This legislation was approved with little scrutiny, all to boost the ego of one of Britain’s worst prime ministers
Never let it be said that Parliament cannot get things done when it wants to. In the three years since the referendum, MPs have not only rejected Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement but have failed to produce a majority for every other conceivable plan to exit the European Union.
Those who never wanted Brexit in the first place say that it will cost the country billions. Britain is too small and insignificant to stand alone, they say. Nobody voted to be poorer, they say.
Contrast this parliamentary rigor mortis with the passage of the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order which was nodded through on Monday evening, just twelve days after being first laid before the House of Commons.
Unanimously approved after a self-congratulatory, back-slapping debate that lasted 90 minutes, it is now on its way to the House of Lords for a second round of rubber-stamping.
The target of cutting greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change a mere seven weeks ago, seems certain to become the law of the land.
Theresa May will have finally secured her legacy. The challenge of meeting this target makes the Irish border question look like a game of dominos, and the cost will make the £39 billion golden goodbye to the EU look like chump change.
The government’s own estimates suggest that total decarbonisation will require spending 1-2 per cent of GDP until 2050.
This amounts to £20-40 billion per year at today’s prices and is likely to exceed a trillion pounds overall, in addition to what has already been spent.
Politicians love to describe spending as investment. Occasionally it is. There are certainly benefits to be had from weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. Air quality will be improved and we will become less reliant on some of the unpleasant regimes that specialise in oil and gas production.
But since Britain is responsible for just one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, any benefits to the climate depend almost entirely on the big economies – China, India, the USA – following our lead. As yet, they have shown little sign of doing so. Even France has quietly shelved its net-zero plans after six months of gilets jaunes protests.
The commitment to full decarbonisation can most charitably be described as a leap of faith. It can be done, albeit at great expense, if there are huge advancements in battery technology and carbon capture.