“The government must move on from aspirational words and start taking the hard decisions across a wide range of policy areas required to deliver real results – time is running out.”
You will remember the then-leader of the Opposition hugging huskies:
Within weeks of beating better-known rival David Davis to the Conservative leadership in a December 2005 vote of party members, David Cameron was boarding a plane to the Arctic Circle for a fact-finding mission on global warming. It was a dramatic way of announcing himself as a new kind of Conservative – one who cared about the environment and didn’t mind enduring freezing temperatures without a hat to prove it (predecessor William Hague had never recovered from being pictured with a baseball cap in the early days of his leadership so headgear was banned on Mr Cameron’s Arctic trip).
Then there was that moment of doubt:
However, the current PM seems to be a little more determined, as reported in the FT last week in its long read: here’s an extract (and note the subscription):
Britain after Brexit: behind Boris Johnson’s green conversion
When David Cameron took over as leader of the Conservative party in 2005, he pledged to introduce a “green revolution”. He went into the next election with the slogan “vote blue, go green”.
Fifteen years later Boris Johnson, who once disdained some of Mr Cameron’s efforts, is singing an almost identical tune. He campaigned in the last general election on the very same phrase and over the past two months he has started to outline what he hopes is his version of a green makeover… In December, the prime minister set out his 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” that he hopes will be at the core of his administration. Mr Johnson’s platform included several eye-catching policies, including £3bn of new investment and a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
The new raft of environmental policies reflects something of the political journey Mr Johnson has travelled since the early 2000s when, as editor of The Spectator magazine, he published covers attacking “big green bullies” and arguing “the world has never been a better place”. Later, he sneered that the UK was full of ineffective wind farms that would struggle to “pull the skin off a rice pudding”. He barely disguised his scepticism as Mr Cameron, then Conservative leader, flew to the Arctic in 2006 to pose with huskies and warn about the threat of climate change. In the past, Mr Johnson has often seemed to echo the dismissive tone on the environment used by populist rightwing leaders, such as former US president Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, with whom he has often been grouped.
But since becoming prime minister, Mr Johnson has tried to reinvent himself as a green warrior. Even if there are many questions about the effectiveness of the policies he has outlined so far, he insists that low-carbon industry is at the core of his plan to “build back better” after the coronavirus pandemic. For Mr Johnson, the green agenda has become a platform for most of his political and economic objectives. After the rancour of Brexit, it allows him to pivot back to the centre ground of British politics — especially now that he faces a much more effective Labour opposition under the leadership of Keir Starmer…
Today’s Independent reports on doubts from Parliament:
Ministers running out of excuses on environment, MPs warn
In a scathing report released on Wednesday the influential public accounts committee said ministers were running out of excuses for delays on issues like air quality, water, and wildlife loss. The MPs noted that the government had first promised to improve the natural environment “within a generation” in 2011 and that progress had been “painfully slow” in the ensuing decade.
They warned that a 25-year plan set out by ministers in 2018 did not contain a coherent set of long-term objectives and that the environment department Defra was simply being shrugged off by the rest of the government. “Improving the natural environment is a huge task and there are structural issues within government that still need to be resolved to improve the chances of success,” the MPs say…
Meg Hillier, chair of the cross party committee, said: “Our national environmental response is left to one Department, and months from hosting an international conference on climate change, the government struggles to determine the environmental impact of its own latest spending round. Government must move on from aspirational words and start taking the hard decisions across a wide range of policy areas required to deliver real results – time is running out.”