The 14 Words

Monday, 20 October 2014


The Climate Change Act could cost the UK £1.3 trillion over the next 36 years

Who are potentially the most expensive man and woman in Britain, due over the next 36 years to cost this country £1.3 trillion, equivalent to our entire, ever-swelling National Debt?

The man is Ed Miliband, who in 2008 pushed through the final version of the Climate Change Act. It made us the only country in the world legally committed between now and 2050 to cutting our emissions of CO2 by a staggering 80 per cent. Even then, the Government projected that this would cost us up to £734 billion. The latest figures from the EU and the International Energy Agency suggest that, for Britain to reach this target, it would now cost even more: £1,300 billion.

Less well known, however, is the extraordinary story of how this most expensive Act ever put on the statute book originated in the first place. Google “Bryony Worthington YouTube” and you will see the video of a young climate activist, now known as Baroness Worthington, describing how she first conceived the idea of such a policy when she was campaigns director on climate change for Friends of the Earth.

After David Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, bent on “remaking” his party, she put to him that he should adopt her proposal. She describes how, when David Miliband became environment secretary, desperate not to be “out-greened” by the Tories, he called on her to head a small team in his ministry tasked with urgently drafting such a Bill. When, in 2008, brother Ed took over as head of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), he raised the emissions-cut target from 60 to 80 per cent, at almost double the cost.

The Bill passed the Commons by 463 votes to three, after a debate in which not a single MP asked how such an ambitious target could in practice be achieved without destroying virtually our entire economy.


Baroness Worthington, the driving force behind Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act 

But this is what at last one senior politician, Owen Paterson, dared to question in his lecture last week to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Thanks to advance coverage given to his speech in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, with its front-page headline “Let’s rip up the Climate Change Act”, Mr Paterson has at last set off a proper debate on our energy future – one that is years overdue.

As I wrote last week, Paterson was able, backed by a mountain of expert research, to show how Decc’s current policy, outlined in its “2050 Pathway Analysis” –and amplified by similar statements from the European Commission – is pure make-believe. It alone might merit front-page headlines: that, within 16 years, Decc seriously contemplates closing down all our existing energy supplies from the nasty, CO2-emitting fossil fuels that currently supply 70 per cent of our electricity. Out will go all cooking and central heating by gas. Almost everything, including our transport system, will have to be powered by electricity, for which we will, by 2050, need twice as much as we currently use. This will largely be supplied by 17 times as many wind turbines as we already have, and up to 12 more monster nuclear power plants like the one proposed in Somerset, which may not produce a watt of electricity within 10 years.

What has been striking about the outraged response from green zealots to Paterson’s speech is how they did not begin to understand his practical proposals for how an otherwise inevitable disaster can be averted.

There was, of course, a knee-jerk howl of derision from the likes of Lord Stern and Lord Deben, along with a blizzard of personal abuse across the Twittersphere. But the more thoughtful among them, such as the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, tried instead to ride with the punch, by claiming that Decc was already looking at all the parts of Paterson’s “Plan B” for keeping our lights on. So there was really nothing new about what he was saying, despite his devastating evidence showing how Decc’s current strategy, like the Climate Change Act itself, cannot possibly work.

The zealots simply cannot grasp how our energy future might be transformed by “combined heat and power”, ending the waste of almost half the energy we use to create electricity. Or how hundreds of small, wholly safe nuclear reactors could provide us with a huge new source of both electricity and heat within a decade or so. Or how sophisticated “demand management” technology could shave another huge chunk off our electricity needs, without us even noticing.

And all this could achieve a far greater cut in our carbon emissions (for what that is worth) than we can hope for under Decc’s unworkable policy.

When Mr Paterson’s radical proposals are properly examined, unblinkered by green make-believe, it will be seen that he has at last launched the properly informed national debate that alone might save our economy from a barely imaginable catastrophe.


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