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Christopher Booker: Britain’s Crazy Energy Policy Just Got Madder Still

Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph

Just when we think the world can’t get any madder, along comes something to show that we haven’t yet seen the half of it (who, three years ago, could have predicted the rise of Isil or Donald Trump?).

Another such moment came last Monday when our energy minister Andrea Leadsom told MPs that the Government now believes that we should “enshrine” in law the “Paris goal” of cutting our emissions of CO2 to “zero”.

As we know, arguably the greatest collective flight from reality in the history of British politics was that brought about by Ed Miliband’s 2008 Climate Change Act, which committed Britain, alone in the world, to cutting its “carbon emissions” by 80 per cent. Anyone with a shred of common sense would have known that, with fossil fuels still providing (according to the latest government figures) 84 per cent of all our energy – including 70 per cent of our electricity and pretty well 100 per cent of our transport – while renewable wind, sun and hydro supply less than 2 per cent, it was not entirely rational to set ourselves a goal that could only be reached by closing down virtually our entire economy.

Yet this 80 per cent figure was at the last minute plucked from the air by Mr Miliband, on the advice of a young lady called Bryony Worthington, previously the climate change campaign director for Friends of the Earth, who had been invited to draft an Act which was then supported by all but five of our MPs.

When Mrs Leadsom announced that the Government now wishes to raise that 80 per cent figure to 100 per cent, she offered fulsome thanks to Ed Miliband and the now Baroness Worthington for suggesting it.

She was promptly congratulated by the Green MP Caroline Lucas, whose only reservation was that the Government should also commit itself to producing 100 per cent of our electricity from “renewables”. But even Mrs Leadsom realises that there are times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine – so that to keep our lights on, it might be advisable, as a “transitional approach to decarbonisation”, to build a few more gas-fired power stations. But no one is any longer willing to do this, because it would scarcely pay to invest in plants the Government would soon wish to see closed down anyway.

So it seems that Mrs Leadsom is also still pinning her hopes of keeping our economy functioning on two more pipe dreams. One is that plan to get the French to build easily the most expensive nuclear plant in the world at Hinkley Point, which seems to get more dodgy with every month that passes.

The other is the even more costly plan to bribe a few gas-fired power stations to continue running, so long as all their CO2 emissions are piped off to be buried in holes under the North Sea, by a technology not yet developed and which almost certainly never will be.

So carried away into cloud cuckoo land have been all those responsible for our energy policy that Mrs Leadsom now proposes that we should go literally for broke. If our existing policy is like committing suicide by taking ever larger doses of paracetamol, she now wants us to make doubly sure by knocking back a cup of cyanide.

What makes this even more bizarre is that, in doing so, she somehow believes that our “world-leading Climate Change Act” will set an example for all other countries to follow. She wants Britain to be the first to meet that wholly fictitious “Paris goal”, by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero. She conveniently forgets that the Paris agreement committed no one to anything.

China, India and many other countries are planning to build hundreds more coal-fired power stations (of which we will soon have none at all), in a way that will guarantee a further huge leap in the world’s “carbon emissions”, to which our own contribution is now only 1.2 per cent. At least when lemmings jump over a cliff, they are all supposed to do it together. Mrs Leadsom and the rest of our politicians seem happy that we should be the only one.

The Sunday Telegraph, 20 March 2016