Tory environment chief admits party will lose election by axing green policies

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A senior Conservative believes action on climate change is key to winning the next elections (Image: AP)
A senior Conservative believes action on climate change is key to winning the next elections (Image: AP)

The Tory civil war over the environment deepened today as a top Cabinet Minister warned the party would lose the next election if it axed green policies.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey urged the Conservatives to stick with emission slashing plans days after Rishi Sunak backed hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences. The Prime Minister has also ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods, which close some suburban roads to traffic and which supporters say are crucial for improving air quality, and slammed London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the capital’s ultra low emission zone.

“In order to win the next election, we need to continue to show that we care about the environment,” Ms Coffey told The Mail on Sunday. We also need to show that there is a way to do that which doesn't put burdens on hard-working people.”

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Tory environment chief admits party will lose election by axing green policies eideziqkeiqhhinvEnvironment Secretary Therese Coffey (PA)

Analysts expect the environment to become a key battleground for the next general election, due by January 2025 at the latest. Some backbenchers want the PM to veer further away from measures to slash carbon emissions and meet the 2050 net-zero target. But others hope the Premier will embrace tough action to curb pollution.

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Ms Coffey, tipped for the sack when Mr Sunak reshuffles his Cabinet, added: “Conservation is literally in our name. There's been a lot of noise over the last few weeks about this Government walking away from the environment - but the reality couldn't be further from the truth.”

The Mirror exclusively revealed last week how the PM stood accused of “sabotaging” Britain's “climate leadership”. Northern leaders urged Mr Sunak to hand them powers so they can take regional action to tackle climate change. West Yorkshire Metro Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “The climate crisis is impossible to ignore, the time for action is now. The Prime Minister needs to end the dither and delay when it comes to sustainable policies which strengthen our economy, clean up our air and protect our environment. If the Prime Minister continues to sabotage the UK’s climate leadership then he should devolve more powers and more money to allow other national and regional leaders to get on with the job.”

North Tyne Metro Mayor Jamie Driscoll urged the PM to attend this November’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai. "The threat we face today is existential - wildfires rage, floods wreak havoc and important wild habitats are destroyed; there is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency,” he said. “The Prime Minister must put the UK at the forefront of environmental action on the world stage by attending COP28 and calling for an urgent, just and fair phaseout of fossil fuels. There is no greater challenge, there is no higher political priority.”

Speaking to LBC radio last week, Mr Sunak insisted: “I care about net-zero. I've got two young kids - I care about leaving them an environment and the climate in a better state than we found it and I found it in. But we're going to do that in a proportionate and in a pragmatic way.”

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Ben Glaze

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