Politics

Half of Tory backbench MPs have joined party’s green group | Conservatives


Half of Conservative backbench MPs are now in the party’s green group, after the former minister Jeremy Hunt announced he had joined.

The Conservative Environment Network (Cen) now has 133 MPs, leading green-minded Tories to claim that those who do not want net zero are in the minority. There are 360 sitting Conservative MPs, but 95 are government ministers or whips and therefore ineligible to join Cen.

This is in contrast with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative politicians, which has 19 publicly named members. Craig Mackinlay MP, who leads the group, told Politico that 58 MPs had signed up, but he did not provide a list.

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group has close ties to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a group that has been described as climate sceptical.

While a backlash to the government’s green plans has been growing at a modest rate, the number of MPs in the Cen is increasing. Eighteen Tories have joined since the start of the year, which includes some who were elected in the 2019 general election. Sam Hall, the director of the group, said this proved it was the “biggest and fastest-growing Conservative movement in parliament”.

Hunt said: “I am delighted to join the Conservative Environment Network to champion net zero and nature conservation.

“Now, more than ever, in light of the global gas crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s vital we decarbonise the UK’s economy by 2050. We must develop more homegrown clean energy, including renewables and new nuclear. This will lower people’s bills, strengthen our energy security and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”

The large size of the group could bode well for green policies in the upcoming energy plan, which some fear could be derailed by those lobbying for fracking and an expansion of oil and gas.

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s policy director, said: “This is yet another sign that the stark reality of the climate crisis keeps chipping away at the climate scepticism that has dogged the Conservative benches for decades.

“We have seen Boris Johnson going from harsh criticism of wind power to full-throated advocacy. Half of the Conservative backbenches are now committed to climate action, avoiding the disruptive partisanship on environmental issues seen in the USA, Australia and elsewhere. But this should have happened at least a decade ago, when the threat of the climate crisis and the benefits of renewable power were already obvious.

“Now the question is whether these MPs are willing to hold their government’s feet to the fire on the urgent action we need to ditch fossil fuels, fix our draughty homes and tackle the climate crisis.”



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