Whither Sustainability under Boris?
And so it came to pass that Boris Johnson took up the position he craved as a young boy, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As with any new leader, the Sustainability world will be scouring the tea leaves for signs of future direction.
Initial impressions were more than a little meh. Johnson’s first speech only referenced climate change in relation to the opportunities to boost the UK’s battery technology sector. His first speech in the House of Commons was better:
Our United Kingdom of 2050 will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions – because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles – cars, even planes, powered by British-made battery technology being developed right here, right now.
I would normally laud this as a clear commitment, however in this case I have a number of reservations:
- This pledge nothing new, just a reaffirmation of outgoing PM Theresa May’s leaving gift to us – there is no added Boris bonus;
- Many of Johnson’s clear commitments in the past have become decidedly murky when push comes to shove, most notably how his pledge to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to stop a third runway at Heathrow airport has morphed into “following the court cases with interest.”
- While Johnson’s allies claim he will govern as a liberal One Nation Tory, he has appointed Ayn Rand-loving libertarians to key cabinet roles, most notably Sajid Javid as Chancellor – will Javid really mould the economy to respect ecological limits?
- Losing Michael Gove as Environment sec and Clare Perry from the Clean Growth brief (apparently at her own request to head up COP26) begs the question who will die in a ditch for Sustainability in the new Cabinet.
Lets hope that my fears are misplaced and the Cabinet will step up to make ‘net zero’ a reality, but there are worrying signs that lip service will become the order of the day.