“Labour has more or less given up on the green agenda, because we’re doing so many things, whether it’s reducing the use of plastic bags, or whatever."
Boris Johnson sparked not one but several backlashes at a hustings in Darlington on Friday.
He was condemned as ‘crass’ and ‘anti-immigrant’ for saying ‘everyone should speak English’ when asked about immigrants. Welsh party Plaid Cymru said the fact he didn’t even consider Welsh speakers ‘just proves that Wales isn’t even an afterthought to him.’
But his comments on the Conservatives’ environmental record also raised some eyebrows.
Asked about how to appeal to young people, Johnson responded:
“We’ve got a fantastic record of environmental improvements. This is the party that champions clean battery technology…erm…all the improvements in air quality we’ve seen in the last few years…
“Labour has more or less given up on the green agenda, because we’re doing so many things, whether it’s reducing the use of plastic bags or whatever.
“[We’re] doing so many things on the environment that they feel the Tory party is now the party of a cleaner and better environment. That’s a winner for us. The jobs we’re creating in clean technology will continue to expand for years to come…and that’s a message we can really sell to young people.”
While Theresa May adopted a ‘net zero‘ carbon target by 2050 in her last weeks in office, it fell far short of the 2040 date many green campaigners say is necessary to avert a climate catastrophe – and not a single penny in extra funding was pledged to reach it. Moreover, the Tory government has repeatedly been taken to court over illegal levels of air pollution in many parts of the UK. Johnson himself has previously tried to cast doubt on climate change, in comment pieces.
Labour appear to be moving towards backing a 2030 net zero target, and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said companies will be delisted if they fail to tackle climate change. The party are also set to bolster the Bank of England’s powers to steer green investment.
Aliya Yule, co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal told Left Foot Forward:
“These are deeply ironic claims from Boris Johnson, whose campaign is being funded by climate change deniers.The truth is he has never shown any interest in the ‘green agenda’. Rather the only agendas he serves are his own and those of his billionaire friends.
“Johnson and his party have proved themselves totally unfit to respond to the climate emergency we face. The Tories’ nine years in office have shown they are the party of dirty energy and climate breakdown, sanctioning fracking and huge fossil fuel investment.
“Meanwhile Labour have shown that they are prepared to take the radical action needed to avert the climate collapse. Not only is Labour promising 400,000 green jobs and nearly 2 million solar panels, but party members are laying out a plan for a radical Green New Deal which would transform the basis of our economy in order to allow a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.
“For the good of our planet, the next leader of the Conservative Party should step aside and let Labour get on with it.”
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, said:
“Any Tory claim to environmental leadership from this government is, sadly, laughable. There is Michael Gove talking big on plastics then failing to progress a bottle deposit scheme, talking about ending unnecessary plastic use by 2042. I mean really, 2042!”
“This is the government that’s been trying to impose fracking on reluctant communities in England, Heathrow expansion on London and roadbuilding around the country, utterly denying expert advice of what’s essential in this climate emergency.”
“Criticising the Labour Party is right, but it is rich indeed coming from the Tories. Labour is now increasingly talking about the environment, which is progress.”
“But it has failed to implement many of those policies in their councils – many of which have watered down Climate Emergency petitions, backed airport expansion, supported unnecessary road building programmes or enabled new coal mines.”
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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