Have they got what it takes?

20 February 2020

George Eustace is the newly appointed Secretary of State for the Environment. At one time he was climate change adviser to David Cameron and advised him to totally dispense with offshore wind farms. About the same time, 106 Conservative MPs, including Matt Hancock, Priti Patel, Stephen Barclay and Jacob Rees-Mogg, wrote to David Cameron asking him to scrap the subsidies for onshore wind farms, which he did. They are now all senior ministers. 


George Eustace has one of the weakest records on climate change among MPs, scoring 0% thanks to his absence of pro-environment votes and has actually voted against 14 measures to tackle climate change. Eustace was pro-Brexit  and was particularly opposed to the EU directives that were to protect the environment which he called ‘spirit-crushing’, in particular the birds and habitats directive which he said should be scrapped. 


Four years ago, Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, was enthusiastically urging the government to extract another 24 billion barrels of oil from the North Sea. It doesn’t sound the sort of idea that will neutralise our carbon footprint, so let’s hope as chancellor he has other ideas.  Dominic Rabb strongly argued against inflating consumer energy bills by gambling on ‘expensive and inefficient renewables’.


Sadly, Sajid Javid has gone. I say sadly because, when he was Communities Secretary, he stopped the Banks Group from extracting 3 million tonnes of coal, sandstone and fireclay from Druridge Bay in Northumberland because ‘of the very substantial impact on climate change’. Buoyed by the Druridge Bay decision, the residents and protesters in the Derwent Valley in County Durham sent an 88,000 strong petition to Savid Javid to ask him to apply the same criteria to the proposed open cast mine between the villages of Dipton, Leadgate and Medomsley. Unfortunately, Javid had been replaced by James Brokenshire who refused to intervene and, after 40 years of opposition, the mining went ahead in June 2015 and was granted an extension in 2018.


I struggle to believe that this government has the commitment, or independence from their landowning and business base to do anything to address the issue of climate collapse.

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