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Christopher Booker: Zombie MPs And The Climate Change Act

They passed it almost unanimously, but MPs still can’t grasp the consequences of the most expensive legislation in British history

While Nick Clegg prattles about his plans to reform the House of Lords, attention might more usefully be focused on the rather greater need to reform the House of Commons. Nothing could give a more alarming picture of the state of our elected representatives than the letters from more than 60 MPs, sent on to me by readers, in answer to inquiries as to how they think we can meet our obligations under the Climate Change Act, the most expensive law ever passed by Parliament.

I am hugely grateful to all those readers who responded to my suggestion that they ask their MPs how, in practice, we can cut our “carbon” emissions by 80 per cent in less than 40 years, without closing down almost all of our fossil-fuel dependent economy. This quixotic quest is pursued in the name of saving the planet from global warming, though the UK’s contribution to global man-made CO2 emissions is only 1.6 per cent. China’s emissions increase every year by more than this amount. Many readers pointed out in their letters that the target cannot be met by building more windmills: these currently supply barely 3 per cent of our electricity, and more than once last week they were providing only 0.5 per cent.

I read the MPs’ replies with dismay. Not one showed any sign of understanding the question put to them. Most of the later replies merely passed on a form letter from Ed Davey, Chris Huhne’s successor at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which makes no attempt to answer the question and is pure departmental gobbledygook.

It recommends reading the Government’s Carbon Plan, with the astonishing claim that this shows how “the impact of low-carbon policies on growth over the next decade or so is likely to be almost zero”.

Clearly none of the MPs had noted the recent study carried out for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which shows how soaring green-energy charges “will make British industry uncompetitive compared with other leading countries by the end of the decade”. A combination of renewable energy subsidies and new emissions charges, this report predicts, will double the costs for energy-intensive industries, such as steel, by 2020, forcing many firms either to relocate abroad or to close altogether (as our aluminium industry has already done). George Osborne’s new “carbon tax” will add £3 billion – a sixth – to our electricity bills next year, and will almost double them by 2020. Meanwhile, the price paid for “carbon credits” by our competitors has collapsed to a fraction of what UK firms face.

One of the most bizarre features of the Climate Change Act – put through by Ed Miliband when he was our first climate change secretary and passed almost unanimously by MPs – is that it was largely drafted by a young green lobbyist, Bryony Worthington, seconded to the Civil Service from Friends of the Earth, where she had been in charge of their global warming campaign. On YouTube you can see a talk she gave last year to another campaigning body, funded by the Department for International Development, in which she tells the extraordinary story of how the Act that commits the UK to these pie-in-the-sky targets came about.

First she sold the idea of a Climate Change Bill to David Cameron, when he became leader of the opposition. This prompted David Miliband to follow suit and it was he who put her in charge of drafting the Bill that was finally put through the Commons by brother Ed. For this, the Act’s prime architect was made Baroness Worthington in 2010.

The point about the Climate Change Act – which, according to the Government’s own figures, will cost us up to £18 billion every year until 2050 – is that it sets a target which cannot be achieved without our country committing economic suicide. One cannot expect a young climate zealot to understand that. But what is terrifying is not just that such a person should have in effect been put in charge of our country’s energy policy, but that there appears to be scarcely a single MP who can see why this is utterly insane. If these zombies were replaced by 650 men and women chosen at random off the street, the silliest and most destructive law ever passed by Parliament would be repealed within days.

The Sunday Telegraph, 22 July 2012