Green grandstanding is out of control

The parties’ ever more outlandish climate plans will eviscerate our living standards.

Ben Pile


Brexit aside, this General Election campaign will be remembered for parties’ promises to spend more than their rivals. From the NHS to ‘free’ broadband for all, a bidding war has erupted. But it is the promises to spend on the green agenda that reveal just how ridiculous and empty most politicians’ promises are.

As reported previously on spiked, Boris Johnson’s green thunder was stolen from him before he became Conservative leader back in the summer. Theresa May, in her last days as prime minister, secured the ‘Net Zero’ CO2 emissions-reduction policy for her ‘legacy’. But this green competition to outbid and outmanoeuvre political rivals harks back even further. During the 2000s, David ‘hug-a-husky’ Cameron aimed to steal a march on the then Labour government by rebranding his party as an environmental champion.

But green politics is a game of politics-by-numbers that disfavours first-movers. The Labour government responded to Cameron’s initiative by proposing the UK should reduce its CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. The Conservatives upped the bid to 80 per cent. The Liberal Democrats said it should be 100 per cent. To settle the argument, MPs decided that an ‘independent’ panel should be appointed to determine the UK’s so-called carbon budget. The Committee on Climate Change was thus formed and it decided that the target should be 80 per cent.

A decade on, and after MPs from all parties had talked themselves into the 100 per cent target (ie, Net Zero), the only two parameters left to compete with were the date, and how much money to spend to get there.

Sure enough, not long after the Net Zero target was waved through by parliament, Labour Party members passed a motion at their autumn conference committing the party to bringing the Net Zero target date forward by 20 years, to 2030. It’s worth spelling out that this would mean decarbonising the economy. Essentially, the Labour membership voted to abolish every petrol and diesel car, to abolish the gas grid and every gas-fired central-heating boiler, to abolish flights, and to force every homeowner in the country to spend tens of thousands of pounds to make their homes ‘Net Zero’ compliant. How could any party up that ‘ambition’?

Then, after months of parliamentary paralysis over Brexit, the election was called. Eager to quash green speculation that the Conservatives were not as committed to the climate-change agenda as they claimed, the party announced an indefinite moratorium on fracking. Small beer, perhaps. By virtue of it requiring the government to do nothing at all and coming from the odds-on favourite to win the next election, it has been the most realistic policy proposal. But it has also dashed any hopes for a sensible energy policy in the near future. The Tories also promised that 30million new trees would be planted every year between now and 2025.

The Lib Dems then upped the stakes. Net Zero would be achieved by 2045 and 60million trees per year would be needed to hold off the climate apocalypse. Additionally, a Lib Dem government would ban petrol and diesel cars 10 years earlier than the Tories, and bow to Extinction Rebellion’s demands to hold ‘citizens assemblies’ charged with deciding how to achieve these off-the-cuff climate targets.

Despite the endless green pledges and whinging, it has been Brexit that continued to dominate coverage of the election. The Green Party now argues that the election is not about Brexit, but is instead a ‘climate election’. ‘This election is the last chance to stop climate change’, it warns. This might be a more believable claim if the Green Party were to commit to never again mentioning climate change if they failed to win the ‘climate election’. But Greens are not ones for respecting the expressed wishes of the voting public in any case, as illustrated by their participation in a ‘Remain Alliance’.

The Green Party’s manifesto says that a 2030 ‘Net Zero’ target would be achieved by spending £100 billion a year over the next decade. This includes £91 billion per year of borrowing. Not including interest, that trillion-pound ‘Green New Deal’ is equivalent to £15,000 per head of the population.

But the green grandstanding didn’t end there. During the drafting of the Labour Party’s manifesto, the unions voiced scepticism about the party’s 2030 Net Zero target. It was unachievable, it would lead to mass job losses, and it would dent the living standards of millions of workers, they said. Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested the target would be softened to apply only to energy production. But shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was on hand to quash rumours of an outbreak of common sense and to reiterate the party’s target. ‘Our manifesto will set out a pathway towards Net Zero by 2030’, she tweeted.

Just as with Brexit, the rift on climate change reflects the widening divisions between Labour’s traditional base and the urban middle-classes that dominate its outlook. In fact, Labour’s disorientation reflects the wider disconnect between all of the disoriented parties and the public.

