Rishi Sunak's first statement after being named as next PM
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For new Prime Minster Rishi Sunak, one of the biggest priorities will be tackling the fossil fuel energy crisis that is threatening to plunge millions of households into fuel poverty. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a severe spike in wholesale gas prices, as Vladimir Putin has squeezed gas supplies flowing into Europe as retaliation over sanctions. As a result, energy bills in the UK are at record highs, as Ofgem raised the price cap on energy bills to £2,500 a year in October. Before the previous Prime Minister Liz Truss intervened in the energy markets and froze the bills rise, Britons were expected to pay £3,549 in October, rising to £6,000 a year by next summer.
While the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee has frozen household bills at £2,500, this is still over twice the £1,277 that Britons were paying just a year ago.
This is why, Friends of the Earth (FoE), a climate activist group, has urged Mr Sunak to adopt a long term solution to tackling both the energy and climate crises, by phasing out reliance on gas.
Kierra Box, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The dual cost of living and climate crises remain the biggest challenges for the new Prime Minister, but they’re now even more pressing thanks to the political chaos and environmental back-pedalling of recent weeks.
“Rishi Sunak has pledged he’ll deliver on the government’s climate targets. Yet his track record as Chancellor – which saw new North Sea oil and gas fast-tracked, levies for domestic flights cut and a weak windfall tax on profiting fossil fuel companies imposed – suggests otherwise.
“He also backed fracking with community consent during the summer leadership race, but this proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Liz Truss’ premiership.
“If Rishi Sunak plans to outlast his predecessor, he must learn from her mistakes, abandon runaway deregulation and the attack on nature and choose the sensible solutions to the cost of living and climate crises.
“That means saying no to more fossil fuels – including a new coal mine in Cumbria – as well as fixing our heat-leaking homes and boosting investment in cheap, clean popular renewables, which will lower bills and harmful emissions.”
The environmental campaign group has identified five key priorities for Mr Sunak, which they said must be top of his agenda in order to restore nature, protect the climate and fix the cost of living crisis.
Energy efficiency measures
Energy efficiency measures like installing insulation have been tipped as one of the fastest ways to bring down energy bills permanently, as they ensure that households use less gas and electricity.
FoE noted that in England and Wales, there are almost five million households that lack even basic measures such as loft or cavity wall insulation, which means their homes rapidly lose heat and cost more to keep warm.
The group urged the Government to fund a free street-by-street home insulation programme, targeting neighbourhoods most in need, adding that this could slash annual energy bills for many homes by around £1,000 or more after the price cap is lifted.
Investing in renewables
FoE also urged the Government to harness the UK’s abundant renewable energy resources, like offshore wind and solar, which are tipped to be up to nine times cheaper than current gas prices.
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Saying no to new fossil fuel development
The group urged Mr Sunak to reject any new plans to increase fossil fuel supply, adding that measures like fracking won’t have a meaningful impact on the UK’s energy security or our energy bills.
FoE called on the new Prime Minister to reissue the moratorium on fracking, after the 2019 ban was lifted by Ms Truss, and also urged to Government to stop issuing new licenses for North Sea oil and gas exploration.
Produce a lawful Net Zero Strategy
Following a High Court ruling in July, the Government has been ordered to update its climate strategy to include a quantified account of how its policies will achieve climate targets, based on a realistic assessment of what it expects them to deliver.
FoE noted that the UK needs a nature recovery strategy that will enable it to go to the long-delayed international biodiversity talks taking place later this year in Canada, chaired by China.
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