Boris Johnson has been warned he will lead his party to an election defeat of 1945 proportions and potentially unleash urban unrest if he does not take a new approach to dealing with the threat of climate change.
There is concern in Tory ranks that measures to slash net carbon dioxide emissions to zero could leave the country’s poorest citizens worse off.
A key worry is that the UK will make bold and expensive commitments when it hosts the international COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November. It is seen as a pivotal event in the fight against climate change, with Prince Charles due to speak.
Last week the UN’s IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) predicted the world would reach the 1.5C warming threshold within two decades.
However, it said immediate action could bring it back under control by the latter half of the century.
South Thanet Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay has formed the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and expects close to 30 MPs will take part.
Mr Mackinlay fears carbon reduction commitments will “hit the poorest hardest” and said he wished the UK was not hosting the landmark climate talks because when “you’re in the chair you feel you have to go all-in”.
His concerns were echoed by Gwythian Prins, emeritus research professor at the London School of Economics.
He warned that just as Winston Churchill’s Conservatives were swept out of office in 1945, Mr Johnson could see his majority evaporate if he makes unpopular decisions on climate change.
Prof Prins, a former security consultant at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, argues that a better approach would be to use gas technology while small modular nuclear reactors are rolled out.
Warning of the potential of social unrest, he noted that the French “gilets jaunes” riots started as fuel tax protests. He wants the Government to introduce a tax incentive to encourage people to run cars on liquid petroleum gas, which he argues will reduce air pollution.
Prof Prins fears that much of the response to climate change is following the “economics of the madhouse” and is urging Mr Johnson to use COP26 to point the world in a new direction.
You shouldn’t meddle with these things, prime minister, nor do you need to. You’re a free market prime minister.
“The people who put you there in 2019 put you in as a Conservative. They did not vote for Greta Thunberg…
“If you can change the direction of COP26 away from this record of repeated failure, that would be a great thing to do.”