All their absurd jostling to be the climate champions might make sense if the election was to be decided by the votes of some 45million Guardian readers. But the only thing passing for a test of the public’s appetite for radical green policies are poorly conceived opinion polls that attempt to measure the emotional impact of David Attenborough’s films. Yes, people largely agree that climate change is a problem. But asking people if they prefer mountain fresh clean air and trees or toxic pollution and dead polar bears is not a meaningful test of the public’s commitment to tackling climate change. No doubt, people’s enthusiasm for climate action cools when faced with the prospect of spending more each year on the climate than is spent on education or of being forced to make drastic lifestyle changes.

Another problem is that it is merely assumed, by all parties, that spending – ‘investing’, in the Westminster vernacular – trillions on green projects and environmental legislation will yield trillions in return. But there exists in the public domain no evidence whatsoever that spending a trillion on green energy, for example, will yield a single penny of benefit to the average voter. It will much more likely saddle households and the public purse with rising prices and substantial debt. The policies envisaged will kick people out of their cars on to inadequate public transport and will raise the cost and lower the standard of living. Politicians have barely begun to contemplate these consequences, let alone respond to them.

Far away from reality, politicians who claim to be championing climate change promise jobs, ‘social justice’, and economic renewal. But what the evidence suggests, from places as far afield as Iran, Chile, France, the Netherlands, and now Germany, is that rising energy prices and overbearing green legislation very quickly give rise to social discontent and often radical anti-government protests. No politician has yet explained how the UK will manage the inevitable difficulties ahead.

The only sense, then, that can be made of promises to spend trillions on the green agenda is that they are not offers to the public at all. They are instead pledges by the extant political establishment to itself. They are certainly nothing to do with representing the public’s wishes. After all, if no political party will depart from the cross-party consensus, then the cross-party consensus cannot be meaningfully tested. If nobody can vote against Net Zero, nobody can meaningfully vote for Net Zero, either. The point of green politics is to deny voters any choice whatsoever: not just over what to eat and how to travel, but also over how we are governed.

Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.

Picture by: Getty.

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Mark Pawelek

25th November 2019 at 1:00 pm

The core thing to know about the environment is there is no greenhouse gas effect. No man-made climate warming.

The idea that fossil fuel emissions warm the climate has always been a thought experiment. It is untested, and not validated against real world data. Actual scientific studies contradict forecasts of the greenhouse gas model. Such as the study, using data from 20 million weather ballons, by scientists Ronan and Michael Connolly. They found the upper atmosphere behaved entirely differently to how the greenhouse gas model says it should.

Every policy calling for zero, or reduced emissions is pseudo-politics, founded on pseudo-science. By woke fools too cowardly, conformist, and establishment-centric to question the green bullies.

PS: Connolly’s explain their study here:

George Orwell

21st November 2019 at 7:52 pm

There is new evidence that the Earth’s temperature is set by atmospheric mass and not greenhouse gases:

Some journalist or politician should pick up on this issue before the Greens cause irreparable damage.

Janet Mozelewski

21st November 2019 at 6:54 pm

Greens eh? Bunch of complete fuckwits.
W e are currently selling our French home in order to go back to blighty. Anyway….we have members of the so-called metropolitan Paris.London elite marching through our house most weekends. They all virtue-signal their green-ness. But know diddly squat about the countryside.
They want a nice road to get them easily to their weekend retreat in the sticks…BUT they don’t want a nasty old road anywhere near them once they get here…..They are totally behind renewable energy……AS LONG as their isn’t a wind-turbine within view. They are vegetarians ….BUT they rather like to have pasture rather than arable land next to them because its so much prettier. They don;t want a lot of garden to look after (we have an acre) and would like to rip out the hedges because its too much work…but don;t like the idea that the farmer in the next field may use spray (because the poor bastard has to actually earn a living) and that will kill the bees.
I had one woman who told me that we couldn’t have bees because of the corn field behind our house and the evils of insecticide. She was stung by the bee that lives in the key-hole and didn’t like the house because she says she has a problem with …bees.
You couldn’t make it up.
Most of the assaults upon the landscape and environment on the recent past have been in the name of greenness. Like the ‘green waste’ that gets spread on the land…to assuage consumerism-addicted townies consciences…..and is actually so full of metal and plastic that it is actually low-density land-fill. (i am a metal detectorist and I see it up close and personal.)

Janet Mozelewski

21st November 2019 at 7:31 pm

P.S. Don’t add a comment when typing in the dark after imbibing a bottle of Burgundy…..

James Knight

21st November 2019 at 5:40 pm

Brexit – a straightforward constitutional reform – is painted as an impossible dream that would cripple the economy but the fantasy pipe-dream of decarbonising the economy is presented as realistic, regardless of the effect on living standards. We are already paying for those effects with sky high energy costs, which are highly unpopular as evidenced by the yellow vest protests in France.

