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Labour’s green delusions could be its undoing

Accelerating Net Zero will hike energy bills, smother the economy and spark an almighty backlash.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics Science & Tech UK

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Politicians seeking election don’t usually tell us how they plan to make our lives worse. Yet the Labour Party, on course to win a huge landslide victory in tomorrow’s UK General Election, is proposing to hike the cost of living, to limit economic development and to curb our personal freedoms. It doesn’t say so explicitly, of course. But these are the clear and undeniable implications of its plan to accelerate Net Zero.

As if the UK’s current plans for reaching Net Zero carbon emissions were not punishing enough, Labour leader Keir Starmer and his shadow energy secretary, Ed Miliband, have vowed to bring a number of decarbonisation targets forward. All electricity, they claim, will be generated by ‘clean’ sources by 2030 – five years ahead of the Tories’ target. Sales of petrol and diesel cars will also be banned by 2030 – five years ahead of the EU’s target. And while the Labour manifesto promises that ‘nobody will be forced to rip out their boiler’, Miliband has vowed to implement a ‘boiler tax’ as soon as next year. New licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea will be banned as soon as Labour takes power, too.

Labour has tried to justify all this by pointing to the so-called climate emergency. It has also claimed that rapid decarbonisation will lower our energy bills, guarantee the security of our energy supply, promote economic growth and allow Britain to lead on the world stage. These delusions are about to have a very painful collision with reality.

The fallacy that ‘clean’ energy reduces bills is at the heart of Starmer’s plan for Great British Energy, a proposed state-owned energy company, which will invest in renewable-energy projects. What Labour ignores is that wind and solar power have an insurmountable problem. They are intermittent sources of energy – that is, they only produce electricity when the wind is blowing or the Sun is shining. Voters in a developed country like Britain, quite reasonably, expect to be able to access electricity at any time of day or night, and at a moment’s notice. Battery storage is too expensive and impractical to keep the grid functioning for long. Back-up sources like coal and gas are relatively cheap when used constantly, but firing up and winding down these power plants, just to cover the gaps when it’s dark and windless, adds exorbitant costs. This is why, wherever renewables have been rolled out most extensively, the cost of electricity only goes up and energy supplies become less secure, increasing the risk of blackouts and price spikes.

The rising cost of energy doesn’t just cause pain and hardship for households and families. It can also be fatal for industry – especially when combined with other burdensome green regulations. For instance, not only do British steelmakers already pay higher prices for energy than our European neighbours, the Port Talbot steelworks in Wales has also been coaxed into adopting greener manufacturing processes, shedding thousands of well-paying jobs in the process. Labour may point the finger at the Tories for failing to bail out struggling British manufacturing firms, but it is even more fiercely committed to the green policies that are contributing to their downfall. Labour is promising to be the party of deindustrialisation.

Many of Labour’s green policies will have been left unstated ahead of the election. Indeed, for all Miliband’s excitable chatter about Great British Energy and his Green Prosperity Plan, these policies would not come close to reaching Labour’s decarbonisation goals. The Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK government on delivering Net Zero, says that an astonishing 62 per cent of CO2 emissions reductions will have to come not from new carbon-free energy infrastructure, electric vehicles or insulated homes, but from ‘behaviour change and individual choices’.

If you think this ‘behaviour change’ is going to be achieved without coercion, then I have a floating offshore wind farm to sell you. Nudges, taxes and bans will undoubtedly be deployed to cajole us into using less electricity, heating our homes sparingly, taking fewer trips by plane and car, and eating less meat and dairy. In other words, we will be forced to give up what’s convenient and comfortable and to accept a lower quality of life.

Incredibly, Starmer and Miliband have deluded themselves into thinking that their programme of eco-austerity is going to be a hit with the public. In a new interview with the Guardian, Miliband makes clear that he sees his climate agenda as a means of beating back the tide of populism that is sweeping over the West. ‘The world is off track’ on meeting its climate targets, he complains, and there is a global ‘vacuum of leadership’ on green issues that he thinks a Labour-led UK could fill.

Of course, the real reason the world is ‘off track’ and lacking in climate ‘leadership’ is because Net Zero is really starting to bite. Europeans, in particular, are revolting against these punitive green policies. Farmers are furious with EU demands to cut their use of fertilisers, to set aside land for non-farming use and to restrict production of meat and dairy – all in order to meet stringent climate targets. Households are enraged at plans to take away their gas boilers and force them to foot the bill for expensive heat pumps and insulation. Factory workers see how exorbitant energy costs and Net Zero quotas threaten to strangle the industries that provide them with their livelihoods. Indeed, these are key reasons why there is a shift towards the populists across the West, as these are the only parties willing to challenge the elite’s green consensus.

Starmer and Miliband seem totally oblivious to the economic and political perils of their extreme climate policies. They have convinced themselves that Net Zero is a win-win – that you can roll out renewables and somehow cut energy bills, that you can strangle firms in green tape and still expect them to grow. Worst of all, they seem to think the public will be grateful for the gift of stagnant or declining living standards. But not even a so-called supermajority can insulate them from reality forever. Labour’s green fanaticism could yet be its undoing.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on X: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics Science & Tech UK

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