Revealed: Boris Johnson accused of promoting ‘net zero sceptics’ in reshuffle
Ministers promoted in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle voted against key green laws, backed dirty energy and have been accused of spreading climate misinformation, analysis by openDemocracy reveals today.
The news comes despite Johnson’s insistence last year at the UN that “it’s time for us to heed the warnings of scientists”.
Deputy Green Party leader Amelia Womack told openDemocracy that Johnson had “stuffed” the government “with those who simply failed to appreciate the seriousness of the climate crisis.”
“It’s now a cabinet of ‘net zero’ skeptics,” she said. “It’s no wonder far-right conservatives feel they have the upper hand and are waging a new culture war, blaming the cost of living crisis on climate action.”
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These are the names you need to know – and what they have said and done regarding the climate emergency.
The new Deputy Government Whip and Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office is Heather Wheeler.
Wheeler has been accused of ignoring science and spreading misinformation. In 2020, as wildfires raged across Australia, she told the House of Commons that “75% of fires were started by arsonists”. Conservative MP Richard Drax later repeated that figure in the House of Commons. In fact, firefighters had said less than 1% of fires were arson, with the majority being started by dry thunderstorms.
Scientists responded to his claims with concern, saying Wheeler ignored scientific evidence and instead relied on “grossly misleading social media sources.” Wheeler has not commented on those accusations.
A 2019 Guardian analysis found that Tory MPs were almost five times more likely to vote against climate action than MPs from other parties. Indeed, data from the UK Youth Climate Coalition shows that Wheeler voted against a moratorium on fracking in 2015; a plan to eliminate a large majority of emissions by 2030; and the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill, which included provisions to ensure the UK plays a fair role in keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5° C taking into account its full carbon footprint.
The new leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer, is among the majority of Tory MPs who backed plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Boris Johnson himself failed to stand in the key vote in June 2018, which passed by a majority of 296, despite Heathrow being close to his constituency and previously vowing to lie ‘in front of those bulldozers’ to stop construction.
The track plans were heavily criticized by campaigners and environmental groups and were even deemed illegal at one point due to a lack of consideration of the UK’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement on the climate of 2015.
This decision was reversed in December 2020.
Spencer worked on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2015. The Register of Members’ Financial Interests shows that in 2021 he received a donation of two days of filming from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, having been on similar expense paid trips in 2015 and 2017.
Michael Ellis, the new Cabinet Office minister, voted against several key climate change policies.
In 2020, he voted not to ask the government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the vast majority of transport emissions by 2030.
Later that year he voted against an amendment to Britain’s Internal Market Act which sought to require applicants for funding to provide an “emergency climate and nature impact statement” before receiving public money for economic development.
He also voted against requiring ministers to consider the 2050 net zero target when setting up farm subsidy schemes.
However, Ellis says he is “proud that this government is a world leader in the fight against [climate change]”.
TheyWorkForYou shows that new Housing Minister Stuart Andrew has generally voted against targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and increase the proportion of electricity generated by renewable means.
He also voted against the creation of a green investment bank in the UK to invest in projects which, for example, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In June 2019, Andrew met constituents at a ‘The Time Is Now’ climate change lobby in Westminster, where he said: ‘I have heard and listened to their views and agree with them – we must act to address our climate emergency. Clearly, the climate and environmental crisis is a common issue that is dear to many of my constituents and to people across the country.
Yet in 2020, when the 2030 transport emissions target and the CEE Bill were introduced, Andrew voted against both.
Lia Nici is one of Johnson’s new Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS).
In 2021, Nici voted against a law that would force water companies to reduce the amount of raw sewage discharged into rivers and seas.
After a long debate, the Environment Bill – minus the Wastewater Amendment – was approved by Parliament in November.
Nici’s voting record also shows that in 2020 she voted against the goal of eliminating the majority of transport emissions by 2030. Later that year she also voted against the bill. EEC.
TheyWorkForYou reveals that the new Deputy Chief Government Whip, Chris Pincher, has generally voted against climate change measures.
In 2020, he voted against requiring ministers to consider the 2050 net zero target when setting up farm subsidy schemes.
He also voted against an amendment to the UK’s Internal Market Act which sought to require applicants for funding to provide an ’emergency climate and nature impact statement’ before receiving public development funds. economic.
Additionally, in 2019, he voted against a motion calling on the government to come up with “a green industrial revolution to decarbonize the economy and boost economic growth.”
Wendy Morton is a new transport minister, having worked in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office last year.
A leaked memo, prepared for Morton in his previous role, revealed plans to cut funding for overseas water and sanitation projects by more than 80%.
Experts said water and sanitation are key to coping with the impacts of climate change, and described the cuts as “savage” and a “national disgrace”. For communities most affected by the effects of climate catastrophe, heavy rains and floods can damage water sources and sanitation facilities, carry waste into streams and lakes, and contaminate water supplies. water.
However, a few months later, while COP26 was underway, Morton tweeted how “good” it was to “join world leaders…to raise the voices of those most affected by climate change.”
Despite declaring that “people need to vote blue to be green” during the 2019 general election campaign, Deputy Government Whip Sarah Dines voted against several climate action measures, including the Bill EEC and the 2030 transport emissions target.
TheyWorkForYou shows Dines voted against requiring ministers to consider the 2050 net zero target when taking action, including setting up farm subsidy schemes.
She also voted against an amendment to the UK’s Internal Market Act which sought to require applicants for funding to provide an ’emergency climate and nature impact statement’ before receiving public money for economic development.
Jacob Rees Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg – the new Brexit Opportunities Minister – needs little introduction, having served as Leader of the House of Commons since 2019.
He has pretended to fight climate change in the past. But just last week he called on the Prime Minister to bring back fracking to address concerns over soaring gas prices that are driving up energy bills. A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in England was introduced in November 2019.
According to Greenpeace, fracking causes “air, water and sound pollution”. It “also uses toxic chemicals where regulation may not be adequate. An accident could mean that these chemicals seep into water supplies or cause pollution above ground.
The group claims that “fracking will not lower our energy bills because…any gas from fracking will be sold to the highest bidder, which will not help lower the bills.”
In a 2017 interview, when asked if an environmental approach to politics was important, Rees-Mogg said he “wish my constituents had cheap energy rather than I wish they had wind turbines.” .
The DeSmog website has accused Rees-Mogg of misrepresenting an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report by claiming that actions to stop global warming will have no effect for hundreds of years. years. The IPCC has, in fact, said that it will take as long to reverse existing human-induced climate change.
Somerset Capital LLP, which Rees-Mogg co-founded and remains a major shareholder, has invested millions in oil and coal mining. The investment fund also traded shares in a company fined over £1bn for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.