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Benny Peiser: What I Told Cambridge University’s Spoiled Green Students

Cambridge Union debate

‘This House would rather cool the planet than warm the economy’


Cambridge Union,  26 October 2017


Madame President, ladies and gentlemen

I am opposing today’s motion because I regard it as perhaps the most inhuman and amoral motion ever proposed at the Cambridge Union.


Let me explain.

Let’s translate what the motion actually says and what it means.

What the motion proposes is that societies and governments should abandon the traditional goal of economic growth while prioritising policies to decarbonise.

In short, economic growth and development should be sacrificed in the name of climate protection.

Thankfully, not a single government in the world – and not even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is advocating this kind of economic self-harm, nor is any country willing to adopt the motion proposed today.

Nevertheless, the fact that stopping economic development is even being advocated by some of the world’s most privileged students in Cambridge reveals how far removed this green bubble is from the harsh reality of billions of people who are desperately trying to escape poverty.

Let’s not beat about the bush: If today’s motion would ever be implemented by some radical green government, it would lead to the death of millions of poor people in the developing world, astronomical mass unemployment and economic collapse.

That’s because poor nations without economic growth have no future and are unable to raise living standards for impoverished populations.

But we don’t need to speculate what green subsidies and taxes have already done to people struggling with rising energy costs.

As climate taxes and subsidies have driven up energy prices all over Europe, a growing number of families are forced to decide whether to heat their homes or buy food.

For millions of people all over Europe, the EU’s green energy policy has proven to be an economic and social disaster.

Climate and green energy policies have lead to is the biggest wealth transfer in the history of modern Europe — from the poor to the rich.

Ordinary families and small and medium-sized businesses are essentially paying wealthy landowners and investors who can afford to install wind turbines or solar panels on their land and homes.

20-times as many people die each year from cold-related illnesses than from heat.

The Office of National Statistics in England and Wales shows that based on past numbers, one million Brits are expected to die from cold in their homes by 2050. Do people in this room really want to make the world colder?

Energy poverty is sweeping Europe. As many as nine million British families pay 10 per cent or more of their household income towards heat and electricity.

Even in relatively wealthy Germany, 15 per cent of its citizens face energy poverty. This year more than 300.000 German families had their electricity cut off because they cannot pay their bills. 6 million household have been threaten with the same fate if they don’t pay up. And that’s happening in one of the world’s richest countries.

While Europe is stagnating and losing its competitive edge, much of Asia is booming, running its growing industries and manufacturing on cheap coal and gas.

According to a new report published this week by the International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia’s energy demand is expected to climb nearly 60 percent by 2040 from now, led by fossil fuel power generation, as rising incomes in the region spur more people to buy electric appliances including air conditioners.

Let me remind you of the economic and energy challenges African nations face. Africa, with 1.2-billion people and 20% of global land mass, makes just 3% of the world’s electricity.

In Africa half the population — 600 million people are without access to energy.

China has 1.4-billion people, roughly the same as Africa, but it generates 12 times more electricity.

The reasons is simple: China has built hundreds of coal and gas-fired power plants around the country. Every week they add one or two to their fleet so that they can provide 1.4 billion people with affordable energy.

Globally more than 1 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are without hygienic cooking facilities.

Providing comprehensive access to cheap and reliable electricity is the single most pre-requisite for economic development.

The proponents of today’s motion argue that economic growth should be sacrificed or at least curtailed in order to cut global CO2 emissions.

Denying the world’s poor the very basis on which Britain and much of Europe became wealthy — largely due to cheap coal, oil and gas — amounts to an inhumane and atrocious attempt by green activists to sacrifice the needs of the world’s poor on the altar of climate alarmism.

In order to improve the plight of the poor in both the developed and the developing world we need both strong economic growth and cheap and reliable energy.

Expansive green toys for landowner and solar investor — who are reaping hundreds of billions in renewable subsidies paid by ordinary families and the poor – hurt the economy and forces the poor to pay for ineffective virtue signalling.

It is only right that a growing number of African leaders accuse wealthy do-gooders in the West of hypocrisy when well-off greens seek to deny them the very energy that made Britain and the Western world rich.

The growing anger of many Africans about Europe’s green obsession was summed up recently by Nigerian finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.

Listen carefully so that you know what African leaders really think about green hypocrites:

‘We in Nigeria have coal but we have a power problem. Yet we’ve been blocked because it is not green. There is some hypocrisy because we have the entire western industrialization built on coal energy, that is the competitive advantage that they have been using. Now Africa wants to use coal and suddenly they are saying oh! You have to use solar and wind which are the most expensive, after polluting the environment for hundreds of years and now that Africa wants to use coal they deny us.’

Is that really what you want to achieve – fighting African attempts to provide affordable energy to hundreds of millions of poor people? That would be the result if you took todays’ motion seriously.

No. The goal of humanists and humanitarians cannot be to deny the world’s poorest access to cheap and reliable energy. This is what today’s motion essentially demands — prioritise the green agenda and sacrifice economic growth and poverty reduction.

At its core, the motion is deeply wicked and should be rejected by everyone who takes the urgent needs of the world’s poor into consideration rather than prioritise an intolerant if well-meaning green agenda that is harming millions of people today.

Thank you.