Nuclear minister Andrew Bowie said that the Conservatives had “absolutely failed” to have a national conversation about the net-zero target.
His words come as Tories continue to clash about the race to 2050, after Rishi Sunak announced a ban on new petrol and diesel cars as well as watering down requirements on the sale of oil and gas boilers.
Bowie is a former parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May, who signed off on the decision to enshrine the 2050 target in law.
Speaking at an event on net zero, hosted by The Spectator magazine, he said that the government in 2019 “absolutely failed to have that national conversation, to create a narrative about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what it will mean for the country and for the British people.”
“We have not done that,” he said.
But he said Rishi Sunak’s much-criticised move on green policies was the “the beginnings of that debate”.
Asked why May’s government did not have that conversation, he said: “We were slightly distracted by some other things that were happening in the final few months of Theresa’s premiership.”
May used a drinks reception at the Manchester conference on Monday to warn her party not to read too much into the summer’s Uxbridge by-election as an “anti-environment” vote.
But appearing on the same panel, Jacob Rees-Mogg launched a strong attack on the principle of putting the net-zero target in law.
He insisted that opposition to the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone was a “pretty good proxy” for net zero.
It was pure virtue signalling by a Prime Minister who was about to go, who wanted to leave a stamp on history in the last few weeks
He said that the regime of five-year targets, part of the the UK climate change legislation, was “pernicious” and “really dangerous”.
Press Association – Dominic McGrath