Boris Johnson: We have got to get off Russian hydrocarbons

British prime minister tells journalists in Abu Dhabi boosting renewables and nuclear must be scaled up quickly

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh on Wednesday amid the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices.

He said he hopes the Gulf nations can help to ease oil prices, which have further risen since the Russian invasion and subsequent sanctions imposed on Moscow.

He spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi ahead of a meeting with senior Emirati officials. Here are excerpts from the session:

Q: Prime minister, you say people at home have to be prepared for painful consequences as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Can you tell us what that means?

PM: So, if you look at what Putin is doing in Ukraine, it’s causing global uncertainty and a spike in the price of oil. That feeds through to the forecourts in the UK. Everybody can see the effect of the increase in gas prices that’s coming through.

And we’ve got to make sure that we’re prepared, and we’re taking steps to mitigate that to help people with the cost of living. So, next week, we’re going to be setting out the energy strategy for the UK – massive, jump forward on renewables, more nuclear, using our own hydrocarbons more effectively. Also, looking at what we can do to source hydrocarbons from places other than Russia. We have got to get off Russian hydrocarbons.

But the reason for coming here is that it’s not just that they’ve got oil. They’re also some of the biggest investors here, in the Gulf, in UK renewables, in our wind farms. And that’s what we’ll be talking about.

Q: Do you think you can persuade oil producers today to turn the taps on?

PM: It’s not just a question of looking at the Opec countries and what they can do to increase supply, although that is important. There’s also the issue of Emirati investment in UK wind farms, already huge; what more can they do? We need to double the pace of our construction of wind farms.

We’re already one of the biggest producers of offshore wind power in the world. When we look at the dependency that the West in particular has built up on Putin’s hydrocarbons, on Putin’s oil and gas, we can see what a mistake that was because he’s been able to blackmail the West to hold western economies to ransom. We need independence.

Q: Briefly, on President Zelenskyy, he appears to have signalled that he doesn’t expect to join Nato and he sounds slightly more optimistic about peace talks. What’s your take on what’s happening? How things are developing?

PM: I talked to Volodymyr, again, yesterday. And you know, of course, I understand what he’s saying about Nato and the reality of the position. And everybody’s always said, and we have made clear to Putin, there’s no way Ukraine is going to join Nato any time soon. But the decision about the future of Ukraine has got to be for the Ukrainian people and for Volodymyr Zelenskyy as their elected leader, and we will back him.

And the most important thing is that Putin’s aggression, his absolutely barbaric attacks on Ukraine should stop. And they should not be seen to have succeeded and they won’t succeed.

Q: And, just lastly, there’s been some renewed optimism about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I know you were asked about this yesterday but now you’re in the region can you update people on any progress? Is it true there’s a negotiating team in Tehran?

PM: It’s true and has been for a long time that we’re negotiating for the release of our dual nationals in Tehran. Some very sad cases, including Nazanin. I really don’t think I should say much more. I’m sorry.

Although, you know, things are moving forward. I shouldn’t really say much more right now just because those negotiations continue to be under way and where we’re going right up to the wire.

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Updated: March 16, 2022, 11:22 AM