Britain’s net-zero wars heat up as both sides claim new MP supporters – POLITICO

LONDON – There is a tug-of-war over Boris Johnson’s promise to cut carbon emissions as both opponents and supporters boast of new support from MPs.

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group, a faction of the Conservative Party determined to give Johnson’s green agenda a hard ride, should previously have up to 20 MPs.

But their ranks have now grown to 58, according to Craig Mackinlay, the Tory MP who heads the group – and he cites cost of living concerns as a driving factor.

“Interest has been growing slowly and steadily, not necessarily because of the Ukraine crisis, but it has brought a lot of focus to energy security,” Mackinlay said.

He said a few more filings had been secured amid Britain’s oil and gas regulator’s efforts to seal off the country’s only remaining shale gas wells in northern England.

The increase in membership is part of the battle for the hearts and minds of Britain’s ruling party. The pro-green Conservative Environment Network (CEN) reported that it has now signed 133 MPs for its parliamentary group. That’s more than half of all Tory backbenchers.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary and a potential future contender for the leadership, is the latest recruit.

Hunt said the push to decarbonize the UK economy is “needed now more than ever, given the global gas crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” A transition away from fossil fuels, he said, would “lower people’s bills and ours.” Strengthen energy security and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”

Eighteen Tories have joined CEN since the beginning of the year, including a handful of those newly elected in the 2019 general election.

CEN’s membership overlaps with the separate Net Zero Support Group (NZSP), set up by former Secretary of State Chris Skidmore to defend Johnson’s cause.

The NZSP has about 30 members – although it’s already the subject of testy briefings from some of those skeptical of the decarbonization trajectory.

A Tory MP from the Net Zero Scrutiny Group claimed Skidmore’s outfit was an invention of the whips – the government’s enforcers of parliamentary discipline – and that “people will join it because they want to be ministers”.

Skidmore denied this and said he was never contacted by the Whips about the support group.

Mackinlay and his fellow travelers claim they support the principle of fighting climate change and only wonder what the cost will be. And that’s despite ties between the group and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which has a long history of denying climate science.

Johnson has promised a new strategy aimed at achieving energy security after the invasion of Ukraine but faces delays discrepancies reported in his cabinet.

Some ministers and Tory MPs have called for the Government to reconsider its moratorium on fracking to boost domestic gas production, but Downing Street is moving to dampen expectations of a major rethink.

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