Tory MPs plead with Boris Johnson to firm up climate emergency plan

Ban petrol and diesel cars sooner, plant many more trees and impose a domestic carbon tax, One Nation group tells prime minister

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 13 August 2020 19:34 BST
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Conservative MPs are putting pressure on Boris Johnson to beef up his much-criticised plans for the climate emergency and deliver an earlier ban on fossil fuel cars.

They should be outlawed from 2030, the One Nation group of 100 moderate Tories says – not 2035, as intended – to meet the recommendation of the government’s own climate advisers.

“This nearer end-date will provide the catalyst to ensure that the rollout of electric vehicles gets the focus and investment it needs,” its report argues.

Its 25-point plan also calls for more environmentally friendly homes, with electric vehicle charging points as standard, a domestic carbon tax and better training for low-carbon jobs.

A plan for removing greenhouse gases would use carbon capture technology and plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year – more than six times the government’s existing goal.

The proposals come after the Committee on Climate Change, the government watchdog, attacked the existing plan for the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as woefully inadequate.

The prime minister has been virtually silent on the climate emergency, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck and the crucial COP26 summit planned for the autumn was shelved.

“We have the opportunity to reboot our economy and create jobs by accelerating the rollout of clean and resilient infrastructure and stimulating low-carbon industries across the UK,” said Jerome Mayhew, a new Conservative MP and the report’s lead author.

“A clear majority of the public supports this agenda too,” he argued – pointing to 67 per cent backing for a green recovery, in a recent poll.

The challenge, by a group representing 100 centrist Tories, was welcomed by Greenpeace, which said an earlier ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles was a potential game-changer.

“It would help cut more carbon than any other plausible action over the next decade,” said Doug Parr, the group’s UK policy director.

“It’s great to see such a large number of Conservative MPs becoming advocates for this, hopefully it encourages more to join the chorus of businesses and civil society saying the same.”

The One Nation call comes after The Independent revealed plans for a Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, demanding the government act on the twin crises.

The report says it rejects “the anti-capitalist assertion that economic growth and rising living standards are incompatible with achieving our net-zero commitments”.

Instead, it argues for the government to issue bonds (“green gilts”) whose proceeds would be set aside for environmentally friendly spending.

“The UK’s recent history shows there is no inherent conflict between economic growth and emission reduction. On the contrary, they can be mutually reinforcing,” the report says.

“Offshore wind, electric vehicles, carbon capture and other clean technologies have the potential to create millions of jobs, attract private investment, and grow UK exports.”

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