Boris Johnson’s 10-point climate crisis plan is a far cry from a green revolution

Editorial: The prime minister may soon find that his proposals are too radical for voters, but not quite progressive enough to make Britain the pioneer he dreams about

Wednesday 18 November 2020 23:45

As an attempt by the Johnson government to remind the country that it is more than a collection of incomprehensibly inept personalities, there’s a lot to be said about the 10-point plan for a greener future. There will be life after Covid and a country to be rebuilt after Brexit, and the climate emergency hasn’t gone away. So the fact that No 10 has at least given some attention to this transcendent issue is encouraging. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Boris Johnson initiative if it went smoothly, so the prime minister isn’t around for the launch, as he is self-isolating, and the job of selling this major series of announcements fell to Alok Sharma, the business secretary. Though perfectly lucid, Mr Sharma himself, an underwhelming personality, could probably do with a bit of a renewable energy boost himself.  

That is the least of the plan’s prospective problems, for there is a substantial gap between its ambitions, such as they are, and the path to their likely implementation. Put at its crudest, there is not enough money being put behind it.  

Transforming an economy over a few decades is an expensive business. Only a few years ago, in a slightly more rational era, Theresa May’s chancellor, Philip Hammond, put the cost of achieving a net-zero carbon emission economy by 2050 at £1 trillion. Contrast that with the £4bn in new money that stands behind the 10 pledges. If the infrastructure is to be built, the electric car charging points installed and the mini nuclear power stations plonked on every town, then it will cost more than this government is letting on.

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