Parliamentary Sketch: Govt Admits that Costs of Climate Change Policy Far Outstrip Benefits

Oli Scarff/Getty

In a lively exchange in the House of Lords yesterday, the government admitted that the costs of renewable energy technologies far outstrip the benefits they deliver.

Responding to a question put to him by Viscount (Matt) Ridley on the cost of greenhouse gas abatement, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), told the Lords: “Based on support provided through the renewables obligation, the estimated abatement cost in 2014 was £65 per tonne of carbon dioxide for onshore wind, £121 for offshore wind and £110 for solar PV.”

Viscount Ridley shot back at him: “The numbers he gave … are higher than the numbers given for the total cost of climate change—the so-called social cost of carbon—as estimated by all economists, including even the noble Lord, Lord Stern.”

In fact, in his 2006 report Lord Stern gave the social cost of CO2 as $85 per tonne, then equivalent to £44.20, or in today’s prices around £55.

Viscount Ridley asked Lord Bourne: “Does he agree that the Ed Miliband/Chris Huhne energy policy that he inherited has been extremely effective at taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich but much less effective at decarbonisation—and particularly at decarbonisation in an affordable way?

“[And] would my noble friend guarantee to investigate these numbers to see whether we are getting value for money as consumers through these subsidies?”

However, Lord Bourne prevaricated on the subject, instead assuring him only that the costs of renewables was coming down, and asserting that household energy bills are lower than they would have been if the Labour Party under Ed Miliband had won the election.

But the Lords were not to be shaken off with that answer. Lord Lawson of Blaby (better known as Nigel Lawson, Margaret Thatcher’s former Chancellor) jumped in to ask Lord Bourne: “by what date do the Government expect renewables to be cost-competitive so that hard-working families and businesses will no longer have to subsidise wealthy landlords and other green investors?”

Exasperated, Lord Bourne replied “My Lords, it is not merely a question of cost.”

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a former leader of UKIP also joined in, asking “will the Government compensate the increasing number of British people forced into fuel poverty by the man-made climate change policy if climate change turns out not to have been man-made at all?”

Despite the fact that he now had three Lords questioning him on the wisdom of the government’s climate change policy, Lord Bourne replied “I suspect that the noble Lord may be in a minority of one in his view of the position on climate change. Obviously, we are very pleased that the fuel poverty statistics are on a downward trend and that fewer people are in fuel poverty this year than last year.”

But at no point did he contradict the central premise: it costs significantly more to mitigate against climate change than it does to merely live with it, even on the warmists’ terms.

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