New national leaders. A blow to planet’s prospects?

By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association

Such has been the magnitude and speed of change amongst the rulers of our nation this last week or so, it’s been hard to keep track with what’s been going on behind the scenes.

How has the death of the Queen, the accession of King Charles III and the appointment of Liz Truss as PM affected the UK’s approach to sustainability?

It was during the debate following Liz Truss’s announcement of the Government’s response to the energy crisis that we first got wind that all was not well with the Queen. There was little time for debating the merits of the consumer energy price guarantee and the proposed measures to insulate businesses against the worst of the price shock.

Limiting the maximum bill for a typical household to £2,500 for two years was welcomed by most as a lifesaver (quite literally in some cases), although many question whether it could have been targeted more at those in the greatest need and queried whether consumers will curb their consumption now the price has been capped.

As for businesses, the scheme is less clear. Yes, they will receive equivalent support to consumers, but only for six months at which point a review will decide which ‘vulnerable industries’ require further support. The consensus seems to be that hospitality falls into that bracket and will therefore receive longer term protection. Here’s hoping.

And what about steps to protect us from the dangers of ongoing energy crises? A major announcement about insulating our old housing stock? A scheme to fast track the mass installation of heat source pumps? Loosening of the planning restrictions on onshore wind farms? None of these was mentioned. Instead a package of measures that, while having the veneer of an attempt to tackle the energy crisis, appear more like a ripping up of the 2050 Net Zero deadline.

One hundred new gas and oil licences and lifting the moratorium on fracking will do nothing to insulate us from shortages or price rises. Neither will scrapping the green levy. To be fair, or perhaps confusingly, there was mention of accelerating new sources of energy supply, from oil and gas to nuclear, wind and solar as well as a review of how we’re meeting our Net Zero 2050 target.

All this while, just the other side of the Channel, our European neighbours are running major campaigns to encourage lower energy consumption, banning advertising of fossil fuels and in one Dutch city also extending that prohibition to meat.

There’s mounting unease amongst environmental campaigners. Direct action and protests look likely to be ramped up this autumn and winter and legal challenges, like the one brought by Feedback to force the Government to adopt more of the proposals of National Food Strategy in order to meet its Net Zero targets, are on the horizon.

What of the royals? While the Queen was no environmental campaigner, she was from that wartime generation, famed for her two-bar electric heater and regular use of Tupperware – the make do and mend brigade. King Charles on the other hand comes with significant green credentials. The BIG question is how far he can push that agenda now he’s acceded to the throne? We won’t know the answer for sure for a while. But perhaps he might, through some constitutional means, be able to exert just a little bit of pressure on the first of the Prime Ministers of his reign.

While we await that, hospitality operators looking to take more immediate action as they seek not only to preserve the planet and their profits might like to check out this guide/course to Help you Survive the Winter, from Healthy Hospo.

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