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

Jacob Rees-Mogg walks outside Number 10 Downing Street in London
Jacob Rees-Mogg walks outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain September 6, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville
  • Rees-Mogg has expressed concern on climate alarmism
  • Business leaders hope for clear industrial strategy
  • Rees-Mogg nicknamed "the honorable gentleman from the 18th century"

LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Britain appointed lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has expressed scepticism about the need to fight climate change as the new business secretary, raising concerns that he could delay the target of reducing net zero emissions by 2050.

Rees-Mogg, nicknamed "the honorable gentleman from the 18th century" because of his poshness and trademark double-breasted suit, was on Tuesday put in charge of 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, rather than mitigate, climate change, and warned that the drive to getting to net zero emissions is responsible for high energy prices.

After his appointment, Rees Mogg said his priority would be to provide help for people dealing with sharply higher energy bills and that the government will soon bring forward a package to help the public.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss has backed the legally binding target of reducing net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century, but has supported scrapping green levies and bringing back fracking if there is local support.

One contentious issue facing Rees-Mogg is providing a clear and settled policy environment for business after successive Conservative governments have produced energy and industrial strategies that were abandoned just a few years later.

The 2017 Industrial Strategy, which aspired to make Britain the world's most innovative economy, was abolished by Rees-Mogg's predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng in 2021, who said it was a "pudding without a theme".

British business leaders told Reuters they need certainty to underpin investment and expressed scepticism Rees-Mogg will be able to provide that assurance.

One British business leader said that 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 minister for Brexit opportunities, 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 everything needed to be done to get government officials to return to their normal office working environments after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The son of a former editor of The Times newspaper, Rees-Mogg was raised by his nanny - who now looks after his own six children - and then studied at Eton, an exclusive private school, and Oxford University, 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 set up his own asset management company.

Since entering politics in 2010, Rees Mogg lobbied for a purist vision of Brexit and was appointed Leader of the House of Commons in 2019 in his first ministerial job.

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

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