Fact Check-Boris Johnson did not pledge to eliminate cash at COP26 summit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s slogan “coal, cars, cash and trees”, shared online and spoken during a U.N. climate conference, is spreading on social media alongside claims that the phrase means he plans to eradicate the use of cash in Britain. The “cash” remark, however, refers to climate finance for developing countries.

In widely shared posts, social media users point to Johnson's comments, suggesting that the UK government is planning to eliminate the use of cash and to introduce a controlled, digital currency here, here, here.

One member of a pro-cash group shared a screenshot of a Twitter post from Johnson which included the slogan, with the word “cash” underlined. “There it is!” they wrote alongside the image (here).

“We did not vote for a social credit system, digital ID or government-controlled digital currency,” another wrote, noting Johnson’s reference to cash here.

This reference, however, appears to relate to the prime minister’s pledge to increase climate financing the UK provides for developing countries to tackle climate change.

“I’ll be asking world leaders to take action on coal, cars, cash and trees – to keep alive the prospect of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees,” reads the Johnson’s original post, published on Nov. 1 (here).

He also articulated the slogan while speaking at the World Leaders Summit on Nov. 1, which opened the COP26 conference held in the Scottish city of Glasgow (here).

“We can get real on coal, cars, cash and trees. We have the technology to deactivate that ticking doomsday device,” Johnson said during the opening ceremony (timestamp 17:21, here).

Johnson continued (timestamp 18:37): “And as we look at the green industrial revolution that is now needed, around the world, we in the developed world must recognise the special responsibility to help everybody else to do it.”

As outlined in UK government documentation of a climate change address Johnson made at the U.N. General Assembly in Sept. 2021 (here), the “cash” section of the slogan refers to developed nations’ commitment to mobilise at least 100 billion dollars in climate finance per year for developing countries.

“We have a duty now to find those funds, 100 billion dollars a year that was promised in Paris by 2020 but which we won’t deliver until 2023, to help the rest of the world to move to green technology,” Johnson added during the summit.

Reuters reported on Oct. 31 (here) that Johnson was also due to make a commitment of 1 billion pounds from the UK to developing countries by 2025.


Missing context. Johnson’s slogan refers to a pledge to increase financing for developing countries to move to green technology to tackle climate change.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.