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Politicians shouldn't scrap climate commitments to address cost of living crisis: Boris Johnson

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Politicians should not toss aside their climate commitments in order to address the cost of living crisis, says former U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson.

In an exclusive interview with CTV Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, Johnson was asked about his commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 against the backdrop of an affordability crisis, in the context of the current political debate ongoing in Canada. 

He said in his view, politicians can navigate voters' affordability concerns while remaining committed to their climate targets, by trying to tackle other pocketbook issues such as the cost of housing.

"I don't think you just address it by junking your commitment to the environment," he said.

"I think when you look at the cost of living crisis, there's a slightly different issue. And in my country, and I think a bit in Canada as well, the whole net-zero thing, the anger about net zero, is being driven by a general sense that people are spending far too much on their household outgoings," he said.

"I think in the U.K., and possibly also in Canada, we need to fix that problem."

In 2021, speaking at COP26, Johnson expressed concern about "quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2." As prime minister, Johnson did consider a consumer carbon price, but ultimately did not go forward with it.

Domestically, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to stand by his pollution pricing federal backstop and the associated carbon rebate system, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is leading a charge of premiers in opposition to the carbon tax and its scheduled increases. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's support for a carbon price has come under question in recent days after he stated it is not the "be-all, end-all" of climate policy.

Asked if he thinks the "anger" some feel about net zero threatens support for climate targets, Johnson said his impression is that "the voters who are very wise continue to care deeply about the environment, and they want solutions that are going to be cost effective."

"Here's the thing, the way for conservatives to try to explain net zero to people: it's about jobs, it's about technology, it's about getting the technological solutions to tackle climate change, right? We're not climate change deniers," said Johnson.

Johnson was in Ottawa on April 10 to speak at the Canada Strong and Free Network conference. While in town, he did meet with Poilievre, who in his own remarks before the crowd spoke about his desire to "fight to protect our environment and combat climate change with technology, and not taxes."

In the interview, Johnson said that while he agrees with "some of the anti-net-zero brigade" in that countries may have gone at these targets "too fast," he continues to believe that in the long run "you'll get cheaper electricity, you'll reduce your energy costs, ultimately, if you go green."

With files from CTV's Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha

You can catch the full, exclusive interview with Boris Johnson on CTV Question Period this Sunday at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT on CTV and CTV News Channel. 

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