Charles Moore: Brexit Britain can’t thrive without cheap energy. We need a bonfire of green regulations Under the leadership of the then Labour Environment Secretary, Ed Miliband, Britain became committed by law to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, the only country to do so. Nearly a decade later, the Climate Change Act can be seen as the last spasm of that strange “things can only get better” era when, in fact, they got markedly worse. It is very disappointing that the Conservative’s only electoral response to this problem is to talk about capping energy prices. The impact assessments of the Climate Change Act predicted ever-increasing price rises of oil and gas, making renewables look good. The opposite has happened: oil and gas prices have almost halved since 2014, yet our bills keep going up. Today’s high energy bills are the result of government policy much more than of wholesale prices or producer scams. Caps crush investment without remedying the problem. In 2010, environment and social costs amounted to 4 per cent of the average electricity bill. Today, they amount to nearly 15 per cent. Subsidies for renewables, which now stand at £4.5 billion, are set to double by 2020. Even if we are reducing our emissions, we are not reducing the global amount of carbon. We are simply importing from other, less squeamish countries the high-energy-produced goods we used to make ourselves. We lose jobs, but don’t save even our little scrap of the planet. Mrs May, in her low-key manner, could shift the debate with electoral success. First, perhaps foremost, she could make it a debate about cost and secure supply. As today’s joint letter to The Telegraph by four think tanks, including the Global Warming Policy Forum and the Institute of Economic Affairs, argues: “The aim must be a cheap and reliable supply of gas and electricity to cut household bills and give Britain an edge over rivals who currently pay significantly less.” She should integrate this with her “Industrial Strategy”, which at present, as summarised on the party website, mentions neither costs nor energy. Second, the Tories should have another look at the evidence base. At present, the Bible of climate change economics is still Lord Stern’s report of 2006. We live by his some would say preposterous assertion that “if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be the equivalent of losing at least 5 per cent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” More than 10 years later, it is time to announce a formal review of what the real costs are – particularly the difference between the costs of fossil-fuel and renewable options. Finally, it is time to shift the subject-matter of environmentalism. This week, the Government was caught out in the High Court trying to delay publishing its plans for reducing the nitrogen dioxide produced by diesel engines which – let it never be forgotten – we were bribed to switch to because diesel contains less carbon. Climate change is often a highly speculative debate about what might one day happen. Pollution, on the other hand, is often a problem about something which is making millions of people ill right now. Tories should look coolly at the former, and turn up the heat against the latter.
Telegraph 28th April 2017 read more »