Rishi Sunak is now the new prime minister of the United Kingdom and environmental scientists and activists have drawn a collective sigh of relief.
They maintain a hesitant optimism that the country's first non-white prime minister may bring the UK's climate policy back on track, despite his spotty record with respect to green initiatives.
With COP27, the UN Climate Change conference being held in Egypt from 6-18 November, just a few days away, what can we expect from Sunak about the UK's contribution to combating climate change? And how different is he from his predecessor, Liz Truss?
Truss' Attack on Nature
In fact, one of the factors contributing to Truss' drop in popularity was her stance on climate action and environmental policy.
She received severe backlash for her plan to implement tax cuts and increase borrowing for government budgets. This caused an uproar amongst the opposition, economic think tanks, and even the British public.
Once her mini-budget was announced, the pound sterling fell to a 37-year- low at the $1.09 level against the dollar.
There was even a divide amongst the Conservatives when she announced her plan to rescind the ban on fracking. That in particular was the tipping point for public support towards Truss.
She had voiced her scepticism regarding climate policy on multiple occasions, and questioned UK's goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050--which was initiated by her predecessor Boris Johnson.
Truss also intended to put a cap on household energy bills, banned solar power on farmlands and scrapped a myriad of subsidy bills. She intended be rid of many remaining European Laws, hundreds of which concern environmental policy.
Her energy secretary was Jacob Rees-Mogg, an MP who has gone to the extent of questioning the influence of human activity on climate change. "We're talking about the biggest attack on nature in a generation," Jeff Knott, director of policy and advocacy for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) told The Independent.
Sunak's Uncertain Future Concerning Green Policy25
While Sunak is now faced with the responsibility of undoing much of Truss' economic policies, his stance on environment and climate policy will also need to be made clear.
While not as hardline as Truss, Sunak also considers himself a 'Thatcherite' and approaches climate and environment policy with a 'cost over gain' mentality.
Sunak has shown enthusiasm for increasing UK's role in energy transition and has pledged $17 billion to aid London in becoming a 'hub for green finance.'
His has also pushed for a scheme that ensures UK-based companies publish net-zero transition goals.
He does, however, support a few of Truss' policies that would detrimentally affect the environment. Sunak, in an article for The Telegraph, supported Truss' ban on solar panels on farmland and claimed it is 'pro-farmer'.
He has also announced his decision to get rid of the remaining EU laws puts laws regarding biodiversity, wildlife, energy, etc., in jeopardy.
He has, however, shown commitment to ensuring that UK meets their 2050 year net zero goals and is dedicated to the 25 year Environment Plan and Environment Bill.
Additionally, on the bright side, the prime minister said during his first session of PMQs that his government will reinstate the nationwide ban on fracking.
He told MPs he "stands by" his party’s 2019 manifesto that articulated a committment to ban fracking, a ban that was lifted by Truss.
Overall, Sunak's track record does not speak for a promising future towards climate action, but environmentalists seem relieved after Truss' reign of terror on climate policy.
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