7th November: Weekly News Digest

We have a new Prime Minister..

Rishi Sunak took office this week, making history as the first ever Hindu and ethnic minority person to become Prime Minister of the UK. Sunak has quickly gotten to work, appointing a new cabinet during a reshuffle only hours after officially taking the post. 

Notable Appointments?

Suella Braverman has been re-appointed Home Secretary just six days after she resigned (or was sacked??) from Liz Truss’ cabinet after admitting responsibility for a ‘technical infringement’ of the rules regarding breaches of data. 

Braverman dropped out of the leadership contest last week and publicly supported Sunak to become PM, a significant endorsement from a candidate on the right of the Conservative Party. Braverman’s reappointment looks to be both internally and externally divisive, with ex-Tory Party Chairman Jake Berry criticising Braverman and claiming she was responsible for multiple breaches of the ministerial code.

Other changes worth mentioning include the appointment of Therese Coffey as Environment Secretary and Kemi Badenoch as Equalities Minister. Badenoch has been criticised for her record on Transgender issues and recently used her first Parliamentary appearance in the new role to denounce LGBT magazine Pink News. 

Importantly, Jeremy Hunt remains in his post as Chancellor of the Exchequer. This should be viewed as an endorsement by Sunak of Hunt’s proposed economic platform. Hunt has delayed the announcement of his medium-term fiscal plan and has instead opted to create an Autumn Budget announced on November the 17th.

What should we expect?

This upcoming Budget looks to be centred around reducing government debt and decreasing public spending to a “sustainable level” to increase economic stability. With a potential £30-70bn fiscal hole in the public finances and rumours of tax increases, the UK could be fast approaching a new austerity period.

Take a look at last week’s newsletter to understand the impact this may have on crucial issues like the Energy Bill relief schemes.

Relevant (and generally depressing) stuff from the last week

Sunak has reinstated the ban on shale gas fracking in England, reversing the unpopular decision made by Liz Truss after large-scale opposition to the policy by environmental groups and local communities across the country. 

However, there are still some questions around Sunak’s environmental credentials. Just last week Sunak voted against a Labour Party motion that sought to reintroduce the ban on fracking, and during July’s leadership campaign he affirmed his support for fracking in situations where ‘local support existed’. 

Downing Street have also recently announced that Rishi Sunak won’t be attending the COP27 summit next month.For critics of Sunak and the Tories, this demonstrates a lack of commitment towards action on climate change and shows plainly their mismanaged priorities. The Labour Party have called it a failure of climate leadership not to attend. 

Baroness Jones of the House of Lords warned this week that the Government risks legal action if it fails to set out targets for the Environment Act of 2021 by the end of the month. The government has a legal obligation to publish a set of environmental targets for this legislation by the end of October. A failure to publish these targets is both unlawful and risks undermining the legitimacy of the bill, with any potential progress made unable to be measured effectively without benchmarks.

How is wider progress going?

(Badly)

The UN’s Environment Agency have published a report this week which concluded that current global pledges to reduce carbon emissions are woefully inadequate. The report found that there is “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” and the only possibility to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis will require the “rapid transformation of societies”.

If the current global pledges for 2030 were met in full, we would see a global temperature increase of 2.5C. If the longer-term net zero emissions by 2050 commitments were met, we would still see temperatures rise by 1.8C. The report states the current pace of action means that it is not credible to even meet this temperature limit without fundamental improvements.

Lot’s to think about here Members, let us know in the Slack Community what your thoughts are!