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The UK’s fourth chancellor in four months differs from his three predecessors in that he is a so-called “green Tory”, by dint of his membership of the Conservative Environment Network.

This group of backbench MPs supports government action to reduce emissions, invest in the green economy and reach the 2050 net zero target. As a serving minister, Mr Hunt is no longer eligible to be part of the group’s caucus, but is now listed on the CEN website as an alumnus.

Mr Hunt joined the group in March this year, with considerable fanfare, becoming the 133rd Conservative MP to join the network which includes around half of all Conservative backbenchers and 20 peers.

Jeremy Hunt has been dubbed a Green Tory but Liz Truss is anything but


The group has been a vocal supporter of clean energy solutions to the energy crisis, but its growth has come amid increasing factionalism within the Conservative party.

Opposing the CEN is a smaller, but highly influential group of MPs who are part of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which has a number of links to the UK’s most prominent climate science denial organisation – the Global Warming Policy Foundation – founded by former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson.

The group has said the energy crisis means green taxes should be cut and is pushing for an increase in fossil fuel production, including fracking – something Liz Truss promised to bring back during her successful leadership campaign.

When Mr Hunt Joined the CEN, he highlighted his commitment to the decarbonisation of the economy.

In March, Mr Hunt said: “Now more than ever, in light of the global gas crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s vital we decarbonise the UK’s economy by 2050.

“We must develop more homegrown clean energy, including renewables and new nuclear. This will lower people’s bills, strengthen our energy security and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”

The ban on fracking has been lifted in England under Ms Truss’ watch

(PA Media)

Just seven months later, Mr Hunt, the former health secretary, has been parachuted into the Treasury, tearing up new prime minister Liz Truss’s suite of economic reforms – which amounted to £45bn of unfunded tax cuts – and which have caused enormous financial instability.

As he seeks to put a steadying hand on the tiller, will the new Chancellor also make good his earlier commitments to protect the environment and reduce the UK’s emissions of fossil fuels?

Sam Hall, the director of the CEN, told The Independent the Chancellor will recognise that environmental targets and economic growth must go hand in hand.

He said: “As a former member of the CEN caucus, Jeremy Hunt understands the economic opportunities presented by net zero to attract investment and create jobs across the UK. He also understands the importance of a healthy natural environment to our long-term prosperity. Environmental and economic goals are two sides of the same coin.

“As Chancellor, he can contribute to financial stability and economic growth by reaffirming the government’s commitment to environmental leadership. Accelerating the renewables rollout will bring down energy prices, incentivising more energy efficiency improvements will reduce the cost of living for households, and linking farm payments to environmental outcomes will deliver more value for taxpayers’ money.”

Critics say Mr Hunt has yet to indicate he will be a Green Chancellor


He added: “We hope he will quickly bring forward more detailed proposals on the government’s plans for regulatory reform, ending uncertainty about future legal protections for the natural environment. Done well, these measures have the potential to speed up development and deliver economic growth while restoring nature.”

But Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party suggested Mr Hunt was yet to signal a strong focus on building a green economy.

She told The Independent: “We have heard precious little from Jeremy Hunt on how he will boost the green economy. In his statement [to parliament on Tuesday] there was a throw-away line on the need to ‘better incentivise energy efficiency’.

“With threats of a new austerity drive, it looks like ‘incentivising energy efficiency’ will amount to little more than public information campaigns or asking citizens to reduce energy consumption.”

She added: “Real action to help people cut their energy use would be to embark on a national programme of home insulation which would shave thousands of pounds off energy bills, create thousands of green jobs while cutting carbon emissions.”

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It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.

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