- Politicians had to be “systematically dishonest” to pass net zero
- A small group of activists staged a coup in 2019
- The more impossible net zero is, the more your living standards will be cut
The consequences and requirements of our commitment to net zero are starting to emerge. The latest example is that we’re being urged not to heat our homes at night so the government can meet its net zero target…
With net zero already starting to impose itself on our everyday lives, you might be wondering how exactly politicians managed to be dumb enough to impose it on us in the first place. I mean who in their right mind would expect to be re-elected on such a policy once the consequences emerge?
The answer is that Theresa May was very much on her way out when she imposed the new target.
According to the chancellor who was responsible for pointing out just how impossible net zero is at the time, politicians had to be “systematically dishonest” to get the legislation through.
But the more accurate answer, according to author and journalist Ross Clark, who literally wrote the book on net zero, is even more shocking. Here’s what he told me in an interview:
Well it started with the Climate Change Act 2008 and this was under the last Labour government. Initially it was drawn up by David Miliband, who came up with the target of reducing emissions by 60% by 2050. This is all on 1990 levels. And then his brother got his job in the environment and he sort of just upped it to 80% cut by 2050. I don’t know exactly where that came from, but he sort of just decided that 80% sounded better than 60%. And for ten years that was the UK target, a legally binding target.
But then in the dying days of Theresa May’s government, when the country’s mind was on Brexit, we suddenly slipped this net zero target beneath the noses of the country. It was put through the House of Commons without even a debate, without even a vote. In the House of Lords there was a vote and some Lords got together and they passed an amendment saying well the government really ought to tell us how it’s going to get to net zero. Even so, the House of Lords still nodded through this thing. And so we were sort of saddled with it, without any proper public debate or without even, you know, a proper vote. It’s extraordinary.
Yeah, it seems, I mean, it doesn’t even seem like it could happen to me. How is that even possible? Because what you’re really saying here is that one of the biggest policies, probably ever to pass the UK, enter into law in the UK, was made without a national debate, without a political debate, without costings, without any sort of analysis, without any sort of plan. It was nodded through despite all of this. And how can any of that happen? I doubt it can happen with anything other than a net zero target.
Well, as you say, this is the furthest-reaching law that has been passed in Britain in modern times. I’ve absolutely no doubt about that. It’s far, far more significant than Brexit, for example, because it feeds into every aspect of our lives, everything we do, every way we work, everything we grow, everything we produce in Britain. It’s going to force it to change using technologies which either don’t exist at the moment or haven’t been scaled up on a proper commercial basis.
You go back to 2019, how did it happen? Well, if you remember there was this sort of extinction rebellion protest in that year, in the April of that year. David Attenborough then made his television documentary claiming we’re all going to hell in a handcart due to climate change. Greta Thunberg arrived on the scene and the sort of children went on strike from their schools and all that sort of thing. And MPs just seem to get swept along with this.
And the trouble is, we have an awful lot of MPs in this country who have no scientific background, no mathematical background, and just sort of thought, “Well net zero sounds a sort of virtuous thing, and we’ll have to support it,” And this dreaded phrase about “being on the right side of history” and all that kind of stuff.
And without any proper analysis, and there wasn’t even… you know, most laws we have a sort of proper procedure for coming up with the costs and the benefits and the other effects of law – the unintended consequences. We just didn’t have that with the net zero commitment. It was just slip through as if it was a minor change to an existing law and things were not discussed.
Ever since they passed it though, it seems like people have come out of the woodwork, people like you, engineers, scientists, journalists, all sorts of different experts, and they’ve started doing the maths. And it’s just not plausible. So now we’re really stuck, aren’t we? I mean, what’s the politics of this now that it doesn’t look like next zero is plausible in terms of whether we can achieve it by 2050?
Well, at some point, the closer we get to 2050, I mean, the more difficult it’s going to become. The more obvious it’s going to become that we’re going to have some severe problems getting there without seriously undermining our industry. But I think that, you know, back in 2019, the year 2050 just seemed so far away that there was all these MPs who thought, “Oh, I’m not going to be around in 30 years’ time. “And it just almost became somebody else’s problem.
And I think there was this sort of argument that it was like President Kennedy in 1961 saying, “We’re gonna put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s,” which of course they achieved. But there’s a very, very big difference between that. I mean, Kennedy set one target, put a man on the moon. He said a large but finite budget. Net zero just works into everything we do. It’s an open-ended commitment. It’s an open-ended target. And President Kennedy didn’t put a legal commitment on the US to get to the moon by the end of the 1960s. And yeah, we’re in a total mess.
I mean, just to sort of drag up one or two of the issues which come up along the way, which we’re going to run into well before 2050. I mean, at the moment, our electricity system is about 40% gas, it’s about 24% wind and solar, and the gas balances the wind and solar so when the wind’s not blowing, the sun’s not shining, we turn up the gas and turn it down again. It’s not the most efficient cost-effective way of using gas, but it works, keeps the lights on. But by 2035, as part of its road map to net zero, the government wants to eliminate all fossil fuels from electricity generation. Well, what happens then?
And I keep asking the government this question and I’ve never received a proper response. You know, what will keep the lights on after 2035? I mean, there are potential solutions, you know, batteries or storing energy in the form of hydrogen. The trouble is they are all fantastically expensive and they have not been proved on a sort of proper commercial scale.
It seems to me that a half-baked cost/benefit analysis was simply never done properly. There is no plan to get to net zero, only the requirement to do so… which is not a good combination.
And the more we fall short, the more your living standards will have to be what gives.
Unless you come prepared to how the UK will change. We’ll reveal how, soon.
Until next time,
Editor, Fortune & Freedom