Stepping into the room at the launch of the Committee on Climate Change’s new Progress Report to Parliament was like walking into a parallel universe. This was the cult of anti-CO2, with its supreme panel of very expert experts ready to tell the adoring throng that the Government should be cutting emissions faster. No one saw that coming!
The Committee on Climate Change, or CCC for short, is a quango which received its mandate from the 2008 Climate Change Act: to provide the Government with independent advice on meeting emissions reduction targets. The reality is that it’s far from independent, teeming as it is with green zealots who have strong links to the renewable energy industry.
The day had begun badly for the CCC’s chairman, John Selwyn Gummer, or as he likes to be called, Lord Deben. He was on the Today programme that morning when he proceeded to make a total of three, shall we say, ‘terminological inexactitudes’. All totally unchallenged and in the space of just a few minutes.
He claimed first that there is a ban on onshore wind projects. There isn’t. Indeed, just this March construction began on a giant onshore wind scheme in Caithness.
He then said that onshore wind energy was the cheapest form of electricity generation. This isn’t true either; but it is argued by those who try to make the case that somehow huge and disproportionate carbon taxes are inherent to combined cycle gas turbines, for example. The distortion is breathtaking, but almost no one, least of all the BBC, is interested in the truth of the matter. Anything to be able to celebrate renewables.
Bizarrely, Gummer went on to say that China was at the forefront of decarbonisation efforts. John Humphrys should have pointed out that China’s emissions are actually rising at their fastest rate for seven years, that they have plans for many new coal-fired power stations, and that the Paris Agreement doesn’t even contain any CO2 emissions reduction targets for China.
When I met Gummer for the first time at the launch of last year’s report, he proceeded to tell me that as a young person I could not possibly disagree with him. This is an insight into his mindset.
If you thought his Today interview was bad, things would descend further into pompous preposterousness.
After a presentation about the report, the floor was opened to discussion and a well-informed contribution was made from a housing industry representative. He made the point that the drive for energy efficiency mustn’t be allowed to get in the way of safety, as it had done at Grenfell Tower, or hinder the proper ventilation of buildings. All very reasonable-sounding and worthy considerations.
Gummer’s response was a tirade about how house-builders were the worst people on the planet and that Essex was the most disgusting place he had ever seen. Even his fellow panellists looked bemused. The housing industry has its issues, no doubt, but these were serious points that deserved a respectful response.
Things got even more heated when a spokesman from the cement industry said that manufacturing was leaving the UK and moving to areas with cheaper energy. Gummer said that this could not be the case because they wrote a report on it which said so, and they could get around this problem by advertising the fact they had reduced their emissions. Ingenious! The chutzpah of the man was breathtaking.
The CCC is an organisation that has a set conclusion and finds the ‘evidence’ to back it up. In doing so it has the backing of most of the British establishment, who always seem to benefit from the subsidies and policies it advocates.
It was certainly not surprising that we heard the CCC back Michael Gove’s call for a new environmental regulator. This will be more stuck-up so-and-sos telling us what to do, all the while raking it in from the public purse. Public service indeed!
While we might expect the quangocracy to behave in this way, our elected representatives need to develop the wherewithal to see through the vested interests of this bonkers committee. Alas, our politicians take their word as gospel. Once again, an unwarranted deference to so-called experts is to blame.
Harry Wilkinson is a researcher to the Global Warming Policy Forum