Pow defends green track record in row over climate credentials

Junior environment minister Rebecca Pow has expressed her surprise at being ranked amongst the MPs least committed to acting against climate change by the Guardian.

The newspaper placed Pow, who has been charged with leading the new Environment Bill through the House of Commons, alongside some of the most vociferous opponents of climate action such as Sir Christopher Chope, one of a handful of MPs to vote against the 2008 Climate Change Act.

It notes that she voted against bills to introduce a climate levy on renewables, a vehicle emissions tax, a carbon capture and storage strategy, a target on decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply and onshore wind subsidies, while voting in favour of expanding Heathrow Airport. In all six cases, Pow voted with the Conservative Party whip.

However, Pow said that she found the results “surprising given my dedicated focus on environmental issues since arriving in parliament in 2015”. While she did not challenge the ranking’s methodology, she argued that she is “widely considered to be a leading voice on the environment in parliament”.

“I played a key role in legislating for net zero emissions - raising this twice in PMQs,” she said. “As a result of this work with stakeholders and other colleagues, the UK is the first major economy in the world to commit to this.”

Pow also pointed to her work to promote soil health, secure a ban on microbeads in cosmetics and protect ancient woodlands as examples of her green credentials.

Farming minister George Eustice was also placed among the lowest ranking MPs, while environment secretary Theresa Villiers came out among the most climate-friendly Conservative MPs.

Zac Goldsmith, a cabinet minister with responsibilities across DEFRA and the Department for International Development, was one of the only Conservative MPs to be ranked in the top 50%, having voted against Heathrow expansion and in favour of a temporary fracking ban.

He nevertheless criticised the ranking, accusing the Guardian of distorting prime minister Boris Johnson’s voting record. He described the results as “utterly dishonest” and using an “absurdly skewed” formula.

A spokesperson for Guardian News & Media said: “Our climate ranking piece measures how individual MPs have voted in Parliament on a number of key climate-related issues, according to a detailed published methodology which also takes into account a wide range of other factors to provide indicative rather than conclusive outcomes.”

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