Boris Johnson must take a strong stance on the environment and climate crisis as he takes over as Britain’s new Prime Minister, green NGOs and think tanks have said.
Johnson has this week won a landslide victory over rival Jeremy Hunt to take over the reins at Number 10 from Theresa May.
While Brexit is the number one policy issue on the horizon, environment activists have noted Johnson’s mixed voting record on green issues, at odds with the recent declaration by the UK that we are facing a climate emergency.
According to public voting record, They Work for You, Johnson has ‘almost always voted against measures to prevent climate change’. He has voted against a requirement for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry, against setting a decarbonisation target for the UK, and against a vehicle tax based on carbon emissions.
He was praised for opposing an expansion of Heathrow Airport and for making plans for an ultra-low emissions zone in London, although implementing it was left to his successor Sadiq Khan.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “Boris Johnson will step into No10 as multiple temperature records are being broken in the UK and around the world.
“The challenge of the climate and nature emergencies is staring us all in the face – the question is whether the new Prime Minister is ready to rise to it.”
Johnson’s record includes many encouraging statements, which could give hope to people concerned about the state of our planet, as well as many discouraging statements that could make the same people despair, Sauven added.
Johnson’s relationship with US president Donald Trump is another potential cause for concern, as Trump is widely criticised as a climate change denier and has scaled back the US’ involvement in global climate agreements, such as the Paris Agreements, and therefore reduced its effectiveness.
The threat of no-deal
While enigmatic on climate and the environment, Johnson is known for his outspoken stance on Brexit and has pledged to ensure Britain leaves the EU by the end of October, with or without a deal.
The National Farmers’ Union president, Minette Batters, has campaigned widely against a no-deal Brexit, calling it “catastrophic” and something that would “set us back decades”.
In a statement in response to Johnson’s election, she said: “To achieve the best outcome from Brexit, we need to leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. A deal with the EU is crucial to maintaining free trade with our closest neighbours and largest trading partners, as well as access to people that want to come to the UK to work on farms."
Alongside tariffs and delays at the border that threaten disruption of food imports and potential shortages, there are fears that leaving with no deal would see the UK turning to other key trading partners, such as the US, where quality and welfare standards on food are much lower.
Executive director of green think tank, Green Alliance, Shaun Spiers, wrote in a blog that: “A no-deal Brexit carries serious risks for the environment…it must be avoided.
“The environment has had a low profile in the Tory leadership context and Boris Johnson will have a lot on his plate. But given the severity of the climate and wider environmental crisis, and growing public concern, he would be wise to take the issue seriously.”