The G7 weekend has turned into a terrible nightmare for Boris Johnson, hasn’t it?
He was slapped up and down the Cornish coast for signing a Brexit trade deal containing a Northern Ireland protocol that threatens the peace there, which he didn’t bother to read first.
He wouldn’t talk about his religion – because he couldn’t?
The G7 agreed to tax multinational corporations fairly – and Johnson’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak immediately asked for the City of London to be exempt.
And now he has to announce that he has agreed to phase out coal power – while also supporting the construction of a new coal mine in Cumbria.
The contradictions come out of this man so fast I’m amazed his tongue hasn’t tied itself in knots*.
The coal announcement came from the White House, which said it was the first time the leaders of wealthy nations had committed to keeping the projected global temperature rise to 1.5C.
That requires a range of urgent policies, chief among them being phasing out coal burning unless it includes carbon capture technology.
Coal is the world’s dirtiest major fuel and ending its use is seen as a major step by environmentalists, but they also want guarantees rich countries will deliver on previous promises to help poorer nations cope with climate change.
The G7 will end the funding of new coal generation in developing countries and offer up to £2bn ($2.8bn)to stop using the fuel.
But only five days before this, Sky News reported that the people of Whitehaven, in Cumbria, were urging Johnson to press ahead with the planned coal mine there because they need the jobs.
And that’s fair enough, because Johnson was all in favour of it back in February. Otherwise he could have told Robert Jenrick to block planning permission for it.
The BBC report of the time is hilarious in hindsight, because it focused on a leading climate scientist, James Hansen, warning that Johnson risked humiliation if he didn’t stop the mine from being built.
And now he is caught in a humiliating double-standard.
The G7 announcement – although far too vague for comfort – demands that coal be phased out in the 2030s.
But the Cumbria mine indicates a commitment to the emissions caused by coking coal until 2049 (because that’s the limit of the planning permission that was granted). That’s 14 years after all coking of coal must end in the UK, if the country is to meet its climate change targets.
I look forward to hearing him – or his more intelligent spokespeople at the Cabinet Office – talk his way out of this one.
That’s if he can get those knots out of his tongue.
*And wouldn’t it improve his speeches enormously if it did?
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