The battle for the soul of the Conservative party will intensify during the life of the next government on the increasingly volatile issue of climate change, write Brendan Montague and Matteo Civillini.
Amber Rudd has been appointed secretary of state for energy and climate change following the dramatic departure of Liberal Democrat Ed Davey – much to the relief of some environmental groups.
Rudd is among the most credible and least divisive of the new Tory cabinet. She has worked as a parliamentary private secretary to George Osborne, suggesting that she retains close ties with the chancellor.
But she was also seriously undermined during her post as energy minister when Michael Gove, as chief whip, cancelled her trip to the Lima climate change conference, insisting that she remained to vote in Parliament on an issue the government was sure to win.
The trip would have been invaluable in raising her profile on the international stage and building the networks and credibility to argue Britain’s case. She will also have to vie for the chancellor’s attention against the seductive whispers of the climate deniers.
Chief among them is Lord Lawson of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Lawson has been successful in raising the cash for his charity from Tory donors – but perhaps, more importantly, has shown that many financing the party are against climate policies.
Osborne often sought private advice from his predecessor at Number 11 – flattering the ageing grandee by hosting his party at the prestigious address and praising him from the dispatch box during budget speeches.
The Conservatives would appear to be in a stronger position now they have formed a government. But, ironically, the majority is smaller than that enjoyed by the coalition.
David Cameron must retain the support of all but 12 of his party in order to pass legislation and avoid humiliation in the House of Commons.
And there is now a hard core of climate deniers – numbering at least 12 – in the Tory ranks, led by the bitter Owen Paterson and the oil-tainted Peter Lilley.
Paterson was sacked from the last government reportedly because Lynton Crosby feared climate denial was going to destroy Tory support among the electorate.
Here, we take a closer look at the main climate deniers in the Tory party and assess how they have done in their local constituencies.
The lesson is that the rump of the deniers threatens to become a serious challenge. Rudd will have to fight a strategic, robust and constant rearguard defence against those who are ostensibly on her side.
Their aim will be to frustrate and distract her, just as the European referendum will provide a significant distraction for the party and the country, as we enter the crucial Conference of the Party talks in Paris in November.
OWEN PATERSON, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR NORTH SHROPSHIRE
Owen Paterson has been re-elected to the ultra-safe Conservative seat of North Shropshire, beating Labour’s Graeme Currie. He has secured a majority of 16,500 votes with 51 percent of the total share.
A renowned climate change sceptic, Paterson had controversially served as environment secretary, a post he eventually lost last summer during a Cabinet reshuffle. According to Paterson, his sacking was a measure to appease the “green blob”.
In the latest annual lecture for Lord Lawson’s GWPF think tank, he called for the repeal of the Climate Change Act.
During the election campaign Paterson did not shy away from the opportunity to reinstate his backward-looking views on global warming.
At a hustings event in the North Shropshire constituency, he claimed that climate change is yet to happen. This was an assertion that drew loud jeers from the public in attendance.
Green Party candidate Duncan Kerr commented on the occasion: “It is very depressing when this is the view of the former Secretary of State for the Environment.”
Quotes: “People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.”
“It would also lead to longer growing seasons and you could extend growing a little further north into some of the colder areas.”
PETER LILLEY, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR HITCHIN AND HARPENDEN
Former Cabinet minister Peter Lilley held onto the Tory safe seat of Hitchin and Harpenden with an increased majority after winning 31,408 votes – up from 29,869 in 2010. In second place came Labour’s Rachel Burgin with 11,433 votes.
A self-confessed “global luke-warmist”, Lilley once told a parliamentary debate: “the simple fact is that the science behind climate change is not resolved.”
He was famously one of the only three MPs to vote against the landmark Climate Change Act in 2008. His hardline stance on green issues, however, did not prevent him from being appointed to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.
Until November 2014 he was a non-executive director of Tethys Petroleum, a Cayman Island-based oil and gas company with drilling operations in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. As revealed by the Guardian, Lilley had also received more than $400,000 in share options from the company.
Just like Owen Paterson, he is closely associated with Lord Lawson’s think tank, for which he wrote a report criticising the influential Stern Review of the economics of climate change.
Quote: “Given that we are passing the climate change bill, which is based on the supposition that the climate is getting warmer, let me point out that it is now snowing outside, in October.”
CHRISTOPHER CHOPE, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR CHRISTCHURCH
Christopher Chope has been returned as MP for Christchurch, Dorset, a seat he has held since 1997. The Tory MP won 58 percent of the share, gaining a comfortable majority of 18,000 votes over UKIP’s Robin Grey, who came second.
A renowned climate change sceptic, Chope is a former Conservative frontbencher, who, coincidentally, also used to be a spokesman on the environment.
He was part of the Conservative trio, alongside Peter Lilley and Andrew Tyrie, that voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008.
In April last year, he took part in a debate organised by the Bruges Group, an Eurosceptic think tank, with the title “How the EU’s Climate Alarmism is Costing You Money”.
ANDREW TYRIE, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR CHICHESTER
Andrew Tyrie has been re-elected to the safe Conservative seat of Chichester for the fifth time. He won 58 percent of the vote, securing a large majority over UKIP’s Andrew Moncreiff in second place.
Tyrie is the third of the three MPs who voted against the Climate Change Bill, primarily, he said, on economic grounds.
He supports the view that “mankind might be contributing to global warming but there is little evidence to support the view that the correct response at this time should be rapidly decarbonize the economies of the world.”
JOHN REDWOOD, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR WOKINGHAM
John Redwood has been re-elected as an MP for Wokingham after polling 58 percent of the vote. He secured a majority of 26,000 votes over Labour’s Andy Croy in second place.
Redwood has repeatedly questioned the science behind climate change, asking experts to provide more conclusive evidence of the man-made nature of global warming.
On his personal blog, Redwood complained about the “BBC peddling climate change alarmism” by not including skeptics’ voices in debates about global warming.
Quote: “I look out of my window to see my garden frozen solid, covered in frost and snow. It is April 7th, and I have just turned the heating up.”
Photo: (c) Brendan Montague, from Conservative Party conference.