Boris Johnson suggests his climate change opinions are as important as young people’s because ‘I intend to be alive for a very long time’

Benjamin Kentish
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Boris Johnson suggests his climate change opinions are as important as young people’s because ‘I intend to be alive for a very long time’

Boris Johnson has told young climate change activists that he is “utterly fed up” with suggestions that their opinions “are more important than my own”.

The former foreign secretary hit out at “smug, irritating and disruptive” activists as the Extinction Rebellion protest that has brought parts of central London to a standstill continued into its second week.

Mr Johnson said he was sympathetic to the aims of the protest but suggested it should be taking place in China rather than the UK.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said: “I share some of the irritation at these climate change protesters. I am not in favour of paralysing public transport in the greatest city on Earth, and stopping people from getting to work. I don’t want some double-barrelled activist telling me that air travel is only to be used in emergencies – when his own Instagram account contains pictures of his recent skiing holiday.

“I admire some of these celebrity thesps, but when I see them mounted on a pink boat in Oxford Circus, blocking the traffic and telling the world how many trees they have planted to offset the carbon footprint of their flights in from Los Angeles, I slightly grind my teeth.

“And I am utterly fed up with being told by nice young people that their opinions are more important than my own – because they will be around a lot longer than me, and therefore that they have a greater stake in the future of the planet. With all due humility to my juniors, I intend to be alive for a very long time.”

Mr Johnson said he was “not sure why it is so glibly assumed that young people care more than anyone else about these issues” and claimed that the older he gets, the more he cares about global warming.

He called the Extinction Rebellion protesters “smug, irritating and disruptive” but said he was unwilling to condemn them, adding: “Today is Earth Day, and they have a point. They are right to draw attention to the loss of habitat, and the extinction of species. They are also right to sound the alarm about all manner of man-made pollution, including CO2.”

More than 1,000 activists have now been arrested in the last seven days after blocking major roads in Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Marble Arch.

Mr Johnson said the protest was wrong to focus on the UK government, which he said was “a world leader in reducing the greenhouse gases that are associated with climate change”.

He insisted it was possible for the UK to have zero net carbon emissions by 2050 but said this would be achieved “not through hair-shirted leftyism but solid Tory technological optimism”.

And he told climate change activists to focus their efforts on China, where carbon emissions have been rising “vertiginously”. The country now produces more carbon dioxide than the EU and US combined, he said.

He added: “My map tells me that London is nearer to Beijing than it is to Los Angeles. Surely this is the time for the protesters to take their pink boat to Tiananmen Square, and lecture them in the way they have been lecturing us. Whether the Chinese will allow them to block the traffic is another matter.”