Conservative leadership candidates are split over cutting green house emissions to net zero after Philip Hammond told Theresa May that it will cost £1 trillion and divert money from police and National Health Service.
The warning prompted Mrs May to rebuke her Chancellor, with her spokesman insisting it was the “right thing to do to protect our planet” and it would be wrong to frame the costs as a “trade-off for public spending”.
Theresa May has come under pressure from scientists, experts, health professionals and environmental groups to set a target to reduce the UK’s emissions to net zero by 2050 before she steps down as Prime Minister next month.
Mr Hammond said in a leaked letter that the total cost of moving to a zero-carbon economy at “well in excess of £1 trillion”, and said it will have profound implications for households, businesses and the Exchequer.
The Treasury’s warning prompted a row among Tory MPs who want to replace Mrs May has party leader.
Esther McVey MP – the former Work and Pensions secretary who has the backing of the required eight MPs to enter Monday’s contest – said:
If you want to guarantee failure, get politicians to set a target.
“We’ve got to preserve our planet – failure on climate change is not an option – but not at the expense of working people’s livelihoods.
“This emissions target will result in rising costs for working families and less money for our schools and hospitals, so the Chancellor is right to issue this warning.
“I will only keep the target in place if it makes a difference to global temperatures.”
But others disagreed. Dominic Raab, the ex-Brexit secretary, said: “We’ve provided global leadership in combating climate change and we are reducing emissions faster than any other G20 country.
“We need to maintain that ambition – including stretching targets such as zero emissions by 2050.”
Matt Hancock, the Health secretary, also dismissed Mr Hammond’s warning the target could cost £1trillion saying he supported the zero emissions target.