The Prime Minister laughed as he heaped praise on his predecessor for giving the UK an “early start” on tackling climate change
Boris Johnson has been condemned for laughing as he heaped praise on Margaret Thatcher job-destroying closure of coal mines in the 1980s.
Speaking on a visit to Scotland ahead of the COP 26 summit in Glasgow later this year, Mr Johnson was asked if he would set a deadline for ending fossil fuel extraction.
He responded: “Look at what we’ve done already. We’ve transitioned away from coal in my lifetime. Thanks to Margaret Thatcher who closed so many coal mines [the Prime Minister then laughs] across the country where we had had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”
He then joked: “I thought that would get you going.”
Mrs Thatcher’s closure of the mines in the 1980s led to thousands of job losses and ended with a bitter battle with the unions.
Ex Labour MSP Neil Findlay was among those who hit out at the PM, saying: “Boris Johnson finding the plight of the industrial communities that were decimated by Thatcher’s assault amusing tells you everything you need to know about his mentality.”
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Mr Johnson underlined that when he was a child about 70% to 80% of all electricity had been coal-generated – with this falling to 40% by the time he became London mayor.
“Since then, it’s gone right down to 1%, or sometimes less,” the Prime Minister said.
“We’ve got a fantastic record in the UK of going to renewables. We were the first country to set a target of net zero by 2050. And if you look at Cop, the agenda is very, very clear and it’s incredibly exciting.”
He said there was a need to “transition as fast as we reasonably can” away from oil and gas, but added contracts that had already been signed for work in the North Sea “should not just be ripped up”.
He went on to describe the wind turbines he had seen north of the border as “colossal”, adding: “The potential of Scottish wind is just incredible.
“This is an opportunity to generate high wage, high skilled jobs that have the additional pleasure and motivation for people that by doing them they’re doing something to save the planet.”
The COP 26 summit in November will bring world leaders together from across the globe and is expected to be a key moment in the fight against climate change.
Speaking about the global ambition, determined at the Paris climate change summit to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, Mr Johnson said that was “going to be a tough ambition, this is a difficult thing to achieve”.
But he urged other world leaders to rise to that challenge, saying: “What we won’t do, we will not reduce the level of our ambition for Cop, in order to set the target, an ambition that we know we can meet.
“I’m going to be as ambitious as possible for Cop26 in Glasgow. I want the world to recognise the extent of the challenge, and I want everybody to try to rise to meet it in the way that I just set out with those ambitions. We must, must, must be as ambitious and as tough as possible and that’s what we’re going to do.”