THE BBC's labelling of Stanley Johnson as an “environmentalist” during a discussion about the climate crisis has been branded “embarrassing” by the Scottish Greens.

The party condemned the broadcaster for allowing the Prime Minister’s father to “masquerade” as an independent pundit during a debate on UK Government policy.

Johnson was interviewed on Monday’s BBC Newsnight, which focused on a landmark UN report which warned human activity is causing “unprecedented” changes in the Earth’s climate, some of which are now irreversible.

The International Panel on Climate Change forecast global temperature increases of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within the next two decades, exceeding limits set at the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Johnson – whose presence on the show sparked a deluge of complaints from viewers on social media – was introduced as an “environmentalist”.

He was asked by host Kirsty Wark for his opinion on the approach the UK Government should take.

The former Tory MEP said: “Where we are at the moment, what we face, I see one really important thing for the Government to do and that is to go strongly down the road of carbon taxing. This is the polluter pays principle, we all signed up to it when I was in the EU way back in the 1970s, we actually had a legal instrument which the UK applied as well.

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“We have to go there, and part of that is to also have carbon border taxes. Yes, we will impose our own standards and our own taxes and our own charged, and that will generate so much money that we can help the white van man, the disadvantaged sectors of society through the extra funds raised.

“It is a crucially important instrument that is not being adequately emphasised at the moment.”

Wark asked Johnson if he had “had tried to persuade the Prime Minister of this”, to which he replied: “I think he is well seized of this one.”

Johnson appeared in a segment alongside economist Kate Raworth and former head of the UK Government Economic Service Vicky Price.

But the presence of the Prime Minister’s father angered viewers and appalled climate change campaigners.

Scottish Greens culture and media spokesperson, Ross Greer, told The National: “Calling the Prime Minister’s father an ‘environmentalist’ undermines the BBC’s credibility on the most pressing challenge facing the planet.

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“Boris Johnson is committed to ploughing hundreds of billions into fossil fuels, road expansions and nuclear weapons, and on a day when UN climate scientists were warning about the potential loss of entire countries within our lifetimes, it is embarrassing that his father was considered an appropriate guest for the BBC’s premier current affairs programme.”

He added: “Yesterday’s report could not be clearer about the scientific evidence that shows the stakes and urgency of this problem. The media can play an important part in holding the UK and Scottish Governments to account, but not by allowing the immediate relatives of our most senior politicians to masquerade as independent critics.”

Several high-profile figures also criticised the BBC on social media.

Academic and National contributor Gerry Hassan wrote: "A UK politics & media where who know rather than what you know is what matters. A case in point: the shameless Stanley Johnson, father of the shameless Boris Johnson."

Former Labour MP Thelma Walker quipped: "Stanley Johnson, having covered the environment this week , will move on to parenting next week..."

Ash Sarkar, political pundit and contributing editor of Novara Media, said she had been asked to appear on the show to discuss whether the climate crisis was being “taken seriously enough”.

She explained: "I was asked by Newsnight to go on last night (it didn’t end up happening as they wanted to go in a different direction, which is normal). And the producer asked me if I thought the media was taking climate change seriously enough.

“You’ll never guess what happened next!"

Johnson hit the headlines last year after jetting off to Greece, via Bulgaria, despite government advice against "all but essential international travel" due to the pandemic.

He insisted at the time that he was "on essential business" to ensure his Greek rental property was "Covid-proof" before holidays restart.

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One social media user said: “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.

“All at a time when everyone was told to avoid foreign travel unless it was absolutely necessary.”

During his stint in Brussels, Johnson was head of the prevention of pollution division at the European Commission. In 1984, he was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment for his activism.

Newsnight also broadcast a panel discussion including the lead author of the climate change report, Dr Frederike Otto, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard, as well as Tory MP and Environmental Audit Committee member James Gray.

A BBC spokesperson told The National: “The full programme focused on the environment and Mr Johnson was one of seven guests. He took part in a panel discussion, representing a range of views.”