COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference due to be held in Glasgow, isn’t until November, but work is already underway in Downing Street to put the government’s green agenda front and centre. After confirming earlier this week that the government will seek to cut carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, Boris Johnson has this afternoon spoken at Joe Biden’s Leader’s Summit on Climate.
The Prime Minister praised the US president’s commitment to cut greenhouse gases by 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 as a ‘game changing announcement’. He also said it is ‘vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive politically correct, green act of bunny hugging’. Rather than befriending rabbits, Johnson insists the agenda is really about ‘growth and jobs’.
There are political reasons, too, that the Prime Minister is suddenly so enthused about greenery. As I reported in The Spectator this month, it’s the policy area by which Johnson plans to cosy up to Biden and show that the UK can be an influential figure on the world stage. It’s also viewed within No. 10 as a key plank of his post-pandemic domestic agenda. The thinking goes that an environmental push – with COP26 a key part of this strategy – could give the Tories a boost as they look towards a fifth term.
The Tories won a majority of 80 on a pro-Brexit, high-spend strategy in the 2019 election, breaking Labour’s red wall. But with the forces of Vote Leave now ousted, the PM’s new allies argue that the Tory coalition must widen once again. Tackling climate change, they say, could offer a way to win over metropolitan voters, from those scarred by Brexit to Labour swing voters.