Lord Hague warns Rishi Sunak that the 'world has changed' from relying on fossil fuels

William Hague has warned Rishi Sunak that “dithering” over Net Zero targets would be a “grave mistake” in the battle against climate change.

The former Tory leader, who represented the North Yorkshire seat of Richmond before Mr Sunak, and has served as a political mentor to the Prime Minister, argued that the centre-right cannot “vacate the battlefield of ideas” over global warming.

Mr Sunak saw criticism from climate change and green campaigners last month after he announced that some Net Zero targets would be watered down in order to protect households against costs.

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The Conservatives have since levelled accusations at Labour that backing the plans which had been political consensus would cost families tens of thousands of pounds.

Former foreign secretary William Hague speaking at Chatham House in London about the EU referendum.Former foreign secretary William Hague speaking at Chatham House in London about the EU referendum.
Former foreign secretary William Hague speaking at Chatham House in London about the EU referendum.

Mr Sunak has also pressed ahead with new oil and gas licences in contrast to Sir Keir Starmer’s party which this week re-stated its commitment to green energy as a source of economic growth at its party conference in Liverpool.

Writing a foreword to a collection of essays on energy security for the Conservative Environment Network, Lord Hague warned that “the world has changed” following the industrial and economic boom that was powered by coal, gas and oil.

“Failing to act decisively would be a grave mistake. History will not reward dither or delay. Coal fuelled the industrial revolution, bringing about unprecedented advances for human prosperity,” he said.

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“The subsequent exploitation of oil and gas expanded access to energy and generated further wealth, including here in the UK.

“But the world has changed, and our future prosperity depends on using alternative sources of energy.”

Lord Hague added: “Reducing emissions is no longer just about the environment but a route to economic growth, prosperity and resilience.

“The future belongs to countries rich in solar, wind, and critical minerals that are the fastest to exploit their natural advantages. All countries must, sensibly but quickly, transition to cleaner forms of energy and leave the fossil fuel age behind us, delivering on our commitments to phase down unabated oil and gas, as agreed for coal at COP26.

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“While reaching net zero will require a level of state intervention that some on the right will find uncomfortable, acting swiftly now will prevent the need for far greater intervention in the future if temperatures rise unchecked.

“For the sake of our own political survival and that of our way of life, we cannot vacate the battlefield of ideas to the left on this crucial issue.”

It comes as oil prices climbed with worries about the possible spillover effects of violence in the Middle East.

One potential outcome of the violence is a slowdown in Iranian oil exports, which have been growing this year, according to Barclays energy analyst Amarpreet Singh. Less supply of crude would raise its price.

The conflict could also hurt the possibility of potential improvement in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s second-largest producer of oil.