Liz Truss, COP26, summit, Glasgow
Liz Truss and former Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Asqar Mamin at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1, 2021. COP26 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED)

The former prime minister attacks flagship climate deals and makes false claims about electric vehicles, Russia’s influence on energy policies, and net zero.

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The new book by former Prime Minister Liz Truss urges the UK, US, and EU to drop their landmark climate change laws, spreads falsehoods about green policies, and fondly recalls an attempt to cancel a major climate conference.

Truss, who is the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, resigned as prime minister in October 2022 after just 49 days in office.

Since leaving 10 Downing Street, Truss has attempted to expose the “deep state” forces that allegedly brought down her premiership, while advocating for “free market” ideas within the Conservative Party, helping to launch the Popular Conservatives group.

In her book, Ten Years to Save the West, which she is promoting widely this week, Truss writes that “the zealous drive to net zero,” the UK’s legally binding 2050 climate target, amounts to “unilateral economic disarmament” and is “a drag on economic growth.” She also claims that, while serving in the Treasury, she attempted to cancel the 2021 COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Truss writes: “We should abolish the Climate Change Act and instead adopt a new Climate Freedom Act that enables rather than dictates technology.” She adds that “the US should reverse the Inflation Reduction Act, and the EU should abandon its equivalent measures.”

The Climate Change Act legalized the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. The Inflation Reduction Act is a $369 billion package of grants and subsidies by the US government to spur green technology investment. 

Scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have said that without “immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors” limiting global heating to 1.5 C (2.7 F) is beyond reach.

Restricting global temperatures to this threshold — the target agreed by the UK as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement — would prevent the worst and most irreversible effects of climate change, including floods, droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires.

In the book, Truss also attacks climate advocates, writing that “the environmental movement is fundamentally driven by the radical left,” adding: “This ‘watermelon’ tendency is green on the outside, red on the inside — a modern rebranding of socialism. It features the same instincts of collectivism and authoritarianism.”

Truss writes that “we should cancel” the United Nations annual COP climate summit, and falsely claims that electric vehicles are worse for the environment than those powered by fossil fuels.

“In recent years, more radical forms of climate misinformation and disinformation have become mainstreamed,” said Jennie King, director of climate research and policy at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue think tank. “Such content continues to grow in virality and engagement online, but its impacts are vastly increased when platformed in the media or by politicians.”

King said “the normalization of wild and outlandish claims,” with climate action “being framed through a conspiratorial, tribalist and anti-scientific lens,” can lead to “real-world harm.” 

“When such ideas are conveyed from the very corridors of power, it sets a dangerous precedent,” she added. 

The IPCC warned in 2022 that efforts to tackle climate change were being delayed by “rhetoric and misinformation that undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency.”

Truss Claims ‘Couldn’t Be Further From the Truth’

Truss’s book is published by Biteback Publishing, a company owned by former Conservative deputy chair and major party donor Michael Ashcroft. 

The former prime minister dedicates a chapter to green policies, titled “A Hostile Environment,” apparently a play on the term used by the Conservative government about its anti-immigration policies

Truss writes that current environmental policies should be scrapped in favor of a “free market” approach. On energy, she calls for more fossil fuel extraction, advocating a mix of “oil and gas as well as nuclear and renewables,” adding: “The use of North Sea oil and gas is crucial, so there needs to be investment in that too. There also should be fracking in the UK.”

Fracking for shale gas is a controversial practice that risks causing air, water, and noise pollution.

She fails to mention that oil and gas firms receive major subsidies and tax breaks from the government, which would logically be removed in a “free market” energy system. The UK government has given £20 billion more in support to fossil fuel producers than renewables companies since 2015.

Truss’s book also attacks the multilateral UN COP process, which has seen agreements on transitioning away from fossil fuels, and financial support for poorer countries suffering the worst effects of climate change. 

Truss writes that “we should cancel the COP gravy train.” She claims that, in 2018, when she was chief secretary to the Treasury, she made “11th-hour attempts to ditch COP26,” the UN climate summit hosted by the UK in 2021, arguing that it was not a spending priority. 

At COP26, nearly 200 countries agreed to ramp up efforts to cut emissions, also calling on wealthy countries to double their funding to poorer nations that have contributed the least to climate change. More than 40 countries also pledged to quit coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel and the world’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.

The book also spreads false claims about climate policies. Truss writes that “in the UK and Europe, Russia has funded anti-fracking campaigns,” a claim which is not supported by any evidence.

Truss claims that policies like “the switch from petrol to diesel in cars or the use of electric vehicles, have either harmed the environment in other ways or empowered our polluting adversaries elsewhere in the world.” 

Colin Walker, head of transport at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank, told DeSmog: “The notion that the switch to electric vehicles will have little discernible environmental impact, and make us dependent on imported gas and coal, couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“The total lifetime CO2 emissions of an electric vehicle, from being built to being driven, are three times lower than a petrol vehicle — a figure that will only get higher as our grid becomes cleaner. And while older technologies like petrol cars and gas boilers rely on fossil fuels imported from abroad, EVs and heat pumps can be powered by electricity generated by British wind and solar farms.”

Truss also writes of “ludicrous claims that pursuing a net zero agenda … will boost the economy and drive growth.” 

Walker added: “The UK’s net zero economy is now worth £74 billion, and grew by nine percent in 2023. The wider economy grew just 0.1 percent. Talking down the economic opportunities net zero has to offer the UK is at odds with a growth agenda when the US, EU, and China are all competing for clean industries.”

Truss’s Climate Denial Ties

Truss has a long history of opposing climate policies. In the 2022 Conservative Party leadership contest, she attacked solar farms on agricultural land and, during her brief time in 10 Downing Street, she overturned the UK’s ban on fracking. (A policy reversed by her successor, Rishi Sunak.)

As DeSmog reported at the time, Truss’s leadership campaign received £30,000 from a pro-fracking lobby group, £10,000 from a climate denial activist, and £100,000 from the wife of a former BP oil executive. Truss received a further £5,000 from Lord Vinson, a Tory peer who has provided funding to the UK’s leading climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Since leaving office, Truss has received £250,000 in speaking fees, including £7,600 last April from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing US think tank that has long promoted climate science denial. Heritage President Kevin Roberts provides a long and glowing blurb for Truss’s book. 

Earlier this year, Truss helped to launch the Popular Conservatives (PopCon), a new initiative run by Truss-ally Mark Littlewood, the former director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank which received funding from oil major BP for at least 50 years. 

At the PopCon launch, Truss attacked “net zero zealotry,” claiming voters “don’t like the net zero policies which are making energy more expensive.”

Additional reporting by Sam Bright.

This story by Adam Barnett was originally published by DeSmog and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

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