Boris Johnson has championed the role of the free market in curbing the UK’s contribution to climate change
Tory leadership frontrunner becames latest candidate to make case for bolder climate action, arguing private sector can make the UK the world’s ‘cleanest, greenest economy’
Britain should harness market forces to kickstart the innovation required to make the country a world-leading low-carbon economy, Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race, declared today.
The former Foreign Secretary, who is currently topping polls in the race to become the next Prime Minister, argued in his Telegraph column that the free market trumps state intervention as the most effective tool for delivering green growth for the UK.
Accusing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of seeing global warming as “the perfect excuse for government to tax, ban, nanny, finger-wag and generally bully anyone involved in any kind of economic activity”, Johnson issued a defence of market forces as the primary mechanism for tackling climate change.
“Let Corbyn and Co knit their own hempen vest and make their own toothpaste,” Johnson wrote. “By believing in the market we can ensure that Britain is the cleanest and greenest economy in Europe – and the most prosperous too.”
Johnson pointed to a number of examples that he argues demonstrate the potential of the private sector to lead the low-carbon transition. For example, he cites the “miracle” of a 70 per cent reduction in solar costs in the UK as driven primarily by technological progress driven by market forces.
Likewise, Johnson argued that improvements in the range of EVs had not been down to the “idealism” of manufacturers or state “coaxing”, but public demand for an “affordable, zero-carbon machine”.
On both electric vehicles and solar deployment, experts agree a combination of extensive R&D support, government subsidy schemes, and competition between developers has proved essential to driving market development.
Indeed, despite arguing vociferously for the free market over the state, Johnson admits government has a “vital role” in setting environmental standards, funding research and establishing ambitious targets”.
The latest developments in the leadership race came after most of the candidates, including Johnson and his leading rivals Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt, all confirmed they would back a net zero emission target for the UK.
Out-going Prime Minister Theresa May is widely expected to table a statutory instrument that would see the UK adopt such a target through the existing Climate Change Act before she steps down next month.
However, the vocal support for bolder climate action from the leadership hopefuls has faced criticism from Labour and some environmental campaigners, who have accused them of serving in a government that has axed a raft of clean energy policies and delivered scant progress in cutting emissions from transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture.
Last week, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey accused the government of planning to water down medium-term carbon targets, orchestrating a collapse in demand for solar installations, and “running down the clock on our planet” in the same was it previousy “run down the clock on Brexit”.