Constituent policy

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Britain’s energy policy chief dismissed climate change

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who now oversees the UK government’s department responsible for energy and climate change, has called for extracting ‘the last drop’ of oil and gas from the North Sea


| Analysis

September 7, 2022

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the new commercial secretary

Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss has appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg to head the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department, sparking concern among environmental activists over his views on climate change.

With the energy crisis underway, Rees-Mogg will play a key role in the new government, and based on his past statements, the appointment appears to be good news for companies extracting fossil fuels and bad news for some companies wishing to accelerate. the deployment. renewable energy.

Earlier this year he rejected calls for a one-off tax on oil and gas companies ‘so they get every last drop out of the North Sea’. Fracking, which is currently under a moratorium imposed in 2019, “seems like a pretty good opportunity,” he said.

But gasoline prices are the main driver of rapidly rising energy bills. “His energy policy is apparently entirely based on the root cause of this economic crisis: fossil fuel prices. Unless this changes very quickly, the UK has no chance of escaping this situation anytime soon,” says Chris Venables of the Green Alliance think tank.

In a statement, Friends of the Earth’s Dave Timms said: “Putting someone who recently suggested that ‘the last drop’ of oil should be extracted from the North Sea in charge of energy policy is deeply worrying for anyone worries about the worsening climate emergency, solving the cost of living crisis and lowering our fuel bills for good.

Returning further to Rees-Mogg’s comments on energy and climate change, as the DeSmog website hasreveals a record of opposing views.

“I wish my constituents had cheap energy rather than I wish they had wind turbines,” he said in 2014. Wind energy is now nine times cheaper than operating a gas plant. One year earlier Rees Mogg said: “It is widely accepted that carbon dioxide emissions have increased, but the effect on the climate remains highly debated.” This comment came days before a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded: “The human influence on the climate system is clear.”

Rees-Mogg is facing a daunting receiving basket, including emergency help for households to meet energy bills – an announcement is due September 8 – more electricity market reform, and whether to facilitate the development of new onshore wind and solar farms. New poll, published this morning by trade body RenewableUKrevealed that 77% of respondents believe that both technologies should be used to reduce electricity bills.

A first card the Business Secretary could play is a scientific review of new evidence on shale gas produced by the British Geological Society, which its new department commissioned earlier this summer but is still seated. This could be quickly published and used as justification to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

However, Venables says: “Approving new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea, or yet again wasting millions of taxpayers’ money on a doomed fracking mission, will not reduce bills or will improve the UK’s energy security.” Gas prices are set internationally and fracking is unlikely to produce significant volumes anytime soon: around a decade of UK exploration and government support has failed to produce gas for homes and businesses.

Rees-Moggs’ seemingly unwarranted enthusiasm for continued North Sea oil and gas production also potentially puts him at odds with government advisers, the Committee on Climate Change. In February, the independent group proposed to the government to strengthen tests to decide whether new projects are compatible with climate objectives.

John Gummer, chairman of the Climate Change Commission and former Conservative Party cabinet minister, said: “I am sure he will look at the facts and continue much of the attitudes and programs of his predecessor. [Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor]. Ms Thatcher would say it’s all about the facts, that’s why she was so tough on climate change and that’s what the facts are – so we better move on.

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