Green party urges Tory leadership rivals to commit to tougher climate goals | Green party

The two candidates to be the UK’s next prime minister must commit to much tougher environmental targets and policies, the Green party has warned, as concerns over the climate, pollution and biodiversity have been largely absent from the leadership debates.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor of the exchequer, have both confirmed their commitment to the UK’s legally binding target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but have given little indication of how they would meet the goal.

Adrian Ramsay, the co-leader of the Green party, warned that the UK was already “living beyond its means” on the environment, by consuming far more resources than the planet could sustain, damaging nature beyond its capacity to recover, and emitting far more carbon dioxide than could be absorbed by trees, seas and soils.

Policy pronouncements by the two leadership candidates so far have focused on the economy and issues such as immigration, but Ramsay said pursuing economic growth at all costs was not possible without damaging the Earth’s life-support systems.

The Green party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said the UK was already ‘living beyond its means’ environmentally. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

He warned: “Just last week, the UK witnessed the hottest temperatures on record, and the consequences of climate disruption became clear for all to see. As wildfires raged, and people lost everything as their homes were burnt to the ground, the two candidates to become our next prime minister were talking more about economic growth than tackling the climate crisis.”

Ramsay called for a shift away from standard economic measures such as GDP, which rewards the overuse of resources and fails to account for factors such as people’s wellbeing and happiness.

Ramsay said: “Unfortunately, successive governments have for too long focused on economic growth at all costs, without acknowledging that it’s the quality of our economy that matters, not just the quantity. A narrow focus solely on economic growth will exacerbate the climate crisis and worsen social inequalities.”

Many economists are unhappy with GDP as the sole benchmark of success in the economy, and have called for a broader suite of measures that would take into account people’s wellbeing and the impact of human activities on the planet. Ramsay said making changes to the way the UK’s success was measured would benefit everyone.

“This requires a shift away from chasing economic growth only, and instead measuring the success of our economy by how it maximises people’s happiness without exceeding planetary boundaries. It also means policies to tackle the scourge of inequality and ensure we share the Earth’s resources fairly,” he said.

He also pointed to estimates of “Earth overshoot day”, the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that the planet can regenerate within a year. This year, that falls on Thursday. All resources used beyond this point are beyond what the Earth can naturally sustain, and all carbon dioxide emitted from this point is not absorbed but pours into the atmosphere to keep heating the planet for up to a century.

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Ramsay said: “On Earth overshoot day, I am calling on the Conservative leadership candidates to commit to broadening their focus from economic growth and show how they will ensure that the UK lives within our planetary means within the next 10 years.

“Our government should be working across the board to ensure we’re leading the way on pushing back Earth overshoot day further every year.”

Earth overshoot day has generally been getting earlier every year – in 2010 it fell on 21 August. But it briefly moved backwards by three weeks in 2020, during Covid restrictions, from late July to late August.

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