PM targeted over climate change stance at Lib Dem conference

Boris Johnson has been accused of acting like a “climate change denier” in a scathing speech by Liberal Democrats environment spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse.

The Bath MP said the Prime Minister was using language on climate change that was akin to controversial US President Donald Trump.

In the first speech from one of leader Jo Swinson’s top team at the party conference in Bournemouth, she said: “Now, like Trump, Johnson is talking about ‘extreme weather conditions’ – he is moving away from the acceptance of climate change.

Boris Johnson visit to South Yorkshire
Boris Johnson was accused of acting like a ‘climate change denier’ (Christopher Furlong/PA)

“They (the Government) are even talk about reducing fuel duty. These are the words and actions of climate change deniers.”

As mayor of London, Mr Johnson shrank the congestion zone but rolled-out a city-wide bike hire scheme and vowed to “lie down in front of those bulldozers” rather than see a third runway built at Heathrow Airport.

Ms Hobhouse said “populist” leaders across the globe were using the impact of climate change to their own advantage.

“Whether it is Trump, or Bolsonaro, Putin, or any other dictator across the world, they all actively encourage activities that create environmental chaos, division, social instability and economic disruption. Because these are the conditions in which they thrive,” she told party members at the Bournemouth International Centre.

She tore into the Conservative administration’s record on reducing the UK’s carbon footprint, and said ministers had “destroyed” the record left by the Lib Dems when they were in coalition between 2010 and 2015.

“What have the Tories done about the climate emergency in the last four years? Apart from Theresa May’s legacy bill of committing the UK to net-zero by 2050, the Tories have destroyed almost every bit of progress we made during the coalition years,” she said.

She singled out for criticism the decision to scrap the Department for Energy and Climate Change and blasted the Government’s policy of pursuing fracking – which has resulted in drilling that has caused earth tremors in Lancashire in recent weeks – as “madness”.

The party’s climate change spokeswoman told supporters that the Lib Dems could support future airport expansion – but only if an alternative to jet fuel was found.

“In aviation, we urgently need to find an alternative to jet fuel. This development could take 15 years. Until then, Liberal Democrats will not support any airport expansion across the UK,” said Ms Hobhouse.

“For the Green Party, aviation is the problem, for the Lib Dems, jet fuel is the problem.”

The conference is due to debate the party’s climate change policy, which includes setting up a citizens assembly to decide on how best to tackle the threat of changing weather and rising sea levels, on Monday.

If approved, the idea for citizens assemblies would form part of the Lib Dem manifesto at the next election.

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