Green groups criticise appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg to energy and climate role

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Green campaigners have reacted angrily to the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg as Business Secretary where he will be in charge of the energy and climate brief.

Mr Rees-Mogg has previously played down the earthquake risk of fracking and stressed the need for oil firms to be able to keep their profits amid calls for a windfall tax to ease spiralling bills “so they get every last drop out of the North Sea”.

He has also warned against “climate alarmism” and said he wants his constituents to have cheap energy “rather more than I would like them to have windmills”.

His appointment to lead the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), which is also responsible for climate action, comes as UK households and businesses face crippling energy bills caused by sky-high gas prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The appointment also comes in the run-up to Cop27, the UN climate conference, where countries will be under pressure – amid devastating floods, heatwaves and droughts around the world – to deliver on their promises of climate action made at the UK-hosted Cop26 last year.

The International Energy Agency has warned that no new oil or gas fields can be developed if the world is to meet its goals to curb global warming to 1.5C –  beyond which the most dangerous impacts of climate change are expected.

But Liz Truss’s new Government is reported to be set to invite applications for drilling licences to explore new fields in the North Sea, and lift the fracking moratorium, as part of efforts to curb high energy bills.

One of the first letters in Mr Rees-Mogg’s in-tray is from the heads of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), who warn that UK gas reserves are “too small” to make a meaningful difference to bringing down prices for consumers.

CCC chairman Lord Deben, a former Tory environment secretary, and the NIC’s chairman Sir John Armitt, called on the new Government to focus on boosting insulation and energy saving measures for millions of homes.

Their letter also calls for the UK to make the most of cheap onshore wind and solar, as well as driving the roll-out of low-carbon electric heat pumps, saying that ending the country’s dependence on fossil gas is the best way to tackle both the energy bills and climate crises.

She accused him of previously pushing for cuts to incentives for solar, wind and energy efficiency, which has had the consequence of adding £150 to every energy bill now.

“Appointing him to the brief now suggests the Tories have learned nothing from some years of energy policy incompetence.

“This will either be a massive own goal for Truss’s efforts to tackle the cost-of-living crisis or Rees-Mogg will have to do the steepest learning curve in history as he gets to grips with the issues facing our country,” she said.

Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, Dave Timms, said: “Putting someone who recently suggested ‘every last drop’ of oil should be extracted from the North Sea in charge of energy policy is deeply worrying for anyone concerned about the deepening climate emergency, solving the cost-of-living crisis and keeping our fuel bills down for good.

“Extracting more fossil fuels is a false solution to the energy crisis.

“It’s our failure to end our reliance on gas and oil that’s sent energy bills soaring and left us teetering on the brink of catastrophic climate change.”

He called for a “forward-looking” energy strategy with better home insulation and homegrown renewable power.

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