Liz Truss to be next prime minister

Friends of the Earth's issues action plan for tackling energy and climate crises
  Published:  05 Sep 2022    |      6 minute read
  • Friends of the Earth issues 5-point action plan for new PM (below)

Reacting to news that Liz Truss will be the next prime minister, Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said:

“As our new prime minister, Liz Truss will have to get in step with the majority of people who are dreading a devastating winter of soaring fuel and food bills, amid a spiralling cost of living crisis.

“This means putting people and the planet first by strengthening the windfall tax on the excess profits of oil and gas giants to fund a package of emergency support and energy efficiency measures.

“It’s saying no to lifting the ban on fracking, no to new coal and no to exploiting more North Sea oil and gas. These out of touch, short-sighted proposals will do little to tackle the energy crisis and will only lock us into expensive and polluting fossil fuels for decades to come.

“Truss has the solutions to address both the energy and climate crises at her fingertips. Her first actions must be immediate targeted support and investing in a nationwide, street-by-street home insulation programme, which could save millions of people £1,000 or more on their energy bills.

“Energy efficiency measures and cheap renewables are the best fixes for boosting energy security and bringing down fuel bills – they’re quick to develop and are universally popular with the public.”

Five ways the new Prime Minister can tackle the energy and climate crises

1. Energy efficiency measures:

Insulation is a quick way to reduce the nation’s reliance on increasingly expensive gas.

There are almost five million households in England and Wales without even basic measures such as loft or cavity wall insulation, which means their homes rapidly lose heat and cost more to keep warm. Last month Friends of the Earth published new research revealing almost 9,000 ‘energy crisis hotspots’ across England and Wales.

Energy crisis hotspots are neighbourhoods where energy use is high and typical household income is below the national average. In many cases, energy use is high in these neighbourhoods because homes are poorly insulated, meaning they require more energy to remain warm.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to fund a free street by street home insulation programme – focussing on those most in need and estimates that this could slash annual energy bills for many homes by a £1,000 or more.

  1. Investing in renewables:

The UK has huge renewable energy resources. In addition to the rapid growth in offshore wind already promised by the government, we need to see the same commitment to boosting onshore wind and solar.

But instead of promising to do so, the candidates vying to be Prime Minister have spent the summer condemning onshore renewables, despites their popularity and the fact that renewable power is now nine times cheaper than gas. The next Prime Minister must unlock the UK’s full renewable power potential by removing the unfair planning barriers to onshore wind and scrapping the limit which restricts the quantity of solar and onshore wind projects that the government will support.

  1. Saying no to new expensive, polluting fossil fuel development

Over the next few weeks, the Truss administration is due to make a number of energy-related decisions that will have long-term repercussions for the UK’s economy and the battle against climate change.

Fracking: Fracking would blight local communities and has been deeply unpopular with local communities where drilling has taken place or been planned. Furthermore, it won’t have a meaningful impact on the UK’s energy security or our energy bills – a point highlighted by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

The Conservative’s election manifesto said the party: “will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.

A report by British Geological Survey has been submitted to the government, and a decision is imminent.

Cumbrian coal mine: Following a public inquiry, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is due to make a decision on whether or not to allow planning permission for a highly controversial new coal mine in Cumbria. The decision has already been delayed twice and is now expected “on or before 8 November 2022.”

Friends of the Earth, which was one of the two interested parties that took part in last year’s Public Inquiry, says the case against the mine is overwhelming.

The UK and European market for coking coal is set to rapidly diminish as manufacturers switch to greener steel, while coal from the mine won’t replace Russian imports. The mine will, however, increase carbon emissions, with the government’s climate watchdog (CCC) describing it as “absolutely indefensible”.

Friends of the Earth agrees West Cumbria needs new jobs and is calling for the region to be at the forefront of investment in building a greener future. More info on the mine is here.

New North Sea gas and oil developments: The granting of new gas and oil licenses in the North Sea will reportedly be one of the first actions of a Truss led government. However, this will do nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis as new licenses take many years to develop. Indeed the Committee on Climate change says “historically, the timeline from the issuing of an exploration license to production commencing ranges from under a decade to several decades, with an average of around 28 years.” This means that there’s a strong chance that licences granted this year won’t start producing gas and oil until around 2050 – at the very time the UK is legally committed to becoming Net Zero.

  1. Produce a lawful Net Zero Strategy

Following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project, the High Court ruled in July that the current Net Zero Strategy was unlawful because it doesn’t meet the government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act to produce detailed climate policies that show how the carbon budgets will be met.

Under the ruling, the government will have to update its climate strategy to include a quantified account of how its policies will achieve climate targets, based on a realistic assessment of what it actually expects them to deliver.

The government’s own advisors, the Climate Change Committee, said in June 2022 that there were only credible plans for 39% of the emission cuts needed.

The court has ruled that the government must lay before parliament a report that complies with its legal obligations no later than 31 March 2023. The new prime minister will need to instruct the new Cabinet to come forward with plans to ensure the redrafted Net Zero Strategy is fit for purpose.

A Friends of the Earth press release and briefing give more information on the net zero legal challenge.

  1. Restore Nature

Climate change isn’t the only environmental challenge facing the new prime minister. A nature recovery strategy is needed that will enable the UK to go to the long delayed international biodiversity talks taking place later this year in Canada, chaired by China.

The government has made bold statements about protecting 30% of UK land for nature but does not have credible plans to do so. Meanwhile its draft targets for nature – due to be set under the Environment Act by 31st October – have been criticised by the new Office for Environmental Responsibility as insufficient.

At the same time both candidates talk of weakening nature safeguards for the purpose of house-building, etc. The UK’s enormous damage to overseas biodiversity through the commodity trade – for example timber and wood products - is also not being sufficiently addressed.

More info on Environment Act targets is here and on trees and overseas trade here.

A more detailed look at priorities for the next Prime Minister is available here.

ENDS Notes to editors:

Last month, Liz Truss told an audience in Exeter that she would “make sure we exploit all of the gas in the North Sea” and is reportedly planning to approve a series of oil and gas drilling licences in the North Sea as one of her first acts as prime minister.

Truss also backs shale gas extraction and says she wants to see more fracking where supported by local communities. Meanwhile, she has said little to encourage development of the nation’s vast on-shore wind potential and has labelled solar farms as "depressing”. This is despite the fact that new wind and solar, which are quick to build, are the cheapest energy source, generating electricity far cheaper than gas. 

They are popular too – even with Conservative party members. A recent poll for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit found that over two-thirds (71%) of members backed a new generation of onshore and offshore wind energy with a similar proportion (73%) backing solar parks and panels.