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Liz Truss was accused of launching the biggest “attack on nature” in a generation in her short stint as prime minister.

Before resigning last week, she presided over a government that ended a ban on fracking, greenlit a new oil and gas licensing round and announced the creation of investment zones where planning rules could be loosened.

Her administration published legislation aimed at axing the remaining European laws, hundreds of which protect the environment, and said it was reviewing the introduction of a scheme that will pay farmers to enhance nature.

There were reports also that the prime minister had advised King Charles – a long-time environmentalist – to stay away from Cop 27, and prior to her resignation, it remained unclear whether she would attend the climate summit.

Environmentalists welcomed some decisions made by her government, including loosening restrictions around onshore wind development, but all in all conservationists and climate activists were alarmed by many of its proposals.

The government repeatedly said claims it intended to go back on its environmental commitments were not true and that it was fully committed to halting the decline of nature by 2030 and would not undermine its obligations to the environment in pursuit of growth.

Now all eyes are on Rishi Sunak – whom many expect to be Britain’s next prime minister.

What has he said about the environment?

Mr Sunak has said he is committed to keeping the government’s legally binding goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

During the leadership race this summer, he said he was committed to reforming farm payments that Ms Truss’s government went on to put under review.

He has said the country needs to insulate millions of homes, will rewire the global financial system for net zero and implement plans to protect a third of the UK for nature.

But he has also committed to drive up North Sea gas production which will add more greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere and said he would scrap plans to relax a ban on onshore wind farms.

What about his record as an MP and a former chancellor?

Mr Sunak’s record on climate action has been described as “mixed.”

As an MP he has “almost always” voted against measures to prevent climate change in parliament, according to the website They Work For You. And as chancellor under Boris Johnson, he rarely mentioned the climate crisis in speeches, and net zero didn’t come across as central to his mission.

Ed Matthew, campaigns director at E3G, an independent think tank that aims to accelerate a global transition to a low-carbon future, said he thought Mr Sunak’s overall approach was greener than that of Ms Truss, but added that it was not hard.

“When you look at his record as chancellor he didn’t put the clean economy and climate action right at the heart of his mission,” he said, of Mr Sunak. “You can’t solve climate change and reach the 1.5C target set by the United Nations with a half-hearted approach to climate action – you need to be all in.”

Conservationists accused Liz Truss of launching the biggest attack on nature in a generation.

(Getty Images)

As chancellor, Mr Suank pledged to turn the UK into a green finance powerhouse and has been described as “reasonably good” at marshalling finance for net zero. He backed a campaign for companies to have climate transition plans, supported a drive for more offshore wind and backed a government decision to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030.

But he has also been accused of blocking green policies that incurred short-term costs. Moreover, ahead of the UN climate summit held in Glasgow last year, Mr Sunak cut air passenger duty on domestic flights, as well as overseas aid, and was accused of distancing himself from a key review on the economics of biodiversity.

“He’s been reasonably good at the aspects of net zero that didn’t require him as chancellor to spend any money,” Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, a think tank that works to ensure UK political leaders deliver ambitious solutions to global environmental issues, told The Independent during the leadership race this summer. “But when it came to actually seriously supporting net zero as chancellor he fell short.”

One of the biggest decisions he made as chancellor when it comes to the climate was in his response to the impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had on energy prices.

In May, he reluctantly brought in a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help pay for energy support for British households. But the measure also included tax relief to incentivise firms to invest in fossil fuel extraction in the North Sea sparking criticism that he had jeopardised the UK’s climate credentials.

The International Energy Agency has said that in order for the world to limit global heating to 1.5C no new fossil fuel projects were necessary.

Instead of incentivising and ramping up domestic oil and gas production, campaigners said the government should have announced substantial funding to insulate the UK’s leaky houses and massively scale up renewables on and offshore to help lower energy bills.

“The fastest way to get off Russian oil and gas was to go hell for leather on renewables, and energy efficiency,” said Mr Matthew. “I’m hoping that if he becomes prime minister that he will seriously rethink his approach.”

If he becomes Britain’s next prime minister, climate campaigners will also be looking to see if he will replace Jacob Rees-Mogg as Business Secretary and Ranil Jayawardena as Environment Secretary.

Mr Rees-Mogg was appointed to the dismay of campaigners, while Mr Jayawardena has angered environmentalists with his decision to review the introduction of a scheme that will pay farmers to protect nature.

The question also remains whether the next prime minister will attend Cop 27 and whether it will mean King Charles also gets to go.

The Independent has contacted Mr Sunak’s team for comment.

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