Boris Johnson’s climate credibility at stake as the Cop26 summit approaches | Cop26


Boris Johnson faces a major test of his leadership ahead of the Cop26 climate summit as the chancellor and business secretary are at war with the looming plan to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions.

The government is set to release its long-awaited net zero strategy on Monday, setting out how the UK will meet its CO emissions reduction targets2 by 78% by 2035 and reach net zero by 2050. This will also include the heating and building strategy for the insulation of houses against drafts and the phasing out of gas boilers, as well than a massive expansion of offshore wind power and the construction of electric vehicle charging networks.

But environmental activists fear that the strategies put forward by Kwasi Kwarteng will be crippled by opposition from Rishi Sunak, who refuses to provide adequate funding.

Failure to come up with a viable and well-funded plan to reach net zero would destroy UK credibility at a crucial time, activists said, just weeks before the UN Cop26 climate talks, which begin in Glasgow at the end of this month.

Ed Matthew, campaign director of the green think tank E3G, said: “To achieve an ambitious outcome at Cop26, the government must lead by example. If they don’t have their own home on how to get to net zero, how are they going to persuade the rest of the world to get on the right track? The whole diplomatic strategy absolutely depends on having a credible plan in place in the United Kingdom. “

Kwarteng has spoken publicly in favor of decarbonizing power generation by 2035 and is pushing net zero behind the scenes. It’s a new start for the business secretary, who comes from a strongly liberal perspective, as one of the authors of Britannia Unchained. But insiders say the pandemic has changed his outlook and that he has undergone elements of a “green” conversion – though he also still intends to clear new oil and gas in the North Sea.

“With the pandemic and the energy crisis, he sees the need for government intervention,” said a close observer. “Energy security is now a key issue, and building renewable energies can help. “

But Sunak, who controls the purse strings, is said to be strongly opposed to allocating new funds to the climate effort. He was notably silent on the climate, the net zero strategy and the Cop26 in his speech at the Conservative Party conference earlier this month.

“It’s amazing he didn’t mention climate change: the biggest threat facing the UK economy, and as Cop26 approaches,” Matthew said. “Without the Treasury, we cannot be on track to reach net zero because we don’t just need policies but investments – this is the litmus test.”

A government source denied any split and told the Guardian: “This is a comprehensive government approach: every ministry has subscribed to net zero and the prime minister is the biggest supporter of this agenda. The preparation of the strategy with the Treasury went smoothly.

The Treasury is also due to release its own net zero findings on Monday, in the form of a review that is expected to set the costs to achieve net zero. The Treasury’s net zero review is controversial among green pundits as the Guardian understands it will ignore the many benefits of lower emissions, including green jobs, lower energy bills and improvements health resulting from the reduction of air pollution, as well as the reduction of the impacts of extreme weather conditions.

“It’s as if the Stern Review never took place,” said one expert, referring to the landmark 2006 study by climate economist Nicholas Stern, which found that the short-term costs of the reduction in emissions was largely outweighed by the economic benefits. “They stuck with their old pre-Stern cost models.”

Environmental activists believe the Treasury review will be grabbed by climate skeptics in the conservative ranks. They also fear that lobbying from the fossil fuel industry has persuaded the government to make hydrogen a key part of its net zero strategy. That would be a mistake, they say, because some forms of hydrogen are not low in CO2, but require the conversion of fossil fuels to hydrogen and the resulting CO2 stored, unlike true green hydrogen methods, whereby hydrogen is made from renewable energy.

“Hydrogen boilers are greenwash,” Matthew said. “They will massively increase energy bills. If they’re considering hydrogen, that’s a bad sign.

Kat Kramer, head of global climate at the Christian Aid charity, said: “The government is currently promoting bogus solutions that effectively subsidize the fossil fuel industry. It’s crazy that they plan to use taxpayer dollars to promote hydrogen made from fossil gas over renewables, and to capture carbon from burnt fossil fuels and store it underground.

A Treasury spokesperson said: ‘We are absolutely committed to meeting our top climate commitments and the Prime Minister’s 10 point plan includes £ 12 billion in investment for green industries. “

But they stressed the importance of private sector investment, adding, “Government alone cannot achieve net zero, which is why we are working with the private sector to stimulate investment and lead the world in the area of ​​security. green finance.

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