10 net zero questions that should be put to Nigel Farage

James Murray
clock • 4 min read
Credit: Gage Skidmore
Image:

Credit: Gage Skidmore

The new Reform Party leader is arguably the UK's most prominent climate sceptic and his party wants to scrap the country's net zero goals - he should be asked what his ideological opposition to climate action means in practice

It is tempting to ignore Nigel Farage. He has failed to be elected as an MP on seven separate occasions, the Party he leads is a constant source of in-fighting and scandal, and the media's obsession with him only serves to inflate both his salience and his sense of self-importance.

But sadly for anyone who cares about climate action and deplores nativist populism, Farage's success in delivering his defining project in Brexit and his not so secret plan to reverse engineer a takeover of the Conservative Party means he cannot be ignored.

The latest u-turn that has seen him re-emerge as both leader of Reform and a candidate at the upcoming election drastically increases the chances of his plan to create an insurgent anti-immigration, climate denying, right wing party coming to fruition - most likely by hijacking the post-election Conservative Party.

There is still a lot standing in the way of this strategy. The UK is not the US, the Conservative Party could prove more resilient to takeover than the GOP, and the British Parliamentary system has a long history of successfully marginalising figures from the extremes of the political spectrum.

But equally, if Farage wants to be seen as a serious candidate and potential kingmaker he should be treated as such, and that means looking beyond the psychodrama and actually interrogating the policies he espouses. Reform is often vague on the policy levers it would actually seek to pull, preferring to position itself as a receptacle for any and all anti-immigration and anti-politics sentiment. When asked to get into specifics Farage quickly struggles and resorts to a mix of disdain and victimhood, as evidenced by this morning's media round.

But one area where Reform has been consistent is in its opposition to the UK's net zero agenda, despite polling suggesting that even a majority of its voters support climate action.

If they get the chance - and Farage's ill-tempered response to questions over the past 24 hours suggests they may not - journalists should try and pin the Reform leader down on precisely what his opposition to net zero means in practice. Here are 10 questions that should be answered:

  1. You have said you want to scrap the UK's net zero targets and scale back its efforts to decarbonise. Why do you think the large majority of voters who want to see more ambitious climate action are wrong?

  2. Can you explain the process by which axing net zero targets will reduce inflation when it has been shown the bulk of recent inflation was driven by high gas prices and rising food prices?

  3. What specific net zero policies would you scrap? Energy efficiency funding for fuel poor households? The UK Emissions Trading Scheme? Contracts with the UK's world leading offshore wind industry? Rules to tackle air and water pollution? How would the UK benefit from becoming the only major economy not to have a net zero target?

  4. Would you make the UK the only country to quit the Paris Agreement? How do you think that would impact the UK's international reputation?

  5. You will be aware the UK's trade deal with the EU contains pledges on climate action and the EU is working on a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. How would you respond if UK firms ended up facing carbon tariffs when exporting to the EU?

  6. All the world's leading automakers are committed to electrification and many of the world's top energy companies are rapidly increasing investment in renewables. How do you expect the UK to attract inward investment and ensure its existing industries remain competitive if the government is vocally opposed to decarbonisation?

  7. Do you agree with your predecessor as Reform leader, Richard Tice, that the "power of the sun or volcanoes" are a key factor in recent climate change? Can you explain this process, because if you could, you would win a Nobel Prize?

  8. How much do you expect the UK's climate adaptation budget to increase? How will you fund all the new sea walls, seafront relocations, and drought and flood resilience projects that will be needed?

  9. Which constituencies would you like to see host the UK's first fracking projects?

  10. What do you think would happen if your analysis of climate change risks are wrong and 3C of warming leads to collapsing food supply chains and soaring levels of migration?

There is little chance of Farage or for that matter the various Conservative candidates who have signalled their opposition to the UK's net zero goals being asked these questions, and zero chance of them being adequately answered. But they should be challenged all the same to defend a policy position that would undermine UK investment and energy security, increase its exposure to high and volatile fossil fuel prices and escalating climate impacts, and torch the country's international standing. The march of economically reckless and scientifically illiterate climate denialism into the political mainstream should face a proper interrogation.

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