The former Environment Secretary airs his highly sceptical views about climate change. Photo: Getty
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Former Environment Secretary: climate change forecasts are “wildly exaggerated”

The Tory MP and former cabinet secretary Owen Paterson voices his highly sceptical views on climate change and energy.

The former Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, who lost his job in the government’s summer reshuffle this year, will call climate change forecasts “consistently and wildly exaggerated” in a speech today. Although he accepts the “main points of greenhouse theory”, he will question the consensus about how urgent the situation is:

Over the past 35 years, the earth’s atmosphere has warmed nothing like as fast as forecast, and over the last 18 years it has not warmed at all, according to some sources.

The Conservative MP’s sceptical views on global warming are no secret, and he could hardly contain his distaste for onshore wind farms even when serving in the cabinet. He has since referred to the environment lobby as the “Green Blob”, in an echo of Michael Gove’s mockery of critics in the education profession when he was Education Secretary.

Paterson is now clearly using the freedom provided by his relatively new seat in the backbenches to unleash the extent of his belief that government energy policy will “fail to keep the lights on”.

He is delivering a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the think tank thought to be a hub of climate change denial headed by arch sceptic and former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

Paterson will condemn the government’s “blind adhesion” to carbon emissions targets, and call for the Climate Change Act’s legally-binding target to be suspended:

The 2050 target commits us to a huge expansion of electricity generation capacity, requiring vast investment.

Instead, Paterson is expected to champion fracking, combined heat and power plants, and “small modular nuclear reactors”.

He will add that it was “complete nonsense” that he was unable to repeal the hunting ban when in cabinet.

This intervention is significant because Paterson represents a Tory voice far away even from the alleged “green crap” of post-husky David Cameron. On the party’s right wing, Paterson speaks for a number of Conservative MPs, and voters, disgruntled with the leadership in general. Its commitment to the 2008 Climate Change Act means politicians like Paterson can tell horror stories to rural voters about wind farms, other renewable energy sources and the cost to the taxpayer of a government attempting to be environmentally friendly.

There was some chatter at Conservative party conference about Paterson being a potential stalking horse for the Tory party leadership, possibly ready to spring into action if the party loses the Rochester and Strood by-election in November. Although this is just a rumour, Paterson is certainly clearly differentiating himself from the party leadership he once served.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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