How green are the Tory leadership candidates? Their stance on net zero explained - and how they’ve voted
None of the MPs running for to be the Tory leader - and therefore the UK’s Prime Minister - attended an emergency briefing on climate change, so how green are they?
As the race for the UK’s Prime Minister gets underway, many will be questioning the environmental credentials of each candidate - as well as wondering what each has said about climate change and the net zero target.
Environmentalists have warned the new leader of the Conservative Party could derail net zero goals, with some of the candidates expressing scepticism about the 2050 target and many entirely omitting climate change from their leadership campaigns.
This comes after the i newspaper reported that none of the MPs running to be the next leader of the Tories attended an emergency briefing on climate change by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
So, what have the six remaining MPs running for Conservative leader said about green policies, and what could it mean for the climate?
At COP26 in 2021, Rishi Sunak said he was committed to climate action - but he has yet to mention environmental issues in his leadership campaign.
During his time as Chancellor under Boris Johnson, in February, Mr Sunak pushed to fast-track the approval of six oil and gas fields.
In April, he blocked the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s proposals for home insulation.
Contrastingly, Mr Sunak did, however, promote measures to force banks and other companies to account for their greenhouse gases.
According to TheyWorkForYou, Mr Sunak has ‘almost always’ voted against measures to prevent climate change.
Kemi Badenoch’s voting record indicates she has ‘consistently’ voted against action to prevent climate change.
This includes voting against calling on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030.
Ms Badenoch has also hinted at derailing net-zero ambitions.
She told The Telegraph that although she is “not someone who doesn’t believe in climate change”, she believes it would be “wrong of us to set a target without having a clear plan of the cost and knowing what it would entail”.
She continued: “Setting an arbitrary target like that is the wrong way to go… There is a better way of going about these things.”
Ms Badenoch has not yet expanded on the “better way” to go nor included her stance on environmental issues in her leadership campaign.
Like Mr Hunt, Penny Mordaunt also has a mixed record on climate change.
She recently told The Telegraph that investing in net zero would create up to three million new jobs by 2030 - a statement which suggests she supports the 2050 net zero target.
In May 2020, Ms Mordaunt hosted a joint economic and trade committee meeting alongside Vietnam, during which she said the UK would “reinforce its commitment to helping Vietnam meet its net-zero goals by sharing expertise in the renewable energy sector.”
However, Ms Mordaunt has also reportedly received a donation from Terence Mordaunt (£10,000).
There are conflicting reports about whether the two are related to one another.
Ms Mordaunt’s voting history says she has ‘generally’ voted against measures to prevent climate change, and has voted a mixture of for and against financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods.
Liz Truss has also avoided mentioning climate change in her leadership campaign.
In her former role as Environment Secretary from 2014 to 2016, Ms Truss cut subsidies for solar farms, criticising solar power on agricultural land as harmful to food security.
She also has ties to the oil industry, as a former commercial manager at Shell, and publicly supported the expansion to Heathrow Airport.
Ahead of COP26 last year, Ms Truss said: “The way to reduce climate emissions from flying isn’t to stop flying, it is to create the new generation of next technology.”
Her voting record says she ‘generally’ voted against action to prevent climate change.
Tom Tugendhat recently wrote in The Times: “Europe needs to be more competitive in the race to decarbonise."
In 2018, he also publicly supported climate policies - joining a group of MPs requesting the government formalise its ambition to reach net zero.
This was subsequently passed as law.
However, Mr Tugendhat has also not explicitly mentioned climate change in his leadership pitch.
What the unsuccessful candidates said about climate change:
Suella Braverman has explicitly rejected the net-zero target since launching her leadership campaign, telling the Express, “to deal with the energy crisis we need to suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net zero by 2050.”
Ms Braverman previously used her role as Attorney General to crack down on climate protesters such as Insulate Britain.
The MP has also ‘almost always’ voted against measures to combat climate change.
Jeremy Hunt last week told the BBC that he supports the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050.
In March 2022, in response to the global gas crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr Hunt said: “It is vital we decarbonise the UK’s economy by 2050.”
He advocated for developing more renewable energy to help “lower people’s bills, strengthen our energy security and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”
The former Health and Foreign Secretary has also said securing COP26 in Glasgow was one of his proudest achievements.
However, in 201 Mr Hunt’s leadership campaign accepted a £25,000 donation from Terence Mordaunt’s Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Terence Mordaunt is a renowned critic of established climate change science.
Nadhim Zahawi has strong ties with the oil industry as a former oil executive.
In 2021, it was revealed he made £1. million from a second job at Gulf Keystone Petroleum while also working as an MP.
As Education Secretary however, Mr Zahawi recently introduced a new natural history GCSE into the school curriculum.
He explained: “The new natural history GCSE will offer young people a chance to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of this amazing planet, its environment and how to conserve it.”
In his leadership pitch, Mr Zahawi said he will support the UK’s commitment to net zero, but added it shouldn’t hinder economic growth or impact on households.
According to TheyWorkForYou, he has ‘generally’ voted against action to prevent climate change.