Conservative leadership hopeful Liz Truss has vowed to halt green levies on energy bills, as fears grow that Boris Johnson’s successor will ditch the commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The foreign secretary suggested she wanted to look again at policies aimed at achieving the net zero target, vowing to stop the levies which help pay for investment in renewable energy.
“I’d have a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy to enable businesses and industry to thrive while looking at the best way of delivering net zero,” Ms Truss told The Spectator.
Nadhim Zahawi, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch have also attempted to woo net zero sceptics in the Tory party by pledging to ditch the green taxes on energy bills or re-examine policies aimed at moving the UK to net zero.
Mr Zahawi said he would halt the levies for two years in a bid to ease the cost of living crisis. “It is simply not right that families are currently having to see their bills skyrocket … and we do nothing,” he said.
Senior MP Steve Baker – founder of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) – has suggested that he would push for the next PM to dismantle the government’s climate agenda.
Ms Braverman, Mr Baker’s favoured candidate, has said the party should “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve net zero by 2050”.
Kemi Badenoch has branded the net zero target “unilateral economic disarmament” and suggested she wanted to axe it. She said she would ditch policies which “consume taxpayers hard-earned money”.
But experts have warned that cutting green levies on energy bills would not help households with high energy prices, and would store up problems for the future by increasing dependence on fossil fuels.
Earlier on Wednesday Britain’s top business leaders urged Tory not to ditch or backslide on the government’s climate commitments.
Groups representing thousands of UK businesses – including Unilever, Coca-Cola, Scottish Power, Thames Water and Lloyds Banking Group – have called on contenders to uphold policies aimed at achieving net zero.
Conservative peer Zac Goldsmith told The Independent earlier this week that it would be better to have a Labour government than a Tory leader who “deprioritises” action on net zero.
And Alok Sharma, the former business minister and president of the Cop26 climate conference, has also warned Tory leadership hopefuls not to go backwards on net zero.
“Economically, environmentally and electorally it would be a retrograde step for us to resile from this policy. It’s a road to nowhere,” he told the i newspaper.
Environment secretary George Eustice, speaking at the summer party of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), said he understood why people feel “anxious” at the leadership contest.
“I’m not concerned about net zero, it’s law. Suella might be saying that, but she’s not going to win. At the end of the day, it’s the law,” he reportedly told the group.
Meanwhile, Ms Truss has appealed to Brexiteers by claiming she was a “reluctant Remainer” at the 2016 Brexit referendum.
“If I could vote now, I would vote to leave the European Union,” she told The Spectator. “I was a reluctant Remainer. I was loyal to the prime minister at the time, David Cameron.”
She also said she had opposed Rishi Sunak’s tax rises. “I opposed these tax rises from the start and I spoke out against the tax rises at the time. So I’m not a Johnny-come-lately to this agenda.”