Despite attempts by the green lobby to resurrect a moribund climate campaign, the UK government’s (mis)handling of the Covid-19 crisis appears to be shifting its climate agenda into the long grass.
There is now a growing risk that the government’s radical new climate plans will be seen as prioritising a costly green agenda over managing the Covid-19 pandemic. As Britain’s economic crisis worsens and unemployment rises in coming months, the government will find it increasingly difficult to return to green business as usual.
In the meantime, public opinion is shifting ever more away from the climate agenda as two-thirds of Britons say that tackling Covid-19 is more important than climate change. It is unlikely that this trend will be reversed in the next future and will largely depend on the full extent of the economic disaster Britain faces in the next few years.
The UK is working on a raft of plans to drive climate action ahead of critical UN climate talks in Glasgow, but its strategy is being challenged by a resurgence of Covid-19 cases at home.
Prime minister Boris Johnson was poised to outline his government’s vision for the November 2021 climate summit, known as Cop26, at the virtual UN general assembly session that started on Tuesday.
Instead, a number of policy announcements, including ending overseas fossil fuel financing and bringing forward a ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030, are being deferred to later this autumn, several sources have told Climate Home News.
Plans for a National Investment Bank to help the country cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, which have gathered wide support in government, could also be delayed.
On Tuesday, Johnson presented new restrictions to halt a steep rise in coronavirus infections, warning the country had reached a “perilous turning point“. His name was absent from the list of world leaders sending video messages to the UN general assembly plenary. […]
While there is “a lot of energy in government” for a green economic recovery to Covid-19 that will help meet the UK’s targets, it is “threatening to get squeezed” by shifting priorities, Shaun Spiers, executive director of the UK-based environmental think tank Green Alliance, told CHN.