What’s in Boris Johnson’s climate in tray?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Can the government see its way to a greener future?

A huge breakthrough in climate policy was signalled this week when China announced it will reduce its emissions to net zero by 2060.

It’s a potentially game-changing leap, following in the footsteps of the UK’s existing 2050 net zero target.

But promises are easy, actions are more challenging – and the UK has been steadily slipping from its climate targets.

It’s consistently promised tougher policies for the future, but for a few years, Britain’s long-term climate strategy has lain buried in fog.

We know the net zero carbon destination point, but we can’t yet see how the government intends to get there.

At last, in a contribution to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, the prime minister did briefly illuminate several paths towards carbon Nirvana.

But they’re only tantalising pointers to the direction of travel, when a full, clear properly funded roadmap is urgently needed.

Image copyright UN Image caption Mr Johnson speaking this week to the UN General Assembly

In previous years, climate policy was typically held up in different government departments.

But environmentalists say key policies are now stuck in a Downing Street logjam awaiting sign-off from the prime minister himself.

It prompts John Sauven from Greenpeace to plead: “Some of the ideas the government is proposing are really impressive – but the prime minister needs to resolve disputes within government on environmental policies. Now is the time for him to lead.”

No 10 insists that deadlines for decisions on climate and the environment will be met in key policy areas like those in the long list below:

Infrastructure Strategy

The National Infrastructure Strategy will lay out plans for government to spend £100bn on big projects.

Past spending might have been dominated by new roads, but the government has gone quiet over its £27bn roads programme.

New roads will increase emissions, and the Covid experience suggests some of the roads cash might be more wisely invested in broadband instead.

Radical ideas are under discussion for redesigning city centres, and for providing new electricity networks that’ll be needed to power electric vehicles (EVs).

Image copyright Getty Images
Transport decarbonisation plan

Emissions from transport remain high, but Mr Johnson is pinning his hopes on EVs. He told UNGA he’d spring forward the phase-out date for diesel and petrol cars.

It’s thought 2030 will be the new date, with plug-in hybrids allowed until 2035 – although that’s still in the fog.

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