Nawaz Haq, executive director at fuel tech company SulNOx Group Plc, a company working to decarbonise transport and industry across the globe, challenged the voting records of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on environmental issues and questioned why neither candidate has focused on the issue on the campaign trail.
His comments come as the UK issued its second heat health warning in weeks as Britain braces for a second heatwave, with temperatures expected to reach 35C in some areas. And it follows a warning from Dr David Boyd, the UN’s special representative on human rights and the environment, who said that the government has an ethical and moral duty to set stricter air pollution targets than those it has proposed under the Environment Act.
In April, as the latest and most climate-alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, warned: “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.” Two weeks ago, the High Court ruled the UK Government’s “world-leading” Net Zero Strategy is unlawful with many questions around its credibility.
The cost of doing nothing
SulNOx Group has pioneered technology which it says could remove the equivalent of five million cars from the UK’s roads and submitted evidence to the government to support those claims. Earlier this year, a government report estimated that climate change will cost the UK economy up to £20 billion a year by 2050. The ‘climate change risk assessment’ highlighted issues including increased flooding, heat-related health conditions, food supply problems, and damage to transport, water and energy infrastructure.
“It is interesting that, in the midst of a climate emergency, the two people vying for the top job in British politics seem to want to talk about everything except the environment,” said Mr Haq.
“Unfortunately, this seems to be because the next Prime Minister will be selected by, in relative terms, just a handful of people – the majority of whom are white men over the age of 50. In a recent poll, only four per cent of Conservative Party members put reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 in their top three policy priorities. In contrast, a UK study conducted by Ipsos after our recent record-breaking heatwave, showed that 84% of people were worried about climate change with the majority “very worried” with a desire for urgent action.
“The membership of the Conservative Party is not representative of the UK public, but it is party members that the two candidates are trying to woo, which is why environmental issues are being swept under the carpet.”
Last week, Dr Boyd said he believed “governments have an ethical and moral obligation to take stronger steps to protect people’s health from the scourge of air pollution”, which has been linked to asthma, heart attacks, strokes and, more recently, dementia.
Policy innovation not technological innovation
Myles Allen, professor of geography and physics at the University of Oxford, said vague references to climate change in recent TV debates did not reflect the real problem. He said what was missing was “policy innovation, not technological innovation”, adding that the technologies to a clean energy economy largely already exist.
Mr Haq said Ms Truss focused on ‘using less, wasting less and innovation’ – a stance largely echoed by Mr Sunak.
“That is exactly what we are doing at SulNOx, but we need the government to pay some serious attention to credible routes to immediately decarbonising,” said Mr Haq. “For example, the introduction of E10 petrol was designed to reduce CO2 emissions and is estimated to remove 750,000 tonnes of CO2 annually – the equivalent of 350,000 cars – from UK Roads. Our fully-developed technologies, if similarly integrated throughout fuel stations for petrol and diesel, could potentially remove the equivalent of over five million cars from UK roads and reduce CO2 equivalent by 10 million metric tons, without any major infrastructure, technical or scaling challenges.
“The UK has great potential to tackle and lead on the climate but requires a committed leader capable of taking bold action based on sound science, to immediately reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, increase efficiencies and push renewable energy.
“My main concern is that the environmental credentials of the two people in the race for Number 10 don’t add up. During his time as Chancellor under Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak pushed to fast-track the approval of six oil and gas fields and blocked the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s proposals for home insulation. His voting record on the climate is also poor, including voting against the government producing a plan to eliminate the majority of transport emissions by 2030 or setting a decarbonisation target in the UK.
“Ms Truss has gone on record as saying she would pause the green energy levy and has also voted against moves to tackle climate change.
“We are in a climate emergency. To borrow from Tony Blair, the priority for the next PM should be environment, environment, environment.”