Britain has now officially ratified the COP21 Paris climate agreement.
The good news is that this will make no difference to anyone or anything because the agreement is toothless and non-binding. The bad news – as you can tell from some of the ministerial comments – is that it serves to remind us that Britain’s climate and energy policy is still in thrall to the environmentalist lunacy which wiser heads like Donald Trump are trying to write out of history.
Wiser heads? Donald Trump?? Yes, I can almost hear the sneering and the jeering from the usual suspects.
But even if you disagree with Trump’s environmental and energy policy – which I don’t – it remains an unarguable fact that the world’s most powerful nation is heading in a very clear direction for at least the next four years: pro-fossil-fuels, anti-renewables. This is going to have a massive, largely positive impact on the U.S. economy because by bringing down the cost of energy, it will give consumers more disposable income and enable businesses – especially in energy-intensive heavy industry – to increase their profit margins or cut costs to the benefit of their bottom line.
At this point, America’s global economic competitors have one of two options: either they wake up and smell the coffee and move in America’s direction; or they bury their heads in the sand, pretend we’re still living in the status quo ante and sit, helpless, while America’s new higher-carbon economy steals half of their business.
Judging by the comments of the Minister for Climate Change and Industry – about as fatuous a title as being Minister for Veganism and Meat – Britain has already made up her mind:
“The UK is ratifying the historic Paris Agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all,” Nick Hurd, Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, said.
“We are going to use this positive momentum to grow the UK low-carbon sector, which is already worth over 46 billion pounds, as we continue to provide secure, affordable and clean energy to our families and businesses,” he said.
Nick Hurd, it should be noted, had the best education money can buy at Eton. Clearly, it was utterly wasted if this is the sort of bilge he comes up with.
What can government-imposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions (which inevitably lead malinvestment, cronyism, tariffs and subsidies) possibly have to do with prosperity? Or indeed safety?
It is weapons-grade bollocks and inspires very little faith that Theresa May, despite her axing of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has any real grasp of the rapidly changing nature of the climate debate. We got a depressing taste of this when she gave the monstrously expensive, outdated, and generally rubbish Hinkley Point C power station the go-ahead.
If the even crazier exercise in green virtue-signalling and crony capitalism the Swansea Bay Tidal Project gets approved, we shall know that the government has lost the plot completely.
Perhaps had Hillary Clinton won the presidential election, this would make a sort of sense. Britain would be merely going with the flow of international policy.
But Trump won and now Britain faces a stark choice, described here by Rupert Darwall who has been in Marrakech at the COP22 conference.
Although Britain is formally leaving the EU, its climate and energy policies look set to remain exactly the same. Indeed, when it comes to climate and energy, Britain is being more Catholic than the Pope.
The German government has stated its intention to keep burning coal for at least the next two decades; Greg Clark’s business department has just launched a consultation on phasing it out by 2025.
That is unlikely to play well in Washington, to say the least. Coal is important to Republicans. Over the last two years, Britain imported 16.5 million tonnes of coal from America, worth $1.4 billion.
Four of the top five coal-producing states voted Republican – including Pennsylvania, which switched from the Democrats. Of the top 10 coal-burning states, seven voted Republican last week, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s Indiana and swing state Ohio.
An iron rule of American politics is that domestic politics trump international considerations. As Henry Kissinger told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg after the election, Trump’s victory “could enable us to establish coherence between our foreign policy and our domestic situation”.
And it is very hard to envisage the Trump Administration looking kindly on a potential trade deal with a partner that is in the process of banning imports of American coal – and putting American miners out of work.
So far it looks like Britain is hell bent on taking the wrong decision. Business Secretary Greg Clark looks to be clueless and it seems depressingly likely that all the green activists who infested the defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change have simply been dispersed within other ministries, spreading their environmentalist crony capitalist poison.
Here is John Constable’s depressing take:
The UK’s new secretary of state for Business, Greg Clark, has just given his first public speech on energy. It suggests, unfortunately, that he is not yet sufficiently confident of his brief to resist the views of his civil servants. Indeed, this speech could easily have been written for Ed Miliband, or Chris Huhne, or Ed Davey, and suggests that the rent-seeking green interests in the electricity sector are re-injecting themselves into the national bloodstream through an interventionist industrial strategy. This will result in overcapitalisation and reductions in productivity.
We have scotched the Green Blob but not killed it. A long hard battle lies ahead of us.