ALL PMs feel the heat. But Boris Johnson has been scorched as he arrives in No. 10. And not just by his critics.
The Brexiteer took power just as July temperatures smashed records in a sweltering London.
Environmentalist protestors even slowed down the start of his new job, forming a chain across the road as his limo drove to see the Queen and accept her premiership.
Dressed in red and backed in the sun, young campaigners unfurled a banner in front of one of the still-to-be appointed prime minister’s motorcycle outrider in The Mall. “Climate emergency,” it said.
Mr Johnson, who has a mixed record as an MP and London mayor on supporting laws and measures to tackle global heating, has previously begrudgingly defended climate protestors.
“It is precisely because I have seen the evidence, over time, that I cannot find it in my heart – no matter how smug, irritating and disruptive they may be – to condemn these protesters,” he wrote about Extinction Rebellion campaigners earlier this year.
The people who tried to stop his car were from Greenpeace had tried to hand over a letter. The group tweeted: “We just tried to hand the incoming PM a crucial letter – it contains the answers to tackling the Climate Emergency.
“But will he *act*?”
The Herald has asked Scottish climate campaigners what they have to say to the new premier. Even as he struggles with the complexities of Brexit, his own tricky parliamentary arithmetic and rumbles of conflict in the Middle East, they all had the same answer: make saving the planet your No. 1 task and move fast.
“Boris Johnson’s number one priority as Prime Minister must be tackling the climate emergency,” said Mary Church of Friends of the Earth Scotland. “Deep, systemic changes must be delivered to bring down climate emissions significantly within the next 5-10 years, and decisions made in the next two years are key to this.
“The new Prime Minister must work with the Scottish Government to end exploration for new oil and gas in the North Sea and divert subsidies towards a just transition that supports workers and communities as we build a zero carbon economy.
“Johnson’s Prime-Ministership will ultimately be judged by how well his Government responds to climate breakdown – the greatest crisis.”
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: The new UK prime minister takes his place at a time when nature is in freefall.
“Nine of the top ten hottest years on record were this century, wildlife population sizes have declined by 60% in less than 50years. Governments are starting to recognise the emergency we are facing, but now is the time to go further and faster.
“The new PM has the power to ramp up the UK’s leadership on climate by prioritising urgent action to reach net zero emissions as quickly as possible, ending our contribution to climate change and ushering in a just transition to a greener, more resilient economy.
“The newly appointed Secretary of State for the Environment, Theresa Villiers, should not be the only minister championing and delivering urgent action to reach net zero emissions, but all ministers must make this a top priority across UK government departments.
“The UK government must also work with the Scottish Government to ensure we deliver on our full potential to address the climate crisis.
Extinction Rebellion boats block city streets
With the UK expected to host to the UN climate talks in 2020, the government has a platform where it is imperative to show leadership on the world stage in the face of this emergency.
“In short, now is the time to act if we are to end the loss of nature and tackle the causes of the climate emergency we face.”
The Scottish Government has declared a climate emergency. Scotland has one of the European Union’s best records on renewable electricity – but one of its worst on heating. Generators believe they will have to quadruple output of clean power to meet demand for electric cars and non-gas boilers.
Mr Banks said: “Restoring support for the Scottish onshore wind sector, as the cheapest form of electricity generation we have, would be a vital step.”
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, represents some of the businesses that will deliver clean electricity.
She too had a message for Mr Johnson. “With 17,700 people in renewables jobs, billions in turnover and millions of tonnes of carbon displaced, Scotland’s renewable sector has consistently delivered for Scotland and the UK’s energy system and economy,” she said. “Removing the unnecessary ban on new onshore wind and solar PV competing in low-carbon energy auctions will push down the cost of energy and enable the UK to meet its climate change obligations while creating hundreds of jobs and sustaining billions of pounds of investment across the country.
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“Supporting our most innovative technologies, like wave, tidal and floating wind, and working closely with the Scottish Government to achieve all of our shared ambitions will be of huge benefit to Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Ms Mack added“Similarly, acting fast to prevent a significant investment hiatus in low-carbon heat projects around the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive in 2021 will be crucial to meeting UK and Scottish climate targets over the next decade, and should be an absolutely fundamental step as the new Prime Minister begins to consider a low-carbon, smart energy policy which will be fit for the future.”
Mr Johnson, unlike populists in Washington or Moscow, does recognise climate change as real. But he wants the protestors to target someone other than Britain. In a Telegraph column written as Extinction Rebellion protested in Londonhe said; “Surely this is the time for the protesters to take their pink boat to Tiananmen Square, and lecture them in the way they have been lecturing us. Whether the Chinese will allow them to block the traffic is another matter.”