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Government told to step up climate efforts as Conservative conference continues

The annual Tory party conference is taking place in Manchester this week, and those who have debunked to the northern city are facing pressure to do more for the environment. 

Following a mass walkout that saw staff at thousands of businesses down tools to march over Waterloo Bridge, London, a letter demanding an escalation of climate action, signed by scores of business leaders and key members of the cabinet, is being handed to Rt Honourable Chris Skidmore at 1.30PM today. 

Britain’s Net Zero Tsar published a new report only last week, suggesting that in the face of watered down central government environmental policies, local governments now had the responsibility for making change in this area. Ben Tolhurst, Director of Business Declares, will pass on the signed document, with those behind it hoping that one of the most outspoken Conservatives in terms of climate change will help pass on the clear message that more has to be done, much faster. 

The letter asks Downing Street to further commit to investment in renewables, take action to restore and protect nature, and end all new fossil fuel developments in UK territories. A clear plan to delier long-term security and certainty for businesses in Britain is also urgently needed. This follows a serious of hugely controversial statements by the Government, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, which slowed down the rollout of key environmental policies. 

In the past month, a proposed ban on the sale of new diesel and electric cars in 2030 has been put back by at least five years. Meanwhile, new regulations that stipulated new construction projects needed to contribute to sustaining and improving biodiversity levels will now no longer come into force in November.

New Extended Producer Accountability laws will go ahead as planned, but without the threat of penalties for non-compliance, raising fears the scheme will be ineffective. Former boss of Unilever and political advisor Paul Polman, business mogul Deborah Meaden, Tiodis Bank UK CEO Dr Bevis Watts, Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, and COOK CEO Rosie Brown have all singed the new letter. TV personality, renowned conservationist and wildlife expert Chris Packham is also involved. You can read the full letter here. 

Elsewhere, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho’s speech on Monday 2nd October has been widely criticised for its content, with many considering it as indicative of the Government’s questionable record on the environment. While some had hoped that a change of staff back in August would usher in a more measured approach to climate action, fears are growing that the road ahead looks set to increase threats to the natural world, rather than reduce them. 

‘With the government’s recent backtracking on climate, the UK is increasingly unlikely to meet its legally-binding national targets and international goals. This is a huge blow for our climate progress and preparedness, and hampers the global effort to prevent the worst of climate breakdown,’ said Jamie Peters, climate lead at Friends of the Earth.

‘The paltry amount in extra funding for insulating the UK’s heat-leaking homes doesn’t come anywhere close to what’s needed to bring down bills and slash harmful emissions, either, they continued. ‘By choosing to extract every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea through hundreds of new licenses, the government has shown where its loyalties lie – with the oil and gas industry that’s fuelling the climate and energy crises. This will only keep us hooked on costly fossil fuels for longer, while doing nothing to ease the cost of living crisis or promote green growth.’

More on UK environmental policy: 

Regrets? We have a few: Britain’s bankrupt net zero politics

Animal Welfare Act tightens international tourism standards

Open letter to UK Chancellor on housing and water efficiencies

Image: Visit Manchester

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