To the dismay of climate campaigners, the former Brexit opportunities minister, who has a long record of climate denialism, is to oversee the UK’s energy and net zero strategy.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is stepping up as secretary of state for business and energy, a position that comes with the responsibility of meeting the UK’s legally binding net zero emissions target by 2050.
Speculation that Rees-Mogg would take on energy responsibilities had surfaced after it emerged he had held talks with oil companies in recent days. As part of the new prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle, it has been confirmed the Tory heavyweight is to take on the energy brief, after Kwasi Kwarteng moved to Chancellor.
A long record of climate denialism
Claiming that “climate alarmism” is responsible for soaring energy prices and criticising the closure of coal-fired power stations, the appointment of the unabashed green energy sceptic, who invested in oil and coal mining through the fund management company he co-founded, to handle energy policies, has struck panic among environmentalists.
Tom Burke, co-founder of the green think-tank E3G and a veteran adviser to governments, shared his dismay: “He has showed no sign of understanding the complexity or opportunity of net zero. There is nothing in his whole track record that shows any understanding of this issue. The single most important thing to do in energy policy now is to bring demand down. I have no confidence that he will take this forward.”
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, tweeted: “After three years with a reckless self-advancing PM, Liz Truss reportedly plans to lead us through biggest energy crisis in decades by making Jacob Rees-Mogg – known for snide notes to civil servants, horizontal slouching in Commons & devotion to fossil fuels – our energy secretary.”
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said Rees-Mogg is the “last person who should be in charge of the energy brief, at the worst possible moment.”
“He blamed ‘climate alarmism’ for high energy bills, pushing David Cameron to ‘cut the green crap’ like incentives for solar, wind and energy efficiency, which has added £150 to every energy bill. Appointing him to the brief now suggests the Tories have learned nothing from years of energy policy incompetence,” said Newsom.
Drill ‘every last drop’ of North Sea gas and oil
In April, amid calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, the then Brexit opportunities minister, said that the profits of fossil fuel giants had to be protected so they can invest in getting “every last drop” from the North Sea.
“We want to get more oil out of the North Sea, we want to get more gas out of the North Sea. We need to be thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea,” he told LBC.
Dismissing warnings that a revived push for fossil fuels would shatter the country’s chances of achieving net zero by 2050, Rees-Mogg said: “2050 is a long way off. “We’re not trying to become net zero tomorrow. We’re going to need fossil fuels in the interim.”
The comment echoed a remark the Old Etonian had said in 2014, when he told Chat Politics that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had found efforts to stop climate change that would only work in the very long term.
“If you read the IPCC report on [the climate emergency] it said that if you were to take action now to try and stop man-made global warming, it would have no effect for hundreds or possibly a thousand years. I’m all in favour of long-term policymaking but I think that trying to forecast the climate for a thousand years, and what little steps you make now having the ability to change it, is unrealistic. And I think the cost of it is probably unaffordable,” he claimed.
In 2017, the MP for North East Somerset had said humans should adapt to climate change and that he wanted constituents to have cheap energy “rather more than I would like them to have windmills.”
In promising to increase drilling in the North Sea, amid a wave of other climate insults, Liz Truss has been described as ‘environmentally illiterate’.
Warnings were made that appointing such a prominent climate change sceptic to an energy role, would be testament of the new PM’s climate ‘illiteracy’
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, had warned that if Rees-Mogg were appointed it would be a “terrible sign about the seriousness with which Liz Truss takes the biggest long-term threat facing humanity.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “For years Jacob Rees-Mogg has been on the wrong side of the argument. The last thing we need is another climate dinosaur like Rees-Mogg.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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