What have the two contenders for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, said about climate change?
In an article written in the Daily Telegraph in 2013, Johnson showed that he, like his friend Donald Trump, has no understanding of the difference between weather and climate:
As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands — when the reality is that everything, or almost everything, depends on the behaviour and caprice of the gigantic thermonuclear fireball around which we revolve.
…I am … an empiricist; and I observe that something appears to be up with our winter weather, and to call it “warming” is obviously to strain the language. I see from the BBC website that there are scientists who say that “global warming” is indeed the cause of the cold and snowy winters we seem to be having…
I merely observe that there are at least some other reputable scientists who say that it is complete tosh, or at least that there is no evidence to support it.
When asked in 2019 whether he agreed that ‘The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050’ and if so why? Johnson is said to have told the Conservative Home website:
Yes we should set ourselves a challenging target. Even if it looks tough to deliver today, the technology is changing and improving the whole time. I believe in the Promethean power of the human race to solve its problems – and Britain can be in the lead in coming up with the answers. When I was mayor of London we saw huge growth in population and GDP, and yet cut CO2 by 14 per cent.
When asked whether he agreed that ‘The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050’ and if so why? Hunt is said to have told the Conservative Home website:
I agree. Conserving the environment for future generations should be a key part of any Conservative philosophy and a zero carbon target is an important part of doing just that. But we need to broaden the appeal of environmental issues so people can see progress making a difference to their daily lives less pollution affecting children as they travel to and from school, more pleasant urban environments and less plastic waste on our beaches and in our seas. Government should provide support along the way through sensible tax incentives, rolling out the infrastructure required for electric cars, and taking urgent action to reduce city pollution.
In an article in the Guardian, Hunt wrote
One particular area of leadership is on climate change. I have spent countless hours working on our bid to host the next international climate change conference, five years on from the Paris COP, which would allow us to use our convening power for good on this most important of issues.
On 18 June Hunt said in a Twitter video that
We are delighted to announce today that following discussions with Italy we are going to be bidding together for a UK Presidency of COP26.
On the same day, edie reported that the UK has formally proposed its intention to host next year’s international COP climate conference as part of a partnership with Italy that will see the latter host a pre-COP event. As part of the proposal, the countries would assume the Presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a unique partnership.
BuzzFeed reported that a diplomatic source involved in the process said that foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt had personally intervened with his Italian counterpart to secure an agreement. Hunt’s diplomatic efforts helped push a deal over the line after weeks of talks between the two sides, the diplomat said.
Speaking in Nigeria on a 5-day visit to Africa in May 2019 in his role as Foreign Secretary, Hunt said:
We know that if we don’t work together to tackle climate change it will have a catastrophic impact on hundreds of millions of people across Nigeria, the Sahel and more widely across Africa, and indeed the world, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. 9.6 million people living in Nigeria and the Sahel can’t reliably get food – and nearly 40% of people across the Sahel live on less than a $2 a day.
Countries across the Sahel are among the most exposed to the consequences of climate change. We need to prevent the escalation of conflict and instability by tackling the root causes. Africa cannot be left to manage this crisis alone. That’s why the UK will lead efforts on climate resilience in the poorest and most vulnerable countries at this year’s UN Climate Summit, and has bid to host the vital COP26 in 2020.
To help combat this threat, Hunt has announced 3 major new UK aid programmes, totalling nearly £153 million, which will help millions of farmers across Africa and South Asia adapt to the effects of climate change and boost climate resilience in Ethiopia.
Attitudes of Supporters
The leader of the Conservative Party, and hence the next Prime Minister, will be elected by Conservative Party members. What is their attitude to climate change?
According to the New Statesman, polling shows that 25% of Tory members who support Johnson would like to see less emphasis on climate change against just over 10% Hunt supporters who do so.