Boris Johnson being named as the new Prime Minister of the UK is great news for Boris. But it’s not great news for the UK’s attempts to tackle climate change.
On the plus side, the former Mayor of London was associated with the introduction of the bicycle hire scheme in London which became known as “Boris Bikes”.
But when it comes to serious action, he has not only dismissed climate change but he has also voted against measures to tackle it.
Johnson nailed his colours to the mast when he wrote an article in The Telegraph in 2013 on the abnormally cold weather at the time.
While he conceded that the increasingly cold weather was “unusual”, he dismissed climate change concerns as “good intentions”. He also went on to say that he observed there were “at least some other reputable scientists who say that it [climate change] is complete tosh, or at least that there is no evidence to support it.”
Two years later he went on to claim that “global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation.”
Mr Johnson also voted against various measures to prevent climate change, which are all tracked by website, TheyWorkForYou.
His track record shows that in 2016 he voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry. He also voted against setting a decarbonisation target for the UK within six months of June 2016, and to review it annually thereafter.
Fortunately he seems to have shifted his position somewhat since (as he is prone to do on almost every issue) and is no longer an outright climate denier. At least, not all of the time.
In 2017 he did an about turn and endorsed the government’s climate change position, saying that the UK was lobbying the US “at all levels to continue to take climate change extremely seriously”.
In April of this year he said the Extinction Rebellion were “right to sound the alarm about all manner of man-made pollution, including CO2” – but he also described the young climate change activists as “smug”.
He has also sought to downplay the global responsibility of the UK, saying: “The UK is by no means the prime culprit, and may I respectfully suggest to the Extinction Rebellion crew that next Earth Day, they look at China.”
During the leadership challenge a number of people spoke of their fear of the implications of him being elected.
Professor David King, the former chief scientist, said the then foreign secretary oversaw “devastating” cuts in efforts to tackle the climate crisis and then wanted to hush them up.
King was serving as the UK special representative for climate change when Johnson was appointed foreign secretary. He told the Guardian that Johnson’s term in office coincided with a 60% cut in his team of climate attaches across the world from 165 to just 65. This was at a time when the UK had signed up to the Paris Agreement and was making efforts to cut emissions.
Boris’s flip-flopping behaviour is in contrast to several other Conservative leadership hopefuls who had said earlier in the leadership race that they accepted the reality of the climate emergency.
Andrea Leadsom, a former cabinet minister, Sajid Javid, the home secretary, and Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, told a One Nation group hustings last month that they would tackle the climate emergency as a global crisis.
Javid even promised to put the UK’s response to the climate emergency on a similar footing to counter-terrorism.
In contrast, during the leadership battle Johnson did not express any view on whether there is a climate emergency.
The focus for the new Prime Minister will undoubtedly be Brexit and the implications of a hard or soft exit, pushing climate change down the agenda.
This is bad news for the environment, and bad news for us all.