, and therefore the UK’s Next Prime Minister. Yesterday, the results were announced.
The final two candidates chosen by Conservative members of Parliament will now be voted on by the membership of the Party, 160,000 predominantly white, affluent, southern, and elderly people. According to a recent poll, this is what the membership cares about:
No mention of climate and biodiversity loss . They are going to kill us all .
— Chris Packham (@ChrisGPackham) July 21, 2022
Climate change does not even make the list. Although turning back refugees and climate refugees from the Channel does.
It is this membership that Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Liz Truss, the current Foreign Secretary, will try and persuade the electorate to vote for them. Given the events of this week, it would be logical and rational to think that our climate emergency would feature prominently in their thinking and urgent policy proposals, too. But you would be wrong.
Also given that tens of millions of people in the country are struggling to pay bills and feed their children and are terrified of the coming winter, it would be expected that politicians would do everything in their power to reduce bills for individuals in the long term.
Indeed, the UK will face a bitter cost of living crunch this Autumn with energy bills set to rise a further £1000 to top a staggering £3000. In fact, a new survey has found that green upgrades, such as insultation, the installation of heat pumps and solar panels, could reduce bills by about £1,900 a year.
The candidates, who both have a poor record on climate issues, are doing nothing to tackle our climate emergency and are offering the wrong solutions to the cost of living crisis. They have failed to show leadership on these issues, even before they become leaders. They are doubling down the Conservative’s anti-green, pro-fossil fuel agenda.
Speaking on the BBC’s flagship program this morning, Liz Truss talked about scrapping the so-called “green levy”, the part of the electricity bill that is ringfenced to help promote renewables. Currently they stand at less than eight percent of bills. She also said that she was going to open up more of the North Sea for oil and gas drilling. She was not challenged by the BBC on this:
Is this climate denial on @BBCr4today from @bbcnickrobinson? Failing to ask the UK's likely next PM about the climate crisis while Liz Truss says she will cut the green levy and push for more fossil gas, days after wildfires and record 40C temps. #r4today
— Steve Westlake (@steviedubyu) July 21, 2022
Earlier in the week, she said the UK should restart fracking, something quickly dismissed by experts as completely counterproductive. All of these policies will exacerbate our climate crisis and make it more likely that London will burn. They will not help the cost of living crisis, either.
They also ignore the market reality. As OilPrice.com argued two days ago: “Despite a drastic shortage of energy in Europe, oil and gas firms are reluctant to invest in oil and gas operations in the North Sea.”
For decades, the solution to the climate crisis has been obvious, invest in renewables, invest in insulation and energy efficiency, and decarbonize the economy.
I don’t know who needs to hear this right now but new oil and gas fields won’t lower bills.
We’re in the middle of a gas price crisis.
The solution to globally rising gas prices is to get off gas – not waste billions chasing climate wrecking, expensive fossil fuels.
— StopCambo #StopJackdaw (@StopCambo) July 21, 2022
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, has said he will cancel any more onshore wind development in the UK, in what is another completely retrograde policy step.
Sunak and Truss’s actions are essentially those of climate deniers. This argument is still omnipresent in the Conservative Party.
The latest line from Ministers is that “we will just have to live with climate” as if there is nothing we can do. It is a line straight out of Big Oil’s spin doctors, and another one ridiculed by experts on twitter:
Seems we have to learn to live with poverty, inequality, low wages, pandemics and planet threatening climate change.
I guess government isn't about trying to actually improve anything! pic.twitter.com/8C5KMxSyis
— Prof. Christina Pagel ?? (@chrischirp) July 20, 2022
At least some politicians are keeping up the pressure though. An influential committee of the House of Lords, which includes the former Governor of the Bank of England as a member, has issued a report arguing that the UK’s next prime minister needs to grab Britain’s net zero plans “by the scruff of the neck”, otherwise the country risks a “disorderly transition” away from fossil fuels.
It is a national disgrace for the UK that both Truss and Sunak seem to be hurtling towards more climate disorder. It is beyond ironic that one of them will take office with the UK still holding the COP Presidency.