Going Green? What the most environmentally friendly Conservative Cabinet might look like
By Saskia Vredenburch
In the run up to COP26, attention is increasingly being turned to the Government, its plans to address climate change and how the UK will reach Net Zero emissions by 2050. While ambitious targets have been set (e.g., in the Net Zero Strategy and the Heat & Buildings Strategy), many argue that the Government’s rhetoric isn’t matched by its actions. Critics suggest that there needs to be more environmentally conscious MPs in the Cabinet if we are ever going change this pattern. Cabinet and Ministers are appointed based on a range of factors: support for the Leader, where they sit on the political spectrum, what part of the UK they represent and gender. Yet nothing about their environmental credentials? What if, in an ideal world, you could pick the greenest Conservative Cabinet? What would it look like? Well, Instinctif Partners UK Public Policy team have had a go!
How did we choose?
The left has always sought to claim the environment and reaching Net Zero as their issue to own; but, in recent years the Conservative Party has embraced the issue and the growth of the Conservative Environment Network is a testament to this.
In 2019, all Conservative MPs were elected on a platform of delivering Net Zero by 2050 and a Green Industrial Revolution. That said, there are some who have a track record that goes above and beyond the Conservative Party Manifesto. In identifying those MPs, we looked at:
- What they’ve said and how they’ve voted in Parliament,
- What environmental groups and organisations they’re members of, and
- What eco-conscious hobbies they have and lifestyle choices they’ve made.
No system of measuring political actions and beliefs is perfect – especially in a world where people are rewarded for toeing the party line – but what is clear is that there is a significant (and growing) band of Conservative MPs who are committed to improving the environment, reducing carbon emissions and meeting Net Zero.
Taking the vagaries of party politics and the nuances of local issues into account, alongside having the experience necessary to serve in some of the highest offices in the land, our Public Policy team have picked the greenest team. Our only omission is the PM’s father, the long-term environmental champion – Stanley Johnson – but as he’s not an MP or in the House of Lords, we were sadly not able to include him.
Who’s Who of our ‘Green Cabinet’: a snapshot
We have provided an analysis of two green Cabinet Ministers to demonstrate the methodology behind our appointments. The rest of our Ministers are not individually featured but rest assured that they went through the same scrutiny process.
You can’t pick a Green Conservative Cabinet and not choose Zac Goldsmith. Throughout his political career, Goldsmith has consistently put the environment before his own party and has been shaping environmental policy since his political career began. An environmental activist from a young age, he ran the Ecologist Magazine at just 23 years old. Across all metrics, he has been one of the most consistent, environmentally friendly Tories, deciding to rebel rather than support the Heathrow expansion, fracking, and toothless decarbonisation targets and therefore qualified easily for Foreign Secretary in our fictional green cabinet.
Henry Smith MP
Though not widely known outside SW1, Smith is a long-standing vegetarian and frequently advocates the benefits of reducing meat consumption in order to reduce carbon emissions and is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Vegetarianism and Veganism and Animal Welfare. With our diets becoming increasingly politicised and calls from climate activists (and even BEIS) to reduce our meat and dairy consumption, the lifestyle choices of MPs are no longer irrelevant to their political futures and is latched onto as leading by example. Smith, like many Conservative MPs, is also an active member of the Conservative Environment Network Parliamentary caucus and has consistently urged the government to tackle the existential threat of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The UK Public Policy team has a track record of supporting renewable energy projects and helping companies interact with Westminster & Whitehall in terms of reducing carbon emissions in heat, power and transport sectors and also in terms of showcasing Net Zero innovation. To understand the impact decision makers can have on your business, Instinctif will continue to measure the Government’s green credentials and what this means for Net Zero and ultimately your business.