UK could lose global climate leadership, says former energy minister

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain could lose its position as a global leader in the push to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero and is failing to set out a positive enough narrative for voters, former British energy minister Chris Skidmore said on Wednesday.

Skidmore signed Britain’s 2050 net zero commitment into law in 2019, but has since left government and recently led a review into the country’s progress towards its targets.

It found more than 100 areas where the government needs to act to keep pace with its goals.

“We are in this global net zero race, we have been climate leaders in the past, (but) we’re about to lose that leadership,” he said in an interview at  the  Reuters IMPACT conference.

“Jobs will go abroad, your companies will relocate elsewhere, investment decisions will not come to the UK. There is no free rider opportunity in net zero. It’s only by leading you demonstrate market advantage.”

His remarks add to growing concern among lawmakers and campaigners that under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Britain has lost its appetite for delivering politically difficult climate policies ahead of an election expected next year.

Sunak’s record has come under scrutiny after he said he would take a “proportionate approach” to climate change that balances net zero ambitions with the need to keep consumers’ bills down.

Skidmore said that rather than pandering to small but vocal groups who oppose net zero on the grounds it imposes unnecessary costs on voters, disinformation and misinformation needed to be countered calmly and rationally.

He added that government could not afford to be “embarrassed” about its climate plans and should sell voters a more positive vision of what it could mean for Britain’s economic future.

“You’ve got to be bold and set out a vision. That’s what leadership is about. If you’re not willing to do that, then don’t lead,” he said.

To view the live broadcast of the Road to COP Stage go to the Reuters IMPACT news page:

(Reporting by William James and Sachin Ravikumar, writing by Muvija M; editing by Sarah Young)