Yesou could feel the panic as news leaked of Rishi Sunak’s plans to water down some of his climate change targets. Instead of a controlled speech later in the week – probably somewhere with green connections: Rish! never knowingly underestimate the irony – we had a hastily arranged press conference. In the same Downing Street media center where Number 10 staff had joked about illegal parties during the pandemic. Call it karma. Stay calm and continue to piss off the country.
And breathe. Sunak entered the room and stood at a lectern with a sign reading “Long-term decisions for a better future” on the front. Light up the country again. It becomes a habit. He then opened his mouth. RishGPT can’t really help the titled nasal whine. But this time, it was suffused with contempt. It was not only condescending, it was the most cynical speech from a Prime Minister in years. Deep down, Sunak must know that he sold his soul for the chance to stay in power a little longer. There was a comedy about Liz Truss. At least she believed the crazy things she was saying. Moreover, in the end, it only destroyed the economy. But Rish! don’t believe any of this. He can’t be this stupid and deluded. And he is determined to destroy the entire planet. The dishonesty was breathtaking. He lied and he lied and he lied.
“People are frustrated with politics,” Sunak began. They were tired of short-termism. So he was there to bring change. Only he wasn’t. The whole point of his speech was short-term gain. To try to improve his image in the polls with voters who he imagines do not care much about the climate crisis. To at least make his voice heard in the elections, he is sure to lose. Here he was pushing back net-zero emissions goals for 2030, knowing he and his family would be back in California long before that. There is no way RishGPT will hang around to see the consequences of his action.
We moved on to the government’s five priorities. Or rather skated on it because none of them look that pink. Sunak therefore turned his attention to climate change. He believed in it passionately, he said. But you can have too much of a good thing. People had made net zero emissions into a sort of religion. But hello! What was wrong with the floods and wildfires? Who cared if other parts of the world suffered as long as the UK was doing well?
So RishGPT – whose soft voice was becoming more and more condescending, almost as if he was trying to dissociate himself from himself – had news for the country. It was time for us to show lightness in the face of climate change. Just the pieces we wanted. There was no need to go all the way. It was like that. The UK has consistently led the world in meeting its climate change obligations. So we could afford to take the pressure off a little. Even more, it was our duty. It wasn’t British to show other countries. We were more modest than that. What we needed to do was give everyone else a chance to catch up. That way, everyone would be happy.
“We are not abandoning net zero emissions by 2050,” Sunak insisted. One day he might look back on the images of those 40 minutes and feel a certain sense of shame. The very idea that he could go back on his commitments on climate change was a complete misunderstanding of what he meant. He was just abandoning some goals along the way because he was terrified of next year’s election. This is not at all the same as abandoning legally binding targets, even if everyone in their right mind agreed that this was the case. He had no idea how we could make up the difference, but he was sure someone would think of something in about 10 years. It made no difference to him anyway. He just said what he needed to say.
So here’s the deal. Don’t worry about your gas boilers right away. Don’t worry about your petrol and diesel cars until 2035. If so. Perhaps another government would soon push the deadline back to 2040. Don’t bother insulating your homes. And yes, he was so on the side of workers who couldn’t afford green policies. This is why he was happy that they remained in energy poverty. This would teach tenants to learn how to afford their own property.
The hypocrisy just kept piling up. One way or another, climate change would slow down simply because it was convenient for him to think so. The trick was to keep everything the same for longer. This was a pragmatic government in action.
Except that wasn’t the case. This was blatant ideological rhetoric towards the conservative right. There, in plain sight and all Rish! What we could do is ask the country not to believe what it sees with its own eyes. He even mentioned the offshore contract auctions which resulted in no bids. The green industry has already rejected the Conservatives. Surprisingly, he also talked about government by consent. This after ensuring that Parliament was in recess due to the party conference season and he could not have his say.
There was some applause from a few captive ministers who had been kidnapped for the occasion before Sunak took a few questions from a mostly neutral or friendly audience. Mostly he held on even as he repeated his lies, but the mask slipped when the Guardian’s Pippa Crerar challenged him to water down net zero targets and let his daughters down. Sunak had always said he would not be able to look his daughters in the eye if he relaxed his commitments on climate change.
He wasn’t sugarcoating anything, he said in a snotty tone. Her anger at being denounced was revealed. He stuck to the same targets while pushing the targets away. It was crazy stuff. Mad. Even the auto industry thinks he’s crazy. And he didn’t care about his daughters because they wouldn’t pay £10,000 for a heat pump. Mmmm. That’s rather the problem. But he had spoken to them and asked them what they preferred. The planet dies or dad is disappointed in the next election. These were difficult choices.
With that, Sunak headed for the exit. The election campaign was going to be long. From now on. The fanatics and ideologues of the conservative right did not go down without one last hurray.