Don’t fall for the greenwash. New oil and gas won’t help you and it certainly won’t help the planet

North Sea oil platform. Photographer unknown. The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Rishi Sunak is going to step up his efforts to weaponise climate action for political gain, pretending that he is the champion of the motorist and the homeowner facing hideous bills for energy (thanks to profiteering). Using the famously environmentally-minded King as the mouthpiece for his ‘plan’, Sunak will no doubt claim that new oil and gas will benefit UK citizens, implying it’s ‘ours’, we can charge ourselves what we like for it and that it can be delivered with no impact on our commitment to net zero. It won’t be, we can’t and it can’t. The hard fact is that we are now in a serious political and propaganda war with the whole future of human life on earth at stake.

This letter from a constituent to his MP, Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) both debunks the greenwash and misdirection and illustrates the contortions so many Conservative MPs are prepared to go through to perpetuate the gaslighting of the public.

“I was dismayed to read our MP’s deeply misleading article in which he claimed that Sunak’s back-pedalling on climate commitments in fact ‘establishes the UK as a global leader in environmental stewardship’. 

“What nonsense. This weakening of climate targets, roundly criticised by experts, follows a sorry trend of prioritising donors and lobbyists over people and planet. We have seen the government issue over 100 new oil and gas licences, against all the scientific advice, and time and again vote against measures to clean up our sewage-filled rivers. And we recently saw the publication of the RSPB’s new State of Nature report which warns of ecosystem collapse, with 1 out of 6 UK species facing extinction.

“Anthony applauds the UK for reducing territorial emissions by more than other nations, but this is largely because we’ve offshored so much more of our manufacturing. Once we account for imports, and aviation and shipping emissions, the UK has cut its footprint by only 23 per cent since 1990. That’s just 0.7 per cent a year. Anthony knows this; I’ve explained it to him on several occasions.

Outside of the power sectorwhere much of the reduction in emissions was due to closure of coal power stations—the Conservatives have achieved almost nothing in 13 years, with virtually no change in emissions from the likes of buildings, transport and agriculture. I have also shown Anthony the data on this.

Anthony then parrots the old trope that the UK is only responsible for 1 per cent of emissionsplaying to one of the most ignorant excuses for climate inaction. Almost all nations are under 1 per cent. If all of them offer this silly excuse, we’ll achieve nothing. But the UK is actually the 17th largest emitter of 195 nations, and 5th most responsible for the excess CO₂ in the atmosphere due to our role leading the industrial revolution. And that’s before adding the impact of importswhich are clearly our responsibility.

“He goes on to say the Government is investing in green technology. But in fact they’re giving 91 per cent tax rebates to fossil companies to reinvest, but extraordinarily, that’s only for new fossil fuelsnot for renewables. Onshore wind remains effectively banned, and the Government is busy killing off our amazing offshore wind sector by preventing suppliers from passing on any of their post-Ukraine cost increases. Meanwhile the Conservatives are committing billions to false solutions from the oil industry like unproven carbon capture.

“I can’t of course know for sure our MP is deliberately trying to mislead people. He may just not have read any of the briefings from scientists, any of the letters from constituents, any of the reports by the Climate Change Committee (the government’s expert adviser), the IPCC (international climate experts), the RSPB and other respected NGOsor Zero Hour’s ‘Ambition Gap’ report, endorsed by leading scientists, which I co-authored and sent to him. 

“It is possible that Anthony is just dutifully amplifying the message from party HQ. He is obliged to fully support the Government in his new role as PPS. But there are real-world consequences to these grubby careerist games. Many people will see the article for the claptrap it is, but others understandably still trust what they’re told by an MP, particularly when it reinforces what they read on Facebook or in the pro-oil billionaire press. 

“If we’re to turn the juggernaut around and commence serious action on the climate and nature crisis, we need the public on board. Anthony’s cynical article just made that job harder. It’s not too late for him to make amends by honestly admitting that the UK’s climate plans are in disarray and are leading us to a dark future.

Simon Oldridge, Staverton
Image courtesy of Zero Hour

As Just Stop Oil highlighted, there is the odd Conservative MP prepared to tell it like it is, but, then, Chris Skidmore’s career is not threatened by being honest because he has announced his intention to step down at the next election. So that’s his power and influence gone.

All this government has left as a tactic to cling on to power is the creation of division. It’s high time they were removed, before their tactic of salting the earth and poisoning the well does irreparable damage.