Green polices are not about saving the planet or any climate emergency. They are all about power and control. Religion is one form of social control, environmental religion is just another form of that. More and more power will be centralised at the macro level in quangos, international institutions like the EU or the UN and at the micro level or choices will be more and more restricted and managed by the state, from flying to eating meat or using a high power vacuum cleaner. What is truly farcical is these are the same people who preach “devolution” and “localism”. Apparently “localism” in the UK means more power to Brussels.

Phil Ford

22nd November 2019 at 10:03 am

‘What is truly farcical is these are the same people who preach “devolution” and “localism”. Apparently “localism” in the UK means more power to Brussels.’

Labour’s 2019 manifesto contains such idiotic doublespeak:

The entire document is a massive power grab – huge re-nationalisation and the establishment of countless new Government-controlled agencies to oversee every aspect of the great ‘social transformation’ Labour is dreaming of. And then, this:

[p14] ‘We will bring about a radical decentralisation of power in Britain so that local people and communities are given far greater control over their own lives and prospects.’

The comrades, trying to have it both ways and failing. It’s doublespeak. Orwell must be turning mournfully over in his grave… ‘People’s Courts’ and the introduction of ‘study sessions’ for those not sufficiently engaged with the Grand Project cannot be too far behind…

Jerry Owen

21st November 2019 at 12:22 pm

Watching Rod Liddle on YT talking to middle class luvvies at an XR demo, he asked a couple about nuclear power … ‘err that’s a difficult one’ ,,that speaks volumes to me!
It’s not the first time these XR goofs have come unstuck on the question of nuclear power.
Further, I note that they, as are all the green goofs starting to conflate plastics pollution with climate change, their joined up thinking is non existent.
It would be good to have more of Ben on this site.

Phil Ford

21st November 2019 at 11:57 am

‘…It’s worth spelling out that this would mean decarbonising the economy. Essentially, the Labour membership voted to abolish every petrol and diesel car, to abolish the gas grid and every gas-fired central-heating boiler, to abolish flights, and to force every homeowner in the country to spend tens of thousands of pounds to make their homes ‘Net Zero’ compliant. How could any party up that ‘ambition’?’

You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette, comrade. All this talk of ‘Net Zero’. It’s chilling. Reminds me of something… Let me think… Wait a minute!

Year Zero. Yes, that’s it.

Puddy Cat

21st November 2019 at 9:23 am

If only the subsidies were monies used for energy related research then maybe a way forward could be found.

Jerry Owen

21st November 2019 at 12:27 pm

Fossil fuels and nuclear power are the way forwards.. if you think we need to change that then you buy into the mantra of AGW.
Several billion people are going to leave a footprint on mother earth. As a species we are clearing up after ourselves very well the more productive and wealthy we become. It doesn’t have to be painful.
There are signs that China with increasing prosperity is starting to clean up its act now. Why would any human living a comfortable life want to cut it short by needless pollution that can be cleaned up ? It’s in their interests to have an environment that gives longevity to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Dominic Straiton

21st November 2019 at 8:17 am

There are as yet no credible alternatives to plentiful, cheap, fossil fuels. 25% of all our energy bills are made up of subsidising pointless “renewables” .This kills thousands more people in this country than “climate change”.

Jerry Owen

21st November 2019 at 12:30 pm

I will very interested to see how the proposed ‘fossil fuel free’ new houses work out, pipes in to the ground and air tight doors and windows don’t seem desirable to me.

Philip Humphrey

21st November 2019 at 8:01 am

Ironically we gave up on our best hope of seriously decarbonizing energy when the greenies (particularly Greenpeace) campaigned against nuclear power and largely stopped the building and development of new plant. The result is that we are decades behind where we could have been, new reactors are largely prototypes, prone to delays, cost overruns and problems because so few have been made in recent years. And renewables, however good, are not the whole answer.
The greenies played a major part in us into this mess, carbon emissions are far higher and we are far more dependent on fossil fuel than we would have been without their intervention. I have no confidence in them having any practical solutions now, and I don’t think government should be listening to them.

Michael Lynch

21st November 2019 at 11:14 am

Well said. The middle classes again meddling where they shouldn’t. If Nuclear Power had been left alone to develop properly then even the waste at Sellafield would have long ago been processed and reused. It really was the solution to clean and plentiful energy.

Ian Wilson

21st November 2019 at 5:15 am

Your last point is most prescient – we have no choice. That is another travesty of democracy.

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