Environmental campaigners urge Johnson to go further with ‘green’ recovery plan

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The Prime Minister’s ‘New Deal’ for the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus does not go far enough in tackling the climate emergency, campaigners have said.

Speaking in the industrial of town of Dudley in the West Midlands, Boris Johnson promised a “greener and more beautiful Britain”.

This would be achieved with plans to plant around 30,000 hectares of new trees every year, introducing 4,000 new zero-carbon buses and the construction of cycle super-highways, among other measures.

Johnson also said £40m would be available for local conservation projects to tackle climate change, halt the loss of wildlife and connect people to the outdoors.

But Friends of the Earth said that a green recovery “should be the centrepiece of government plans, not some detailing at the very edges”.

Muna Suleiman, campaign lead for the environmental network, said: “Boris Johnson won’t build back greener by investing in yet more roads, which will only lock us further into the climate crisis.

“President Roosevelt was ambitious. The Prime Minister cannot seriously reference a New Deal when his suggested spending equates to something like £100 per person. You can get a Netflix annual subscription for that, but not a green recovery.

“The UK must hit the restart button on its environmentally destructive economic system, and create the jobs and opportunities that will deliver for us all.

“The country is crying out for a green economic action plan with a massive energy efficiency programme, safer walking and cycling, and world-class public transport.

“It’s time to end our fossil-fuel and car dependency and build a cleaner, fairer future.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the Government has been urged by different groups, including the Committee on Climate Change, to implement green stimulus packages such as a programme of upgrading the UK’s homes to be more energy-efficient and bringing the date forward for the phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars.

But while Johnson made some green concessions in his speech, he also promised funding for road schemes and reform of the planning system to make it easier to create new homes on brownfield land and “other areas”.

Woodland Trust chief executive Dr Darren Moorcroft said action to restore the natural environment and other green projects would cut carbon and reboot the economy, delivering a “win-win”.

He urged: “Woods and trees belong at the heart of any ‘green recovery’ worthy of the name. That means protecting what we have as well as striving to increase tree cover.

“It is vital, as the nation strives to stimulate economic recovery, that environmental protections are not relaxed.”

Ed Matthew, from The Climate Coalition, said: “The PM’s call to ‘build, build, build’ failed to mention the need to help people to rebuild their existing homes to make them zero-carbon.

“This is the biggest and most important building challenge we face as we seek to tackle the threat of catastrophic climate change.

“A massive retrofitting programme to decarbonise UK homes can boost the economy, create over 200,000 jobs across every part of the UK, and reduce NHS costs.”

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