Green virtue-signalling has made a comeback at the top of government. The era of ‘let’s cut the green crap’ is over, and a new age is being heralded by some increasingly absurd and hubristic new policies. These include banning cars that actually work and reducing CO2 emissions to zero. All no doubt giving ministers a warm fuzzy feeling, but distracting them from the issues really affecting lives.
A contrived concern about climate change has blinded politicians to those who care far more about whether they can afford to heat their homes. It may come as a surprise, but this is a far bigger demographic than those pining for new on-shore wind subsidies or extra charging points for electric vehicles.
Theresa May should therefore make lowering the cost of energy central to her mission. This aim formed part of her 2017 manifesto, and delivering upon it would show people that the Government truly was on their side. She would be hard-pressed to find a clearer or more noble objective.
While some would say this puts her on a collision course with the ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’, most people just aren’t interested in, or aware of, the ins and outs of the climate debate. Governments in Germany and Japan are already turning their back on the green agenda; it’s become clear that they need to put living standards and jobs first.
From the very start the green agenda has been deeply regressive: taking from the poor to give to the rich. The wealthy have made a fortune from having wind farms built on their estates, being paid to heat their (sometimes empty) properties with biomass boilers, having their electric cars subsidised, as well as their solar panels. All from the public purse while millions struggle in energy poverty.
This is a national scandal, which has been carefully covered up by a number of misleading narratives.
The rapid expansion and fall in costs of renewables, for example, has been hailed as a great success. But why? If you make subsidies available for building sandcastles you will certainly get huge growth in the numbers of sandcastles; entrepreneurs will automate the process of building them and prices will inevitably come down. You might even be said to have the benefit of ‘international leadership’ in sandcastles. None of which would make sandcastles a sensible replacement for real houses.
Similarly, an argument that reductions in the cost of renewables mean that we should plough on with decarbonisation is hopelessly naïve. The question that always has to be asked is whether the spend justifies the harms avoided, and on this score renewables fall laughably short.
Even so-called climate change economists found that emitting a ton of CO2 caused only $29 of damage. Yet to reduce our CO2 emissions by an equivalent amount we are spending four times that amount on onshore wind, ten times as much on offshore wind, or fifty times as much for small rooftop solar systems.
Harry Wilkinson is a researcher to the Global Warming Policy Forum