Net zero tsar Chris Skidmore has said he “will be voting against the government” on amendments to a landmark piece of energy legislation, but warned that climate change policy can not be allowed to become “the home of the left.”
Former energy minister Skidmore – who led a key review of the UK’s net zero policy, which criticised the government for inconsistent policies and a lack of commitment to meeting emissions targets – said he would “probably be voting in the same lobby as Labour” on several additions or changes to the Energy Bill.
The bill seeks to unlock low-carbon technology investment and bolster domestic energy production.
MPs debated the bill for a second time after changes were forced on the government by the House of Lords including a ban on new coal mines and energy efficiency measures.
During a Q&A after a Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) climate tech event, the MP told City A.M.: “There are other amendments I’ll be making to the bill because I see this as my one last chance to influence policy.”
Despite his willingness to challenge his own party, Skidmore insisted it was important for the Conservative party to lead on climate change issues and champion more market-based solutions to the climate crisis.
“I’m a centre right politician and I believe in the power of markets… to succeed in delivering net zero we need to create new net zero markets,” he said. “We can’t allow climate change policy to be totally the home of the left or the centre left.”
He added: “There is an important role for me to be a centre right politician advocating for centre right opportunities for delivering on net zero. It can’t just be the state that delivers it.”
But Skidmore admits he now “cares more about conserving the environment than Conservatism”.
Truss’ Fracking vote
Skidmore also said that he expected to be thrown out of the Conservative party after voting against Liz Truss’ government on fracking, which he said was a “seminal” moment.
“I just thought there’s no way I’m going to be voting for fracking,” he said.
“Personally I don’t believe in it as a technology for the future – it’s not going to work… [so] I decided to stand up for what I believe in.”
He admitted: “I was expecting to no longer be a Conservative MP because I would have lost the whip.
“I was on the train waiting for the chief whip to ring me. She had resigned, then got reinstated – it was complete chaos.
“[But] I didn’t realise it was going to trigger off this chain reaction, and actually the prime minister resigned before they had a chance to kick me out of the party.”