I’m sure I wasn’t the only person this week who was surprised to hear our glorious Prime Minister singing the praises of wind farms, in the UK’s annual bastard… sorry, ‘Tory’ convention. Keep in mind that this is the same man who in only 2013 (and consistently since) vigorously denounced wind power, asserting that it “wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding” – we’ll pause for a moment to let you a) gag at the thought of Johnson ‘vigorously denouncing’ anything and b) to do the same as you visualise pulling the skin off a rice pudding – but it’s amazing what he is prepared to u-turn on when he thinks it’ll bag him a bit more support (and if recent and indeed consistent polling is to be believed then boy does he need it).
I struggle to imagine anyone else describing wind farms as being akin to “terrible Venusian invaders” but then again he’s not one to turn down an opportunity to blame a foreigner. Johnson now says he will invest £160 million in building new turbines across Wales, the north of England and Scotland and it’s only a shame this hasn’t come sooner. Scotland alone boasts more than 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind capacity yet this has been criminally underused by successive Tory and Labour governments. Only a few years ago Johnson decried wind power in favour of nuclear, something we should all be incredibly concerned about given plans to reactivate Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire, which was shut in 2018 after extensive cracks were discovered in the granite core. These cracks have not been repaired and according to EDF they are spreading faster than anticipated yet the reactor is still expected to start again, as the limit for a ‘safe’ number of cracks has been doubled from 350 to 700, according to a report by The Ferret (let’s not forget the sudden closure of Dounreay Nuclear power station in the same year due to a radiation leak, at least that one is scheduled for demolition).
Johnson himself evidently has a worryingly inconsistent record on green issues and policy which is why this new announcement must be taken with a grain of salt. This policy rings out as a distraction, something for environmental types to get excited about and (he hopes) distract them from the devastating destruction to England’s natural landscape, wildlife and habitats that is the monstrous HS2 clusterfuck. His government’s words on green policy are modestly ambitious yet their actions consistently fail to match up. Their goals for cutting carbon emissions are woefully slow, aiming to hit net-zero by 2050. This is widely viewed as being too late for substantial change with a study in 2017 determining that globally we must reach net-zero well before 2040 to meet the IPCCs target of only 1.5C global temperature increase.
Time and time again this government makes flashy announcements, promising what sounds like large sums of money to combat climate change and the nigh-inevitable catastrophe that we all know it will create yet these amounts pale in comparison to what is truly needed to produce the significant and necessary changes. As the Green party energy spokesman, Councillor Andrew Cooper, explains in a recent article in The Independent, powering all homes by renewable energy is a good step but falls far short of what is needed, noting that Johnson omitted to mention the importance of decarbonising the UK’s transport infrastructure and its industrial systems.
Johnson is a man whose opinions and beliefs change with the wind. He only now supports wind power because that is where the markets appear to be heading and the steadily increasing block of environmentally conscious voters could pose a threat to his currently unassailable majority. He once advocated for having nuclear power stations up and down the United Kingdom, even claiming he wanted one within London itself. Yet again, the PM is full of hot air, take no heed of his bluster and comments, he will let us down on this, as in all things.
Image: Scottish Government via Flickr