This Hat Blogs: Johnson's Green Policy

Author: Sam Saunders

For many years now the climate emergency has been at the top of the political agenda, successive government across the world have promised greener policies, everyone remembers ‘hug a husky’ from the Cameron years. Now, in the most tumultuous political climate in living memory, Prime Minister Johnson has shifted his governments agenda to try and centralise the environment. A ban by 2030 on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is the most eye-catching policy for sure, and it does carry some serious political risk, but what is most interesting about the announcement is the language used. 

“My 10-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050.”

This is the key statement from Boris’ pledge, all be it in rather classic vague Johnsonian language. This is because this policy launch has happened at the time when the UK’s finances are in the worst place since the second world war, borrowing is at a record high and jobs are disappearing left right and centre. For many, the idea of shifting towards a greener economy brings the fear of economic stagnation. Like many countries, the UK’s economy is still heavily intertwined with fossil fuels both directly and indirectly. Johnson has too make it clear that this policy shift is in the aim of creating more opportunity, not harming an already teetering economy. 

Johnson is painfully aware of this reality, hence his call for a “green industrial revolution” which he claims will result in the investment of £12bn of government funds, create 250,000 green jobs and help drive a green recovery from Covid-19. This has to be the governing force behind any green policy movement in the current climate. This is because for such a policy to really move forward, it needs to have the wide backing of the country. 

For too many people the discussion of the environment has become synonymous with the protests of extinction rebellion, making it linked to a fringe radical group. This has to change, environmental policies need to become about modernising the economy and creating new jobs. Johnson is trying to form this narrative. 

It must be noted that these policies do not go far enough if the goal is reaching net zero emissions. According to a detailed analysis of the policy document released by the government by the Financial Times, “The government estimates the plan will save more than 180m tonnes of CO2 emissions during the 2023 to 2032 period, which is slightly more than half the UK’s annual emissions right now.” 

However, this is an important change in the narrative. The government is making it clear that their environmental policies are in tandem with their levelling up agenda, but the question still remains whether they are aiming to really revolutionise the governments green agenda and deliver on their promise for zero emissions, or if this is merely an effort to distract from the political chaos Johnson has found himself in. Either way, this a key shift for the government towards unchartered territory. Everyone will be watching.