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Boris Johnson, the new U.K. prime minister, planted water lilies at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London in 2015 while the city’s mayor.

REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Boris Johnson’s stance on climate change has flip-flopped

Originally published by E&E News

The United Kingdom's new leader is being labeled an enemy of climate science and an ally of President Trump, but his public record paints a murkier picture.

Take an October 2011 report in which Boris Johnson, then London's mayor, touted his green credentials and policies to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

"London was the first city to experience mass urbanization in the modern era," Johnson began in his treatise, titled Delivering London's Energy Future: The Mayor's Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy.

"It was the imagination of our forebears—among them Bazalgette, Brunel, Prince Albert—who pioneered solutions to tackle some of the city's more mundane but critical challenges," Johnson continued. "I want now to unleash the same entrepreneurial drive and creative genius to achieve what is now the 21st century's environmental imperative, to cut carbon output and secure the city's energy supply, whilst making services more efficient and better value for money."

In later years, Johnson, who was named prime minister yesterday, wrote articles deemed sympathetic to climate skepticism. Environmentalists fume at his climate record in Parliament, including votes against carbon capture and storage technology investments and in favor of taxation on renewable energy projects.

But Johnson flipped again during his time as U.K. foreign secretary.

He openly criticized the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change and urged the United States to return to the fold. "We continue to lobby the U.S. at all levels to continue to take climate change extremely seriously," he told Sky News in 2017.

Johnson's public comments regarding climate change have been summarized by the group DeSmog UK in a thorough overview posted on their website.

Given the pattern of contradictions on climate, it might be said that Prime Minister Johnson could continue demonstrating an inconsistent track record on climate change moving forward.

Global warming, however, does not rank high on his agenda, as Johnson has made abundantly clear.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson insisted that his priority is "Brexit," the name given to the United Kingdom's looming withdrawal from the European Union.

"We are going to energize the country," Johnson said. "We are going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31, and we're going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do. And we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve."

He never mentioned climate change.

The Conservative Party's website doesn't mention it either. Rather, it lists Johnson's six-point plan "to get the country back on the road to a brighter future." Brexit tops the list, followed by more money for health care and schools, and a promise to hire 20,000 new police officers.

Climate change was very much a priority for Johnson during his term as mayor of London, however. He left that office in 2016.

In his 2011 mayoral report, Johnson said his policies promised to deliver to the city 14,000 "green-collar" jobs by 2025. He is also credited with introducing London's bike-sharing program and for floating the idea of emissions-free zones.

His plan envisioned retrofitting buildings to reduce carbon emissions.

"The policies and actions detailed here put London firmly on course to cut its carbon output by 60 percent by 2025," Johnson wrote in that report.

A 2012 paper issued as part of his "Better Off With Boris" reelection campaign also pulls on environmental heartstrings. He promised to expand the city's green space, and he highlighted climate change as "one of the most serious challenges we face."

Johnson's emphasis today is squarely on protecting Britain's economy while negotiating its withdrawal from the European Union.

"If you look at the history of the last 200 years of this party's existence, you will see that it is we Conservatives who have had the best insights, I think, into human nature, and the best insights in how to manage the jostling sets of instincts in the human heart," Johnson said this week.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2019. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at