"I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering."
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terrors — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
This stirring call to arms was made almost 100 years ago by Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and inspired millions. This was great leader at a time of national crisis, with Churchill showing enormous courage, conviction and clarity.
Great leaders understand that, at times of enormous challenge we must rise to meet the enemy with courage and fortitude, not cower and snivel, ignoring the danger, blaming others, and shirking our responsibilities.
Fast forward to 20th September 2023 where Rishi Sunak stood before the nation at a time of global crisis and instead of inspiring the nation, has taken us into uncertainty.
Today, the lives of billions are at risk. The effects of climate change are already here – just look around the world. Leading climate scientists agree that 1.5C average global temperature increase is the threshold beyond which climate change will be almost impossible to reverse. In March this year, they issued a "final warning" – the last chance for governments to implement policies for deep decarbonisation that will keep us within that 1.5C target.
The global average temperature has already risen by 1.1C above the baseline and we are seeing the effects of that tiny increase - floods, wildfires, rising sea levels, hurricanes, earthquakes and fierce weather patterns ravaging the world and displacing millions. Based on current global policies, climate scientists predict the global average temperature to rise by more than 3C. We can only imagine the terrible consequences that our children will face in their lifetimes. The urgency of this crisis demands our leaders to do just that - lead. But Sunak’s speech was the opposite – it was a speech that changed the UK’s path to net zero and placed the burden of the climate crisis on the backs of future generations.
Sunak laboured the message that the UK is only responsible for 1% of global emissions yet this is a half truth. Our emissions are low, not because we live low-carbon lifestyles, but because we have 'off-shored' almost all our emissions. Examine the label of the items in your home and office - much of it is 'Made in China'. Look at your food basket and add up the airmiles. From Chinese steel used in construction, to South Korean phones and clothes stitched in Bangladesh, barely anything we consume originates in Britain. The emissions associated with producing and transporting these products are not included in the UK's carbon reporting, allowing us to point the finger at other nations producing goods we enjoy.
Sunak told us that other nations are doing too little to cut their emissions, so we are justified in reversing our climate policies. Again, a misrepresentation of the truth. Other small countries such as Sweden (35 million tonnes national CO2 emissions in 2021, equivalent to 3 tonnes per person on average), Denmark (29mt, 5t/p) and Costa Rica (8mt, 1.5t/p) with far lower emissions than the UK (350mt, 5t/p) are leading the way with truly visionary climate policies.
Meanwhile in the UK, in July 2022, the High Court ruled that the government's Net Zero Strategy was illegal because it failed to set out a plan that was capable of reducing emissions by the necessary amount.
Sunak's speech yesterday was a national embarrassment. A Prime Minister facing a landslide defeat in the next election has traded a liveable future for a few more votes. His proclamations that the UK is leading on green technology and climate change is simply not true. His assertion that other countries are clinging on to his every word and watching us with envy is delusional. As is the expectation that car manufacturers will stay in the UK when politicians constantly perform U turns and give them no confidence, certainty or credible long-term thinking. Just last week, we saw the government commit £600m to Tata Steel to incentivise a shift to green steel manufacturing – how can the government justify committing that money and then sabotaging their own goals?
As we listened to Rishi Sunak's speech and looked at the slogan in his lecture (I'm not a slogan man, he protested) our heads were in our hands. Throughout the speech we recalled Sunak’s recent decision to allow 100 new oil & gas licenses, and their approval of the new Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria. Decisions directly in contravention of the International Energy Agency’s statement that no new coal mines or oil and gas licenses must be permitted in order to stay within the 1.5C target global temperature rise.
Sunak's speech was a watershed moment as it takes our nation’s feet off the preparedness pedal for 2050. The danger is that when we do put our feet back on it could be too late to reverse damage that will impact millions. The 2030 timeline is the target to set us on track for 2050. As of March, this year, only 28% of policies were in place to achieve net zero by 2050 (Green Alliance policy tracker). And only 11% of policies are in place for industry, creating uncertainty that stifles investment and innovation.
The Climate Change Committee has stated that our property sector has the largest gap in net zero policy, so U-turns on gas boilers and energy efficiency standards make this position worse. We have the worst housing stock in Europe. What is needed is investment via green grants, not making homeowners pay for their own upgrades.
Sunak said we must balance the views of those who do not believe climate change is real against those who think we aren’t moving far enough. Climate change science is clear – anyone who thinks it is not real should not be heard – they should be disabused of their fantasy and educated. This is what strong, responsible leadership means, not pandering to ill-informed conspiracy theorists in the vain hope of clinging on to power.
He talks about fairness – fair for who? The impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect the poorest in society. The government has not told the truth about climate change and its impacts. It has sought to create a culture war which will eventually harm the most vulnerable in society. The hypocrisy of talking about the burden on people when it is the decisions of Conservative Prime Ministers since 2010 that has burdened people, made food banks necessary, created national debt at £2.6tn - 100.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), Brexit damage that has broken almost every part of our country. Meanwhile Mr Sunak’s family made £0.5bn off the back of those new oil & gas licenses - is that fair?
Amazing businesses are already taking advantage of consumer demand for greener products and the money-savings possible with green thinking. Deep Green who are using waste heat from data servers to heat a swimming pool in Exmouth, with hundreds more projects planned around the UK, cutting costs for leisure centres & keeping community services running. Great example of the synchronicity between climate action & community benefit. Riversimple in Wales, selling green transport as a service, building hydrogen-powered vehicles that avoid controversial mining for battery metals and could transform the personal vehicle market beyond electric vehicles. There will be low cost, economic benefits of a robust, strategic commitment to rolling back the damaging effects of climate change. Instead, PM Sunak has decided to politicise the environment in a desperate, cynical attempt to cling on to power.
The costs of inaction are greater than those of acting. The poor and vulnerable must continue paying ever-increasing heating costs and suffer extreme heat in summer because of the poor quality of our housing stock. Georgia Elliott-Smith, an environmental property expert, has a full write-up on the true cost to society of our inefficient housing stock: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/georgiaelliott-smith_delaying-rented-homes-energy-efficiency-activity-7090041371708792832-P6nB?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop
Notable omissions by PM Sunak were agriculture, food, and water which need the most support. At True & Fair we believe we need a National Food Plan and Strategy so launched a consultation to get expert and sector input. Sunak only talked about burdens, not strategy, real government vision or the social, economic, and health benefits of achieving net zero. His new direction of travel directly contradicts recommendations of the Independent Skidmore Review which found the UK needed more action, not less.
The True & Fair Party will be publishing our Part 2 Pre-election Manifesto on 16 October with a vision and pathway to transforming the '3 Big Es - Economy, Education, Environment'.
Conviction politics, not chaotic, populist policies. Politics that puts people, not power and greed first.
Gina Miller – Leader of the True & Fair Party
Georgia Elliott-Smith, Sustainability Consultant and True & Fair Party member