I know how to enjoy myself and so am spending today and tomorrow reading through all of the big speeches given at the Tory Conference. I was very encouraged by this section from the Chancellor’s speech:
“We know that a decade of environmental laws and regulations are piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies. Yes, climate change is a man made disaster. Yes, we need international agreement to stop it. Yes, we must have investment in greener energy. And that’s why I gave the go ahead to the world’s first Green Investment Bank. But Britain makes up less than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions to China and America’s 40%. We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business. So let’s at the very least resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe. That’s what I’ve insisted on in the recent carbon budget.”
It’s far from perfect but it’s another sign that George Osborne understands that green policies are (1) expensive for business, especially “the makers” he wishes to encourage and (2) unilateral green policies are futile in the absence of global agreements.
At this point many in the climate change industry accuse people like me of being blind to the science. I make no comment on the science of global warming but I would argue that they are the blind ones; blind to the politics and blind to the economics and they’re sticking with a policy course that represents a triumph of hope over experience. They cannot ignore the fact that Barack Obama couldn’t deliver action on climate change when his party controlled every branch of the USA’s federal government. That the other big and fast-growing emitters – China and India – will not deny their citizens cheap power. That EU nations have struggled to meet the fairly modest Kyoto targets and have only partly done so by exporting industrial capacity to the developing world. That climate change conventions of the Copenhagan kind failed. That political parties that campaign in favour of action on climate change (eg the Canadian Liberals and Australian Labor party) get smashed at the polls.
There will be no meaningful international agreement to combat climate change and the UK should only enact green measures if they have other measurable benefits. Better home insulation, for example, cuts energy bills. In the meantime let our politicians focus on meaningful and deliverable projects – like lifting trade barriers and vaccinating the children of Africa – that will help the world to become richer and healthier. If climate change does happen countries will then be able to afford to adapt.