Britain appoints Rees-Mogg, who dismissed climate change risks, energy role

Jacob Rees-Mogg walks outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain September 6, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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  • Rees-Mogg worries about climate alarmism
  • Business leaders hope for a clear industrial strategy
  • Rees-Mogg nicknamed “the honorable gentleman of the 18th century”

LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Britain has appointed lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has expressed skepticism about the need to tackle climate change as its new business secretary, fearing he could delay the goal of reducing net-zero emissions by 2050.

Rees-Mogg, dubbed “the honorable gentleman of the 18th century” because of his chic and double-breasted suit, was appointed on Tuesday to head the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is responsible for the government’s strategy on climate change.

In the past, Rees-Mogg has expressed concerns about “climate alarmism”, said humanity should adapt to climate change rather than mitigate it, and warned that the drive to achieve emissions net zero is responsible for high energy prices.

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After his appointment, Rees Mogg said his priority would be to provide help for people facing significantly higher energy bills and the government will soon come up with a package to help the public.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss supported the legally binding goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century, but supported the removal of green levies and the return of fracking there is local support.

One of the contentious issues Rees-Mogg faces is providing a clear and stable policy environment for business after successive Conservative governments crafted energy and industrial strategies that were scrapped a few years later.

The 2017 industrial strategy, which aspired to make Britain the most innovative economy in the world, was scrapped by Rees-Mogg’s predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng in 2021, who said it was a “themeless pudding”.

British business leaders told Reuters they needed certainty to support investment and expressed skepticism about Rees-Mogg’s ability to provide that assurance.

A UK business leader says Rees Mogg, who embraces his image as an English gentleman, “was more in tune with the industrial revolution than the digital revolution”.

Rees-Mogg, 53, the current Brexit opportunities minister, has pushed to force all civil servants back to the office, which was dubbed by former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries as ‘Dickensian’.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously backed Rees-Mogg’s campaign. Johnson’s spokesman said every effort must be made to get government officials back to their normal work environment after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The son of a former editor of The Times newspaper, Rees-Mogg was raised by his nanny – who now cares for his six children – then studied at Eton, an exclusive private school, and the University of ‘Oxford, where he studied history.

Rees-Mogg joined J. Rothschild Investment Management in 1991, focusing on emerging markets, and later worked in Hong Kong. He then created his own wealth management company.

Since entering politics in 2010, Rees Mogg has pushed for a purist view of Brexit and was appointed leader of the House of Commons in 2019 in his first cabinet post.

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Paul Sandle, editing by Alistair Smout and Deepa Babington

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Teresa H. Sadler