Politically and economically unviable Tory RIFT on horizon as fury grows at Sunak budget

Budget 2021: Laura Kuenssberg's analyses Rishi Sunak's plans

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The founder of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, a caucus of around 40 Conservative MPs, has criticised the Government for so-called “hand waving”, instead of providing practical solutions to the climate crisis. The MP for High Wycombe told Express.co.uk: “The main issue is that what’s being proposed is too expensive, impractical and is likely to leave people poorer and colder.” Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the 2021 budget on Wednesday, which the Treasury have said will “support the pathway to Net Zero by 2050”.

The budget included a Government commitment of £30billion of public investment for “the green industrial revolution in the UK”, including £620million of new investment over the next three years to support the transition to electric vehicles.

The week before, the government published their “Net Zero Strategy”, outlining a plan to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach a target of Net Zero by 2050.

The Net Zero goal would mean the UK no longer contributes to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But Mr Baker said that the Government’s strategy would drive up energy costs, causing the UK to lose out to China on some of its key industries, such as steel and ceramics.

He said: “In the midst of an energy crisis, it can be seen that it’s going to be implausible to keep driving up energy costs.

“We’ll end up sacrificing our steel and our glass and our ceramics industries and driving all that production to China, where they’re going to be using coal to get their power.

“We also want to make sure that the public are prosperous and warm and that we’ve got a long term future secured.

“But that’s why I’ve made our main goal to have economic and politically viable solutions, which have public consent and use existing technologies. And everyone should be able to agree with that.

“Because the alternative is politically and economically unviable solutions using green technologies. And that’s obviously not going to work.

“So it’s about time to move beyond the hand waving of why we need to act and get into the really crunchy detail of how we’re going to get there, what we’re doing, who’s paying and that’s really what we’re about.”

In response to Mr Baker’s comments, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “Our landmark Net Zero Strategy sets out our plans to ensure Britain does not lose out in the global race to go green, and our reforms have affordability and fairness at their heart.

“It is essential that we end Britain’s dependency on fossil fuels to reduce our exposure to volatile global gas prices, and we are confident that the only way to protect consumers is to generate more cheap, clean and secure power in this country, rather than relying on imports and technology from abroad.”

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Mr Baker was clear that the group aren’t disputing the science but instead are scrutinising the government on how they reach the Net Zero target – adding that people who describe the group as “climate deniers” need to “grow up”.

“I’m not actually engaging with the science, I’m engaging with the economic and political reality of how we do it”, he said.

“What is happening at the moment is that we’re asking reasonable questions at the moment about how we’re going to get to Net Zero, and people who call us various abusive names are evading those questions by just pivoting back to why we need to do something.

“And I’m afraid they need to grow up.

“I’m afraid that anyone who is just trying to label us deniers or whatever are just evading hard questions that they need to face up to.”

“In a sense, they’re just political headbangers not practical people.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk about recent climate protests by both Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, Mr Baker said that the groups were doing “more harm to the environmental cause” by turning supporters against them.

He said: “It’s a really, really outrageous thing to do. Closing down roads so that ambulances can’t get through, not to mention all of the inconvenience they’re imposing on normal working people.

“No one is doing more harm to the environmental cause than those who are turning people against them in this way.”

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