The Brief, powered by FACEBOOK – Different shades of green

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/Hollie Adams]

COVID-19 has claimed many casualties over the last 14 months, one of them being international summitry. Still, the groundwork for the COP26 climate summit is slowly grinding into motion ahead of November’s gathering in Glasgow.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson actually talks a good green diplomatic game when it comes to climate change, much to the chagrin of the many climate sceptics in his Conservative party. His dominance of the party, however, evidenced by last week’s strong performance in local elections, is such that they have no choice but accept it.

Last month, Johnson announced plans to cut carbon emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035, bringing the timetable forward by 15 years, and vowed to use the pandemic to “build back greener”.

On Friday, Alok Sharma, who Johnson moved from a cabinet post as business minister to be president-designate of COP26, described the summit as “our best chance of building a brighter future […] of green jobs and cleaner air”.

Johnson will chair the G7 summit in Cornwall next month and is expected to urge fellow wealthy nations to increase their financial assistance to poor countries to help them cut their emissions and pay for projects to mitigate the effects of dangerous climate change.

But, of course, this is Boris Johnson we are talking about and so there are contradictions between the rhetoric and the reality.

While the EU has its multi billion euro Green New Deal, and US President Joe Biden boasts a $2.3 trillion green infrastructure plan, the UK government’s Ten Point Plan involves a mere £4 billion of new funding.

A subsidy on environmentally friendly home improvements, designed to stimulate business amid the pandemic, was quietly scrapped because a complicated set of criteria and bureaucracy put consumers off.

And then there is coal. King Coal has been history in the UK for 30 years, an industry that fell victim to Margaret Thatcher’s union–busting in the 1980s.

Yet the Johnson government has enthusiastically signed off on a new coalmine in the northwest of England, though it has since backtracked, first by insisting that the mine would only produce coking coal and then by putting the final decision to a public inquiry.

US climate envoy John Kerry has chided Johnson over the project, remarking that “the marketplace has made the decision that coal is not the future”.

Alok Sharma, meanwhile, says that “if we are serious about 1.5C, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history”.

The question for world leaders coming to Glasgow, who will be under pressure to step up their own carbon reduction targets, is which Johnson are we going to see?

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The Roundup

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are set to co-host a summit on Friday (14 May) to review progress made on combatting terrorist content online two years on from the live-streaming of the deadly Christchurch mosque attack.

The EU is currently at a ‘tipping point’ when it comes to nutritional challenges, according to a new report, which highlights the urgent need for an integrated approach to ensure the balance tips in the right direction.

The Spanish government has rejected a request to speak before the European Parliament’s inquiry committee (ANIT) about issues related to live transport of animals, according to documents seen by EURACTIV.

The EU’s recovery fund and private investors will push investment to a level not seen for more than a decade, but the risk of corporate insolvencies could hamper the European economy’s take-off.

Last but not least, to stay on top of things, don’t forget to check out our weekly Digital and Global Europe briefs.

Look out for…

  • On Monday (17 May) Western Balkan leaders annual meeting on EU accession.
  • European Parliament plenary session 17-20 May.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Josie Le Blond]

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