BoJo’s bold, green plan?

U.K. PM Boris Johnson committed to the most ambitious GHG cuts of the G20, however gaping holes in his green agenda remain

Illustration by Benoit Tardif

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson surprised his country in November by introducing a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution.” His £12-billion plan aims to phase out petrol-powered vehicles by 2030, quadruple offshore wind power, boost hydrogen power, develop zero-emission planes and ships, invest in new carbon-capture projects, retrofit homes and public buildings, and make London the world’s centre of green finance – all while creating 250,000 new jobs.

Naturally, the PM took a pasting for thinking too small.

“This announcement doesn’t remotely meet the scale of the jobs emergency or the climate emergency,” said Labour MP Ed Miliband. “France and Germany are investing tens of billions of euros. This provides, at best, £4 billion of new money over several years.”

Caroline Lucas, the U.K.’s sole Green Party MP, called Johnson’s plan “a shopping list, not a plan to address the climate emergency. It commits only a fraction of the necessary resources.”

Compare BoJo’s climate budget to U.S. president Joe Biden’s proposed US$2 trillion over four years, or US$500 billion a year, and Johnson’s critics do have a point.

Still, Greenpeace was slightly kinder, saying Boris’s announcement “signals the end of the road for polluting cars and vans, and a historic turning point on climate action.” But the organization criticized the plan for being “fixated on other speculative solutions, such as nuclear and hydrogen from fossil fuels, that will not be taking us to zero emissions anytime soon, if ever.”

Feedback is our friend. Three weeks after releasing his green plan, the PM and leader of the Conservative Party upped the ante, pledging to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (based on 1990 levels) 68% by 2030 – the deepest GHG cuts in the Group of 20 nations.

The constructive criticism continues. As climate scientist Sir Brian Hoskins told BBC News, “Mr. Johnson’s target is ambitious – but we need action to back it up, right now.”

Mind you, many would be pleased to see Canada’s Conservative leaders share Johnson's ambition. But with Jason Kenney in Alberta pitching pipelines, Ontario’s Doug Ford dismissing the federal carbon tax as “some green scam,” and federal Tory leader Erin O’Toole saying he’ll consult the provinces on climate policy – we won't hold our breath.

Update: Johnson has since committed an additional £3 billion in climate finance to support biodiversity protection. But gaping holes remain in Johnson’s green agenda: his government recently decided not to block a new coal mine and last week approved the use of bee-harming neonic pesticides banned in Europe.

“New coal mines and pesticides... the UK's so called ‘green industrial revolution’ is off to a great start, “tweeted 18-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. “Very credible indeed.”

A version of this brief appears in the upcoming Winter Issue of Corporate Knights magazine.

Rick Spence is a business writer, speaker and consultant in Toronto specializing in entrepreneurship, innovation and growth. He is also a senior editor at Corporate Knights.

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