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Theresa May
UK POLICY
12 July 2016 12:10

Revealed: The time when Theresa May spoke out on climate change

Leo Hickman

Leo Hickman

07.12.16
Leo Hickman

Leo Hickman

12.07.2016 | 12:10pm
UK policyRevealed: The time when Theresa May spoke out on climate change

Tomorrow afternoon, Theresa May is set to replace David Cameron as the UK’s prime minister.

The home secretary and Conservative MP for Maidenhead will take charge of the country following a period of, at times, brutal political tumult since the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. May was left as the only remaining candidate to lead the Conservative party – and hence become prime minister – after Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, unexpectedly withdrew from the race yesterday.

To date, very little has been known about May’s personal policy stance on energy and climate change. Last week, EnergyDesk noted: “May has been largely silent on the issue of climate change since becoming an MP. Meanwhile, her voting record on the environment while in government mirrors that of her party.”

Yesterday, during a speech made just before Leadsom’s exit, May said: “I want to see an energy policy that emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users.”

Climate Change Act 2008

However, Carbon Brief has uncovered a cached version of a statement published on May’s website back in December 2008, in which she was reacting to the passing into law of the Climate Change Act. Under the headline, “Friends of the Earth praise Theresa for her work on climate change”, May says:

“I am thrilled to see that after years of Conservative pressure, we have finally passed a necessary and ambitious piece of legislation on Climate Change. Britain is the first country in the world to formally bind itself to cut greenhouse emissions and I strongly believe this will improve our national and economic security. To stay reliant on fossil fuels would mean tying ourselves to increasingly unstable supplies which could endanger our energy security and the Climate Change and Energy Bills mark an important step for both the health of our economy and the health of our nation. It is now vital that we stick to these targets. I will continue to put pressure on the Government over the third runway at Heathrow as an extra 222,000 flights a year would undermine our national targets and seriously damage the health of the local community.”

Green energy

Using the same internet archive, Carbon Brief has also found an earlier statement published by May in July 2006. It carries particular pertinence now given the cutback of subsidies for solar power and the current travails of the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant. It says:

“I welcome that the Government has responded to cross-party pressure to make it easier for homes in Maidenhead and across the country to install renewable energy like solar panels or mini-wind turbines. Where the Government offers positive, constructive and reasonable policies, they will have my support. But the Government could do far more to promote green energy, rather than giving unfair subsidies to new nuclear power stations. Conservatives want to enhance our environment by seeking a long-term cross-party consensus on sustainable development and climate change – instead of short-term thinking or surrendering to vested interests. The modern, compassionate Conservative Party believes that quality of life matters just as much as quantity of money.”

Flooding

The River Thames forms the northern boundary of May’s Maidenhead constituency and the area has been struck by flooding, most notably, perhaps, in early 2014. It doesn’t appear, though, that May has ever explicitly raised the topic of climate change resilience when discussing how her constituency should better prepare itself for future flooding events. Instead, her focus to date seems to have been on dredging the river and ensuring better insurance cover.

Home Secretary Theresa May joins Surrey County Council Leader David Hodge at Molesey Lock and Weir near Hampton Court to discuss the River Thames Scheme after the government announced £60m of extra funding for the flood defence project, in December 2014.

Home Secretary Theresa May joins Surrey County Council Leader David Hodge at Molesey Lock and Weir near Hampton Court to discuss the River Thames Scheme after the government announced £60m of extra funding for the flood defence project, in December 2014. Credit: Surrey County Council News via Flickr.

Following the 2014 floods, May published a document (pdf) on her website, which says:

The lack of dredging along the Thames is a common cause of complaint. Theresa has raised this with the Environment Agency (EA) on several occasions, and has now asked for more information on sites where removing gravel and silt has been identified as having a proven benefit.

On the issue of insurance for victims of flooding, the document adds:

The availability of affordable flood insurance has been an issue of concern for some time, and there are fears that the recent flooding will exacerbate difficulties in getting good quality insurance. The Government’s Flood Re provides homes at high-risk of flooding with affordable flood insurance. However, properties in Council Tax Band H are excluded from Flood Re, and several properties in the Maidenhead constituency are likely to be affected by this. Theresa has raised residents’ concerns with HM Treasury.

Earlier this year, an article in the Royal Borough Observer, a local newspaper, showed that May has continued to push on this issue:

Maidenhead’s MP has met with the chairman of a scheme which will aim to help people in flood risk areas to get affordable flood insurance. Theresa May met with the chairman of Flood Re to discuss the scheme, which is set to launch in April.

Again, it is not known whether May brought up the issue of climate change in this meeting. Flood Re says (pdf) it was set up, in part, “as a result of increasingly volatile weather and a better understanding of flood risk”.

Main image: Theresa May joins Surrey County Council Leader David Hodge at Molesey Lock and Weir, in December 2014. Credit: Surrey County Council News via Flickr.
Sharelines from this story
  • Carbon Brief has uncovered a cached version of a statement Theresa May made on climate change back in December 2008
  • Sydney

    Hopefully Lord Deben of the Committee on Climate Change will brief Theresa swiftly as to the dangers we are inflicting on the planet and the effects already in Maidenhead. There are many job and growth opportunities around decarbonisation and (hopefully) she might respond to these and even to oppose fossil fuel subsidies.

  • Andrew Warren

    Congratulations upon locating those very pertinent archived quotations. They read just like the speeches that David Cameron was making , when leader of the Opposition ….

  • David Overton

    This mirrors the shifting views of Republican politicians in the US. Around 2007 and 2008, leading US Republicans openly discussed their concern about climate change and their support for actions to address it (including Mitt Romney, GW Bush, John McCain, and Newt Gingrich). But then, with more corporate dark money funding their campaigns, they have become climate change skeptics, even though the evidence for climate change has continued to grow.

  • robertpalgrave

    It was Teresa May who said Gordon Brown’s appointment as PM without winning a general election was ‘undemocratic’. Let’s hope her position on climate change is more consistent than her attitude on unelected prime ministers…


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