How environmentally minded is our Prime Minister?

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Comment Writer Talia investigates our Prime Minister’s voting history, in order to unveil his environmental views.

Many more voters are considering the environmental policies of parties when deciding who to vote for in the General Election on 12th of December. Therefore, I have decided to investigate the environmental policies and beliefs of our current leader, Boris Johnson.

Political concerns regarding the environment are discussed more than ever. A poll has shown that the environment is the most prominent political matter for one in five voters, 21 percent, rising to 29 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds. The ‘ecoanxiety’ has notably spread further amongst the British population, which has most likely been stimulated by the persistent Youth Strikes, Extinction Rebellion efforts and increased awareness through media and within businesses. In my own effort to investigate the environmental commitments of our political parties I decided to start by exploring the track record of our current leader, Boris Johnson.

For Johnson, a large environmental concern in the past regarded animal rights, particularly his love for African elephants. In The Telegraph he wrote an article titled: ‘Let’s spend our foreign aid budget on the British people’s priorities and save the elephants’. In this passionate and heart-warming article, he poured his heart out about his deep concern for the environmental issues facing us today. Really – he writes that humanity’s impact on depleting Elephant populations is one of our “most heart-breaking examples” of destruction that has been inflicted upon the natural world and, apparently, “saving elephants and protecting nature is one of the priorities of the British people”.

Recently, as Prime Minister, Johnson unveiled a plan to invest £1.2bn towards efforts to protect endangered species and tackle the climate change emergency that currently faces us. On top of this he will put £220m towards protecting endangered species such as the Black rhino and Sumatran tiger. This sounds lovely and environmentally positive; we could applaud Johnson for his efforts. When looking at his voting history on environmental matters however, it becomes evident that his commitment might not extend past his love for elephants. TheyWorkForYou.com reveals the following:

Voted Against:

  • Ban on hunting animals
  • Measures to prevent climate change:

Requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry

Setting a decarbonisation target for the UK within six months of June 2016

Never voted on:

  • Financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods
  • New high-speed rail infrastructure

Voted for:

  • Greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas.

Firstly, if he were so heartbroken by the realities of elephants in Africa, why then did he note use his power to vote for the ban of hunting animals in the UK? Moreover, he never voted on financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods which is also very telling for his standpoint on climate change actions.

In his inaugural speech he claimed that Britain will not make any more contributions to the planet that could be destructive, particularly those brought about from carbon emissions. If he believed this, then why isn’t there a stronger voting records in favour of reducing our environmental impact? And what exactly is he planning on doing to help the UK reduce its emissions, apart from throwing some headline-grabbing funding at it. The fund set will seek to develop technology, such as clean electricity sources, to help save us from the current climate emergency. However, as Mike Barrett from WWF UK stated, this investment is a step in the right direction but requires the backing of “trade policies that actively combat climate change and reduce deforestation”.

What is also very interesting is his sponsorship sources for the election campaign earlier this year. OpenDemocracy found that a climate change sceptic group donated a large sum to Johnson’s leadership campaign. How then can we expect him to pull through with substantial environmental policies if he has been aligned with climate change sceptics?

It is hard to believe that Boris Johnson truly holds environmental issues at heart when his voting history and sponsorship sources say otherwise. His trivial attempts to show sympathy for the natural world, through pleading to save the African elephants, does not reflect well on his promises to help protect the environment. This is just another example of public figures trying to ‘do good’ by donating money to endangered species in third world countries whilst being unable to adapt any valuable policies or actions in their own countries. When Boris, along with many other MPs claims that the UK is and will be a ‘climate change leader’ we should be aware of the morals and attitudes that these people, who are in charge of implementing these policies, have.

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