Boris’s recycled eco-sop
The 10-point plan repeats the exact failures of all the green packages that came before it.
Today, the prime minister announced his 10-point plan for what he claims will be ‘a green industrial revolution’. But despite the green applause and gushing, Boris Johnson’s agenda contains nothing new and nothing to cheer. It is nothing but the recycled and reused promises of every government which, since the 1990s, has failed to convince the public that environmentalist goals are advanced in our interests. These are commitments, not to respond better to the British public’s needs and wants, but to ignore them in favour of the wants of the blobs that infest Westminster, the ‘international community’, and Boris’s girlfriend.
It was not Boris who said, ‘The huge industrial revolution that is unfolding in converting our economy to low carbon is going to present huge business and employment opportunities’. It was Peter Mandelson in 2009. And it was not Boris who said that wind power means ‘a real prospect of us becoming a net energy exporter again, as we were at the peak of North Sea oil and gas’. It was the disgraced Chris Huhne, former energy secretary, in 2010. For over a decade, all governments have been promising that a ‘green industrial revolution’ is ‘unfolding’ on their command, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and release the UK economy from its slumber. Boris Johnson repeats them, claiming that the UK will become the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’. This endless recycling of promises has delivered nothing for the public, except perhaps for higher energy prices.
What this constant recycling demonstrates is how all the establishment parties have gone green. Vote Blue, go Green. Vote Boris Johnson, get Ed Miliband. The failed ambitions of a one-time party of government become the flagship policies of the next. The Labour Party’s ‘Green New Deal’, for example, was repackaged by the succeeding Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition as the ‘Green Deal’. Though he promised ‘no more half-measures going off at half-cock’, Chris Huhne’s scheme was abandoned after the public turned their noses at the offer, which included loans for home retrofitting – point seven on Boris’s plan. Much of Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan reuses these failed policies.
Then, as now, Britain’s politicians believed that strong domestic legislation on climate change is what’s needed to take a leading role on the world stage. In the desperate, dying days of the Gordon Brown government, the UK Climate Change Act was formed and was taken to the ill-fated climate meeting in Copenhagen by Ed Miliband. But the act of collective self-sacrifice taken on our behalf was ignored, and the meeting failed to reach an agreement. Boris’s 10-point plan intends to repeat the mistakes of the Brown government, by enacting draconian legislation ahead of next year’s climate meeting, which Britain is hosting.
Since the mid-2000s, the UK’s politicians, civil society and public institutions of all kinds have – with few exceptions – tried to establish the environment as the top political priority. Despite this, the ever-patient voter has had other ideas. The era of environmentalism’s apparent ascendency was better defined by the question of Britain’s membership of the EU. Although Johnson seemingly championed Brexit, he seems hell-bent on ignoring the referendum’s fundamental message: the desire for democratic control of British politics, not submission to undemocratic supranational political organisations. The 10-point plan, signalling ‘our’ commitment to the global green agenda, is intended to secure the foundation for a form of supranational politics that is every bit as overbearing and undemocratic as the European Union. No thanks, Boris.
The constant recycling of the same ‘ambition’ has become the leitmotif of British politics. It is the endless screeching of an aloof, detached elite, hopelessly searching for support from above, rather than turning to the public for instruction. But the fact is, as nearly everyone below can see, it is not an ‘industrial revolution’ that is being sought, but a political revolution – against democracy. Boris’s plan, the ‘Net Zero’ agenda and the green political consensus explicitly remove the public’s ability to participate in political debate about the material conditions they endure and the freedoms they enjoy.
Hence, the 10-point plan at last turns hitherto abstract emissions-reduction targets into more concrete objectives. As was expected, it sets out the plan in which domestic boilers will be abolished and replaced – at four or five times the cost to the householder – by ‘heat pumps’. Petrol and diesel cars will be abolished and replaced by electric vehicles that are vastly more expensive, pricing millions off the road. Meanwhile, cycling and walking will be made ‘more attractive’.
The government’s green turn has stirred some criticism from Tory quarters, concerned that the lofty green ambitions of the south east might not resonate in the newly won ‘red wall’ constituencies in the north. Not so, claims Boris in the Financial Times, invoking the distant memory of Britain’s industrial age, projected on to the future of former industrial towns. ‘Imagine Britain when a Green Industrial Revolution has helped to level up the country’ and ‘British towns and regions – Teesside, Port Talbot, Merseyside and Mansfield – are now synonymous with green technology and jobs’.
But the promise is paper-thin. It is a £12 billion make-work scheme. It might not be capable of creating a single job at all – let alone turning around Britain’s former industrial towns. In any case, its ambitions are dwarfed by the damage inflicted on jobs by the government’s response to Covid-19. Figures from the ONS show that the government borrowed upwards of £1 billion per day throughout the pandemic. That is to say that Boris’s flagship policy initiative costs less than a fortnight of its mismanagement of the pandemic. And it is the last nine months of the government’s catastrophic interventions that should calibrate our estimation of the 10-point plan.
I would not buy a second-hand car from Boris Johnson. Much less would I buy from him a suite of policies that will, among other things, abolish cars and reorganise the entire economy, society and culture. This agenda will have no democratic control; no ordinary person, whether or not they are grateful for a make-work job, will have any say over it.
In fact, I would not buy a second-hand car from any politician peddling Net Zero utopianism, hydrogen-powered fantasies and dreams of reorganising society around the rationing of energy. This is not ‘building back better’, as Boris would have it; it is building back according to the wishes of green-blob lobbyists, billionaires’ pet ‘civil society’ organisations, the prime minister’s awful girlfriend and a degenerate political class that thinks we can be persuaded into a lifetime of ecological austerity by a £12 billion sop.
Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.
Picture by: Getty.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.