Whoever becomes Britain’s next prime minister will be tasked with many critical energy and climate policy decisions – from ratifying the Paris Agreement to phasing out coal.
Currently, in a surprise to many, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom is among the top three contenders along with Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
And perhaps one interesting indicator for how each candidate might approach energy and climate decisions as prime minister is to look at the those declaring their support for each of these individuals.
So, from Lord Lawson and Owen Paterson to Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd, who’s backing the top Tory leadership contenders?
If you’re searching for the climate science denier’s best hope, look no further.
Lord Lawson, head of the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has put his weight behind Gove.
In a statement released on 4 July, Lawson said Gove “campaigned with patriotic conviction and made the case with intellectual authority,” adding that he has “a good understanding of both economic and foreign policy.”
In an article this week Bloomberg New Energy Finance describes how Gove is being “influenced on energy” by Lawson: “This could lead to a change for the energy industry and a move away from carbon policies.”
Perhaps one indication of where energy policy may go under a Lawson-influenced Gove government came yesterday at a GWPF event in the House of Lords where the group called for the scrapping of the fifth carbon budget.
And while Gove described himself in a 2014 speech to the Conservative Environment Network as a “shy green” in the past he also sought to remove climate change from the national geography curriculum. He also stopped Energy and Climate Secretary Amber Rudd from attending the Lima climate conference two years ago.
There's also that time he discussed Game of Thrones in climate science denier James Delingpole’s garden. So there’s that.
Leadsom has seen as an unexpected surge in support, particularly after Johnson publicly declared his support for her, stating she had “the zap, the drive and the determination” to lead the country.
This has left many on either side of the debate searching for assurances on where she stands on energy and climate policy.
So far, Leadsom has been the only candidate to really say anything about energy policy. Since the referendum she’s said she’s committed to supporting energy security, keeping power bills down, and decarbonising the power sector. She’s also long been a strong supporter of fracking and nuclear power.
Today she also insisted that the government's commitment to acting on climate change would not change post-Brexit: “However we choose to leave the EU, let me be clear: we remain committed to dealing with climate change.”
And because of her stated support for the fifth carbon budget, it seems Lawson has ruled her out as a worthy candidate.
However, this hasn’t stopped others such as former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson from tweeting out his support for Leadsom.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail's David Rose is also searching for some clarity on Leadsom's climate stance.
@Owen_PatersonMP I'm sure Andrea Leadsom has many talents, but can you reassure us she no longer wants to make UK zero carbon by 2050?— David Rose (@DavidRoseUK) July 5, 2016
@Owen_PatersonMP could Andrea Leadsom or you say where she stands on climate change, energy policy and ruinous 5th carbon budget?— David Rose (@DavidRoseUK) July 5, 2016
Finally, UKIP’s main millionaire backer Arron Banks this weekend said Leadsom was “the breakout star of the Leave campaign during the referendum” and announced that his leave.eu campaign group would be “throwing its full weight behind Andrea, particularly online.”
At Leadsom’s leadership bid launch yesterday Banks’ right hand man Andy Wigmore was also spotted in the crowd.
UKIP is known for having a slew of climate science denying members, from Douglas Carswell to Roger Helmer. And with Nigel Farage now no-longer UKIP’s leader, the party’s main backer has turned his sights to Leadsom.
Lucky Andrea Leadsom is the Tory candidate to win the backing of the Leave.EU group of Ukip donor Arron Banks— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) July 1, 2016
Not my backing - we surveyed our supporters…. https://t.co/8J1baUrSiY— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) July 1, 2016
Leadsom has refused to rule out including Farage as part of her negotiating team in talks with the EU about how Britain’s exit will happen.
And, like UKIP (and Gove) she seems to share a similar dislike for experts as a tweet by Telegraph journalist Emily Gosden suggests. Trusting experts, however, is pretty crucial when it comes to making sound policy decisions.
So Andrea Leadsom just referred to “experts” while making air quotes gesture. Experts really not popular with Brexiteers it seems.— Emily Gosden (@emilygosden) July 5, 2016
Meanwhile, Theresa May has won the support of Amber Rudd who last week said: “When I consider who to back as leader of the Conservative Party and future prime minister, knowing where they stand on this issue [climate change], which is so important to me, will be absolutely central to who I support.”
May hasn’t been the most vocal person when it comes to green issues. In fact, she’s been mostly silent apart from publicly backing the Climate Change Act ahead of its becoming law.
As BusinessGreen argues: “Rudd's endorsement may win her some support, but for the green movement to wholeheartedly throw its weight behind May she will need to become much more vocal in her support for green issues.”
And according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, May is also likely to keep the UK in the single market, which would undoubtedly help support the energy sector.
Photo: DECC via Flickr