Private sector ‘trillions’ are key to tackling climate crisis, Boris Johnson tells business leaders

‘I can deploy billions .... but you can deploy trillions’, prime minister says - extolling ‘free market capitalism’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 19 October 2021 15:35
Boris Johnson calls for billions of investment into green technologies

The private sector must spend “trillions” on tackling the climate emergency, Boris Johnson has told business leaders – saying government “can’t do it on its own”.

Addressing a Global Investment Summit, the prime minister extolled the unique power of “free market capitalism” to help the UK and the world reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions.

“We must mobilise the markets, we must bring in the private sector,” Mr Johnson told the summit in London, with just 12 days until the crucial Cop26 summit.

“Because I can deploy billions – with the approval of the Chancellor obviously – but you, you in this room, you can deploy trillions.”

Claiming “post-Brexit freedoms” could “turbocharge” the green transition, Mr Johnson added: “You are very welcome to the UK and you have come to the right place at the right time.”

The speech comes ahead of the long-delayed publication of a government strategy for reaching net zero by 2050 – and, crucially, a Treasury analysis of how much it will cost.

Overnight, a plan to offer households £5,000 grants to replace gas boilers with heat pumps was widely panned, because just 30,000 will be made available each year.

Speaking at the Science Museum, Mr Johnson said there were returns in investing in low-carbon technology – such as heat pumps and solar panels – because “the market is going green”.

Remembering a fictional, ruthless US capitalist, he added: “To adapt, Gordon Gekko, who may or may not be a hero of anybody in this room, ‘Green is good, green is right, green works’.”

Later, in a discussion with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the prime minister insisted: “The government can’t do it on its own.”

Mr Johnson also acknowledged the UK’s special responsibility to lead the world in decarbonising because, as the first industrialised nation, “we were the first to knit the deadly tea cosy of C02 that is now driving climate change”.

He told the summit that the government was making “big bets” on electric vehicles and gigafactories for battery production.

However, the strategy for buildings – so crucial because they account for 21 per cent of UK emissions – has been criticised for lacking scale and ambition.

Despite previous suggestions that gas boilers would be banned from 2035, that is merely the government’s aim and it is being left to the market to make it achievable.

Mr Johnson and Mr Gates announced a £400m partnership to boost green investment, with both sides committing £200m each.

In a statement, Mr Gates said: “Our partnership with the United Kingdom will accelerate the deployment of these critical climate solutions, helping to make them more affordable and accessible.

“In order to achieve net-zero emissions, we need to reduce the costs of clean technologies so they can compete with and replace the high-emitting products we use today. I call this difference in price the green premium.”

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