Boris Johnson is used to coming under pressure from the media and world leaders but today it was the chance of schoolchildren from around the UK to demand some answers.
On the agenda was plastic pollution, electric vehicles, and plant-based diets. Here’s what they wanted to know.
Why aren’t we treating climate change like an emergency in the same way we did with covid?
The PM didn’t argue with this one.
Johnson said he believed it was right to think of the climate crisis as an emergency but the best he could come up with on what’s being done urgently is the global goal of reaching net zero by 2050.
“We were the first country in the world to legislate for net zero,” he explained.
Global net zero means reaching a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere to the amount being taken out of the atmosphere.
He added that 80% of countries have now committed to the same target.
What are you doing to reduce plastic usage?
While struggling to remember the word “micro-plastics”, the prime minister explained that plastic particles are damaging the organs of not only wildlife but are entering our bodies too.
What’s the solution?
Johnson says we’ve already banned plastic stirrers and straws and are charging for plastic bags but everyone could be doing more.
He manages to pass the buck onto other organisations, dropping in Coca-Cola as one of the biggest polluters.
“There about 12 big corporations that are producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics, big, famous drinks companies that you may know, Coca-Cola for instance and others.
“We’ve got to move away from that and we’ve got to find other ways of packaging and selling our stuff.”
Will world leaders listen to us at COP26?
Hailing Australia as “heroic” for committing to reach net zero, Johnson was impressed with the decision as the country is heavily dependant on coal and carbon-producing industries.
“There’s a lot of peer pressure at the summit and I think that people feel that they want to follow the example of their friends and their neighbours, and that will have a good effect on on the outcome, I hope.”
He added that it’s still “far from clear” on whether COP26 will produce the progress needed to tackle climate change.
What will you do to make sure less plastic gets into the oceans?
Answering a question with a question never goes down well.
After a 7-year-old explained she uses a reusable water bottle and plastic-free toothbrushes, the prime minister asked her back whether she also uses a reusable toothpaste dispenser.
When he did get to answering her question about plastics in the ocean, he believes “recycling isn’t the answer”.
“Recycling doesn’t begin to address the problem.
“You can only recycle plastic a couple of times. And what you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic, stop the first use of plastic.
“Recycling is a red herring.”
Why aren’t electric cars cleaner, cheaper, and easier to use?
They might be too young to drive but it didn’t stop them from asking about the future of electric vehicles in the UK.
One child was particularly worried with the amount of CO2 produced to make electric cars even though they help the environment.
“There’s no magic answer to any of these problems,” Johnson said. “Although they produce no CO2, there’s a lot of CO2 that goes into making them but overall, on balance, it’s still a good outcome.”
Another question came about the lack of charging stations and how this is putting people off from buying an electric car.
It’s something the prime minister says he’s working on.
“Most people will be able to charge their electric cars at home but you’ll never be more than 30 miles from an electric vehicle charging point. We’ll make sure that that happens. We’re putting in huge numbers of EV charging points.”
Will you encourage more people to eat less meat?
The PM dished out some cooking advice to the kids, encouraging them that in the future we will all move away from eating as much meat.
Apparently beetroot is not the answer.
Johnson said he wouldn’t recommend “adding beetroot to a lasagne” after mishearing Steele suggest beans as a good meat-free substitute.
He is, however, a fan of “lentils” is you want an alternative.
Thanks for that chef Johnson.