In his inaugural speech to Parliament new Prime Minister Boris Johnson reaffirms commitment to new UK zero emissions target

The new Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his first address to Parliament to explicitly back the new net zero emissions target his predecessor set into law in the final few weeks of her premiership.

Boris Johnson, who supported the target when asked on the campaign trail but made little specific mention of his plans to tackle climate change, today promised the UK would become a global leader in the low-carbon transition. “Our Kingdom in 2050… will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions,” he said. “Because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target.”

Such an explicit message of support for the ambitious target will be greeted with relief by environmentalists, who have been wary that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may prioritise cutting green regulations and rolling back environmental standards to boost post-Brexit growth.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Supports Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry

Prime Minsister Boris Johnson appeared to double down on support for the clean growth agenda pioneered by the government under Theresa May, in particular repeating his support for the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) industry. “We will be the home of electric vehicles, cars, even planes, powered by British-made battery technology being developed right here, right now,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Supports the Development an £80m Battery Industrialisation Centre

The UK is in the process of developing an £80m Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry. But although the centre will develop battery chemistry, electrodes, cell design, modules, and battery packs, it will not manufacture battery cells commercially – they still have to be shipped in to the UK.

Jaguar Land Rover Gigascale Plant

Carmakers including Jaguar Land Rover, which earlier this month confirmed plans to build the all-electric Jaguar XJ in the UK, have called for the UK to develop a gigascale plant capable of producing battery cells at scale and securing the UK’s position as a leading destination for EV manufacturers.

Yet meeting the net zero target will require an extensive policy overhaul across all areas of government, not just transport, particularly given the UK is not currently on track to meet its medium-term carbon reduction targets that are still based on the previous 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 target.

Responding to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the Boris Johnson to respond to the “climate emergency” with urgent policy action. “Will he ban fracking, will he back real ingenuity like the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, will he increase investment in carbon capture and storage, will he back our solar industry and onshore wind, so devastated over the last nine years?” he asked. “Will he set out a credible plan to reach net zero?”

The Prime Minister’s address came alongside new ministerial appointments, as one of the biggest shake-ups of the Cabinet in living memory continues today.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Joining Andrea Leadsom at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is Kwasi Kwarteng, who has been appointed Minister of State for Energy at the Department.

Like his predecessor Claire Perry, Kwarteng will also attend cabinet, but there is no mention of Kwarteng assuming Perry’s clean growth brief, previously part of the ministerial job title. A spokesperson for BEIS was unable to confirm why ‘clean growth’ is not listed as part of Kwarteng’s job title, or whether he will lead on the Department’s climate responsibilities.

Perry relinquished her position as Energy and Clean Growth Minister to take up the role of COP26 President yesterday.

At BEIS, Kwarteng will be responsible for overseeing the UK’s continued transition to a cleaner electricity system, which has to date seen low carbon sources make up around half of the UK’s power needs.

But he will also play a key role in developing much-needed policies to decarbonise the domestic heating system which is currently heavily reliant on gas, as well as boosting home energy efficiency – an issue which the government has faced fierce criticism over in recent weeks.

He will serve under the new Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, who despite a mixed past track record on environmental policy, has in recent months been a forceful advocate for climate action, the UK’s new net zero emissions goal, and the major rollout of renewables and clean technologies.

A fellow Eton graduate like the PM, Kwarteng moves to BEIS after having served as Under-Secretary in the Department for Exiting the EU since November. Commenting on his appointment this morning, Kwarteng said he was “honoured and delighted” to be joining BEIS.

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