ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have vowed to step up protests following the appointment of the new prime minister, over fears the pledges of Cop26 are being ditched amid the energy crisis.

Reports last week suggested Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss will sign off on plans to ramp up North Sea drilling, while rival Rishi Sunak has also vowed to boost the domestic production of oil and gas.

Both candidates have also backed lifting the ban on fracking, which has been halted in the UK since 2019.

Tim Crosland, director of the charity Plan B and a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion (XR), told the Sunday National: “Less than a year ago, people were in Glasgow for COP26, saying it was the last chance for humanity and talking in particular about the 1.5C degrees threshold [for limiting global warming].

“The science says if you go beyond that, then you risk whole regions of the world becoming uninhabitable.

“What they also said in Glasgow is that means reducing emissions from fossil fuels by 45% by 2030 – the next eight years. What that means, according to the experts, is no more supply of fossil fuels. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak know that.”

He added he believed the cost of living crisis and the Ukraine war were being exploited to “push through policies that otherwise would not be tolerated”.

Crosland said there would be some “pretty major” protest actions from October to April but declined to give further details.

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On Friday, climate activists from XR targeted the House of Commons, including supergluing themselves around the Speaker’s chair, after gaining entry by posing as tourists.

“This a broad and diverse movement, people organise their own actions, but there will be collective actions as well and it will be resistance,” Crosland said.

“That involves doing whatever is necessary, that is, non-violent and peaceful, to signal this is not happening in our name.”

Freya Aitchison, Friends of the Earth Scotland oil and gas campaigner, said whichever candidate wins the keys to Downing Street, their support of new fossil fuel developments is “effectively climate denial”.

“Evidence of climate breakdown is mounting from the devastating floods in Pakistan to droughts in the UK,” she said.

“Climate science is crystal clear that to have any chance of achieving the climate limits reaffirmed at Cop26, we cannot allow new oil and gas to be extracted.

“Yet the UK Government appears hell-bent on ramping up North Sea fossil fuel supply and escalating both the ongoing climate and energy crises.”

Experts have also warned that the idea of the North Sea as a “plentiful cheap source of gas” is out of date.

David Jenkins, professor of energy and buildings at Heriot-Watt University, said: “As a short-term solution, whether you are talking about North Sea gas or fracking or whatever, that doesn’t kick in in a way that would help us this coming winter.

“Longer-term just ties us into more reliance on fossil fuels, which is obviously something we are trying to get away from. It just shows really poor climate literacy, really.”

The announcement by Russia that its Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany will remain closed indefinitely on Friday has intensified fears about energy shortages across Europe this winter. Jenkins said the situation meant the only option in the short-term was “firefighting” on the cost of energy.

“We are having to put in measures which are very much about getting us through the winter and making sure people can actually afford to heat their homes,” he added.

But if a reversion to fossil fuels is not the answer for the longer term, what can be done?

A new report from Offshore Energies today warns “significant improvements” must be made in the rate of wind turbine installation if offshore renewable energy targets are to be met by 2030.

Research found that almost half of the offshore wind projected needed to reach the target are only at the concept stage and it typically takes more than 13 years to move to the operation stage due to planning and approval delays.

Nick Turton, external affairs director at global professional body the Energy Institute, pointed out other major economies in the EU, which are more reliant on supplies from Russia than the UK, are “investing dramatically” in insulation of homes and businesses.

HE said: “There’s not vast amounts you can do now, this side of winter, the focus really needs to be on helping those people that find it hardest to pay their bills with money.

“Starting now, there needs to be a long-term multi-year retrofit programme for the whole of the UK to get our homes up to scratch – we have some of the leakiest homes in Europe and every bit of energy saved is a lot more money saved now.”

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He added: “For the next prime minister, the bit that has got to be filled in is where the policy is for the nearer term. That is going to really help people who are suffering this winter, next winter – as this could go on for a few years.

“Where are those policies on energy efficiency, on market reform to make sure the price we all pay is no more than it needs to be?

“That is where there is a big gap at the moment.”

Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “Whoever is the next prime minister, the science is clear that new exploration and extraction of fossil fuels is incompatible with avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

“We can’t respond to one crisis by making another worse and we need politicians of all colours to focus on real solutions like solar, wind, heat pumps and insulation rather than chasing the mirage that more domestic production could lower prices.”