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Net zero

The next battleground in British politics

Farage: back again? Matthew Horwood/Getty

The world is “cooking”, says Clare Foges in The Times. In Iraq, it is “pushing 51C in the shade”. In France, lorries are ferrying emergency drinking water to towns where “the taps have run dry”. Here in the UK, the source of the Thames has dried up the first time, shifting five miles downstream. But what do the Conservative leadership candidates have to say about the “menace” of climate change? Zilch. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have “quietly pledged” to retain the government target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but both appear desperate to avoid discussing the issue.

My fear is that this will become the next major battleground in British politics – and that it’ll play out like Brexit. Earlier this year, Nigel Farage launched the Vote Power Not Poverty campaign for a referendum on the government’s net zero plans. Like his populist argument for leaving the EU, it’s being framed as a fight between “hardworking families who can’t afford their bills” and, in Farage’s words, the “rich landowners, wealthy investors and foreign-owned conglomerates” who benefit from green subsidies. The cause already has the backing of several Tory MPs “prepared to make their leader’s life very difficult”. Truss or Sunak will no doubt seek to placate this “new populist climate-sceptic beast” by cutting green levies, say, or watering down commitments. “But it won’t work.” Farage and pals will push and push for a referendum. And unless the new PM can stay strong, they’ll probably get their way.