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Green groups fear UK climate fight is at risk

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-13 09:44

The UK Parliament, pictured on Wednesday, will host debates on how the nation can achieve its climate targets. HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Green campaigners in the United Kingdom say the government's climate commitments are at risk as pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson rises following allegations he broke COVID-19 lockdown rules in 2020.

Johnson made a 10-point plan to "build back greener", which was published in early 2020, and retains the support of many members of Parliament on his commitment to achieving net zero climate targets.

But analysts told The Guardian newspaper that the government's climate agenda is under pressure from a number of Conservative backbenchers, concerned about rising inflation, soaring gas prices and waning voter support for Johnson.

Opposition politicians have claimed that the prime minister enjoyed social events in the Downing Street garden in 2020, which breached rules in place at the time. Johnson apologized on Wednesday for attending a party during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The growing crisis around rising energy prices and the cost of living further threatens to delay implementation of the climate policies required to make the net-zero target credible, said experts.

Tom Burke, a co-founder of the E3G green think tank, said: "Johnson has been the standard bearer for net-zero, and lots of people were happy about that. There is now a sustained assault from the right on net-zero. They see the prime minister's political weakness, and they see net-zero as a flank on which to attack him."

Chris Venables, the head of politics at the Green Alliance thinktank, said: "There is definite jeopardy in Boris Johnson's weakness, as he has been the champion. But the forces of good are now rallying behind the green agenda. It does help that the facts are on our side."

Experts say the UK is overly dependent on fossil fuels, and that more investment in green energy for homes is required.

The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, a leading industry body, this week urged the prime minister to prioritize home energy efficiency improvements in a bid to slash the cost of heating.

The group, which represents many major businesses and trade bodies, said a revamped energy efficiency policy could save the nation nearly 7.8 billion pounds ($10.6 billion) each year, reported the Energy Live news site.

Public support for climate policy is under threat, Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics told The Guardian.

"There is a small but noisy group of Conservative MPs, whose voices are being amplified by the usual suspects in parts of the media, who are attempting to mislead the public about the roots of the current crisis, blaming green energy policies rather than the true cause: wholesale prices of natural gas," said Ward.

Shaun Spiers, the executive director of Green Alliance, said: "Fortunately, a few eccentrics aside, the Conservative party is committed to climate action. Business-friendly Tories are pushing for more ambition, while MPs across the country are demanding and celebrating green investment in their constituencies. Net-zero and nature are increasingly at the heart of the party, and Boris Johnson can take some credit for that."

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