Whatever your politics, Chris Skidmore’s resignation will be a loss to the climate cause – here’s why
The big climate news in the UK last week was the sudden resignation of Chris Skidmore MP, one time Energy Minister, in protest at PM Rishi Sunak’s decision to start issuing annual oil and gas licences for the North Sea. I find this frustrating as those licences won’t change much – North Sea oil and gas is in terminal decline whatever the frequency of new licences and Skidmore’s loss will probably be more impactful as we head into an election year.
I’m sad about his departure, not because I agree with Skidmore’s politics – he’s a dry as dust economic Conservative – but because I don’t. This is something that the blindly tribal don’t understand – we need a diversity of voices calling for climate action, not just those we feel comfortable with. When I feel mischievous, I like discombobulating tribally leftwing greens by reminding them that the whole international climate framework (UNFCCC) was triggered by that well known hugger of trees, Margaret Thatcher. Sometimes people you fundamentally disagree with do very good things.
Skidmore has arguably already saved the UK’s Net Zero target when he was given the job of reviewing it by the free market fundamentalist Liz Truss during her short but catastrophic Premiership. His conclusion? Go further, faster. The targets stayed – after all, if one of your own tribe says “we must do this”, you’re far more likely to listen than being influenced by angry protesters waving placards.
If anybody was able to persuade Sunak that the UK should be building on its climate legacy rather than taking our foot off the accelerator, it would be Chris Skidmore. Maybe he felt his influence was waning, or just frustrated that the climate agenda was still forming part of Sunak’s culture war electoral traps for the Labour Party, but he was definitely a brake on post-Uxbridge by-election idiocy (where a surprise Conservative victory has been over interpreted as a sign of wider anti-environmental sentiment). He may have only had a few more months of influence having announced he was standing down at the election, but his voice would’ve been very influential, if only to make things less bad. A sad day, as I say.
Photo: Official Portrait of Chris Skidmore MP by Chris McAndrew, used under Creative Commons licence