It’s the tenth anniversary of the most stupid, pointless and wasteful piece of legislation ever passed in British parliamentary history: the 2008 Climate Change Act.
If you want to loathe and despise the political class even more than you do already, I heartily recommend a read of the damning report that Rupert Darwall has compiled for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Keep a bottle of whisky and your service revolver handy for when you’re done.
Darwall describes the Climate Change Act (CCA) as “history’s most expensive virtue signal.”
Unlike, say, the Paris Climate Accord — all of whose carbon emissions targets are entirely voluntary — the CCA imposes on Britain a legally binding commitment to ensure that its CO2 emissions in 2050 are at least 80 per cent lower than in 1990. (Originally the target was just 60 per cent. But then the children got overexcited.)
The costs of meeting this entirely arbitrary target have conservatively been put at between £324 billion and £404 billion. But that was ten years ago and anyway, Darwall believes this is a wild underestimate by mendacious politicians and civil servants who know that if the true costs were ever acknowledged the public would never forgive them. He reckons that as with Germany’s similarly disastrous Energiewende, the costs may eventually exceed £1 trillion.
As a result, British industry now suffers the highest energy costs anywhere in Europe.
British businesses already pay more for their energy than all their competitors in the EU. The more they use, the higher the price differential compared to their EU competitors. For medium energy users in 2016, energy costs were 56.7 per cent higher than the EU average. For intensive energy users, they are double the EU average.
The energy cost penalty British business is forced to pay comes straight off their bottom line. For a medium energy consuming business with an 8 per cent profit margin, the British energy penalty would represent 20 per cent of their profits. For larger ones, the 85.7 per cent penalty very nearly wipes out their profit.
And to what end?
As Darwall says, the Act was purely an act of virtue-signalling. Its only practical consequence will be to burden the UK economy with tariffs, red tape, and overpriced energy, and consumers with higher costs. The environmental benefits — as will become clear shortly — are zero. Or, once you consider the damage wind turbines do to birds, bats, and the countryside generally, negative.
Gordon Brown’s Labour government signed up to the Act because it’s the sort of stupid thing Labour governments do — especially when you’ve got Ed Miliband as your Secretary of State for Climate Change.
David Cameron’s Conservative opposition signed up to it because it wanted to soften and greenwash the public perception of what one MP, Theresa May, had infamously described as the “nasty party.”
Only five MPs — all of them Conservative — dissented. This enabled Ed Miliband dismissively to say at the Bill’s third reading — after one of the dissenters, Peter (now Lord) Lilley, had raised the awkward topic of the Bill’s escalating costs — “With five members and the overwhelming majority of members voting as they did, the mood and sentiment of the House is pretty clear.”
It’s a point worth dwelling on that every senior Conservative now in the government — even ones with a reputation for intelligence and an eye for detail, such as Michael Gove — voted through this godforsaken excuse for a dog’s breakfast of an Act. And none of them, so far as I’m aware, has repented of their foolishness, still less done anything to try to get this legislative act of suicide repealed.
In a way, you might argue, the Climate Change Act was a dress rehearsal for the current Brexit debacle.
All the frustrations we’re feeling now about the uselessness of our politicians — their moral cowardice, their brazen dishonesty, their refusal to acknowledge that the policy they are pursuing is wrong despite copious clear evidence, their preference for image over reality, their vulnerability to groupthink, their laziness, their unwillingness to perform due diligence, their utter contempt for the needs of the people they are supposed to serve – was already there, writ large, a decade ago in this misbegotten act. (An act, let’s not forget, which was drafted by an activist from the hard left environmental charity Friends of the Earth; a woman who, far from being chastised and vilified for the damage she has done, has since been ennobled and now sits in the House of Lords as Baroness [Bryony] Worthington.)
How did it get through Parliament?
Partly on the basis of lies by people like Ed Miliband and his Department of Energy and Climate Change, who underestimated the costs and grossly overstated (for which, read: ‘completely made up’) the benefits.
Partly because far, far too many MPs — remember, only five, out of nearly 650, dissented — wanted to show off their green virtue without caring a jot about the practical consequences.
But surely — you ask — surely so many clever, talented men, and women wouldn’t have voted through an act in such overwhelming numbers unless it contained at least some merit?
Even if you believe in man-made climate change theory, even if you believe that we need drastically to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in order to prevent “global warming”, the Climate Change Act will make no difference whatsoever.
The reason for this is simple: before signing the Act, Britain was already signed up to the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), designed to encourage EU member states to reduce their CO2 emissions on a collective basis. This is achieved via Emissions Allowances (EAs), a type of carbon credit. Member states reluctant to cut their carbon emissions too drastically can buy EAs instead. So long as the total number of EAs in circulation remains the same, it means that when one country cuts its emissions by a lot, other countries are able to reduce their emissions by less. So no matter how dramatically Britain decides to cut its CO2 emissions in accordance with the Climate Change Act, even if it somehow manages to achieve the impossible and reduce them by 100 per cent, it will still make no difference to global industrial CO2 output: other, less conscientious (or rather, less stupid) EU member states will make up the shortfall.
The burden of climate leadership is not borne by those who flatter themselves as planetary saviours, but in higher energy costs that hit business competitiveness, squeeze household budgets and fall most heavily on the poorest in society. Fiddling the measure of fuel poverty reveals the underlying morality of the CCA; to sacrifice the poor for the sake of climate theology. Perhaps there is only one positive thing that can be said for the Act. Ten years on, the CCA has achieved its purpose in making the UK an example to the rest of the world – no other serious country will do anything quite so stupid in the name of saving the climate.