Politics

Stanley Johnson Baffles Viewers After Going On Newsnight As An ‘Environmentalist’

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Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is spotted out and about in London.

Stanley Johnson has been ripped apart on social media after he was introduced on BBC Newsnight as an “environmentalist” on Monday night.

The former MEP and father to prime minister Boris Johnson has regularly divided audiences with his views.

Remember when he revealed he was applying for French citizenship, despite supporting Brexit after the EU referendum of 2016?

Or the time he said he was surprised any member of the public would call his son “Pinocchio” as that “requires a degree of literacy which I think the Great British public doesn’t necessarily have” – before claiming it was a joke?

What’s Stanley Johnson done now?

As Johnson is most famous for his connections to No.10, viewers understandably questioned the former politician’s credibility as an “environmentalist” this week.

He was discussing the devastating new climate change report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the BBC.

The IPCC issued a “code red” for humanity and warned that without rapid intervention to reduce emissions, temperatures around the world would rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years.

Presented as an expert in the field, Johnson said: “I see one really important thing for the government to do and that’s to go strongly down the road of carbon taxing.”

He continued: “Yes, we will impose our own standards, our own taxes, our own charges, and that will generate so much money we can help the white van man, we can help the disadvantaged sectors of society through the extra funds raised.

“It’s a crucial, important instrument that has not been adequately emphasised.”

When asked if he had told the prime minister about this plan, he said: “I think he is well seized of this one, I think he is well seized of a carbon border tax one.” 

He then speculated on how this could change the UK’s relationship with India and China – some of the largest contributors to the climate crisis – and said: “Inevitably we are going to say, ’sorry folks, your stuff is not going to come in here unless we know that you are also applying similar taxes and charges.”

Social media erupted at the ‘environmentalist’

While Johnson’s ideas did not appear problematic, social media users hit out at the former politician just for presenting himself as an “environmentalist”. 

One Twitter user wrote: “Stanley Johnson, so determined to tackle climate change, that he took two planes to avoid a ban on direct flights from the UK to Greece.”

Referring to Johnson’s actions in July 2020 when he dodged the travel restrictions in place, the account pointed out: “All at a time when everyone was told to avoid foreign travel unless it was absolutely necessary.”

Satire account The Poke tweeted: “Next week, he’ll be back with advice on feminism, responsible parenting and the importance of adhering to lockdown rules.”

The BBC were in the firing line too, as one account wrote: “Whose bright idea was it to put Stanley Johnson on #Newsnight as the voice of the environmental movement?

“Really, @BBCNewsnight, you’re just making yourselves look silly.”

Another said: “Can we honestly say that the UK is taking the climate emergency seriously when we put Stanley Johnson on Newsnight, ffs.”

Many called for qualified environmental scientists to comment on the IPCC report instead.

Johnson appeared alongside Vicky Pryce, former Head of the Government Economic Service, who suggested governments can regulate to incentivise green innovation and development. 

Kate Raworth from Oxford University’s environmental research institute also going Monday night’s programme and said governments’ “addiction and dependency on creating growth” is an obstacle to tackling climate change”

ISABEL INFANTES via Getty Images

Johnson addressing Extinction Rebellion crowds in 2019

But…the rage wasn’t really valid

Johnson is actually a recognised force within the environmental sector.

He was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment in 1984, won the Worldwide Wildlife Fund’s silver medal in 2012 and received the RSPB’s medal for services to nature conservation in 2015.

He has written ten books on his environmental activism, too.

His first role in Brussels from 1973 to 1979 was at the European Commission as head of the prevention of pollution division, and he later became one of the first senior advisers to the directorate general of environment.

When he was an MEP, from 1979 until 1984, he served as the vice chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection.

Away from politics, Johnson has been the director of the environmental consultancy firm ERM, a trustee of the Earthwatch Institute and Plantlife International and an environmental adviser to Jupiter Asset Management.

John Stillwell – PA Images via Getty Images

Stanley Johnson and Carrie Johnson at an anti-whaling protest outside the Japanese Embassy in central London

Johnson – who also owns a 500-acre farm in Exmoor – has become one of the most prominent public figures to campaign in favour of saving Geronimo the alpaca’s life, demonstrating his passion for animal rights, too.

The government wants to execute Geronimo as he has tested positive for Bovine Tuberculosis twice, but a growing campaign is appealing for Downing Street to think again.

Johnson, alongside the prime minister’s wife Carrie Johnson, is also said to act as a form of personal influence upon his son in his bid to make the UK greener.

The former MEP is known to support Extinction Rebellion too, having openly worn their badge less than two days after the prime minister dubbed the activists “uncooperative crusties”.

Even so, some Twitter accounts slammed Johnson’s environmental credentials – such as his role as international ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network – and said they were still down to “chumocracy” instead.




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