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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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A rethink on Net Zero? No, we can expect Skidmore of the same

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A COUPLE of days ago, the Government launched the review of the Net Zero project which was promised when Liz Truss took the reins in Downing Street.  

However, in a clear signal to the country, the chairmanship has been handed to Chris Skidmore, the deep green Tory MP for Kingswood, who as a minister under Theresa May was responsible for introducing the plan for Net Zero to Parliament in the first place. This is hardly someone likely to admit that the whole thing has been a disastrous mistake. 

As if to quell any lingering doubts that this was more about window dressing and appeasing the green Tory caucus than turning us back from the economic abyss, Mr Skidmore’s first action as chairman was to organise a round table with members of the renewables lobby. Consumer interests are not, apparently, at the front of his mind. 

Governments of all political persuasions have long considered it de rigueur to appoint committed greens to all important positions. The chairman of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), for example, is Lord Deben (former Tory minister John Selwyn Gummer), whose appointment seems to have been solely due to his fervent environmentalism.  

His background – a degree in history and a career in climbing the greasy pole of politics – has left him entirely unqualified to ask difficult questions of the executive team. 

This is a major problem, because seriously flawed projections and calculations have been used as the basis for policy, not least the costing of the Net Zero project that Mr Skidmore presented to Parliament, when he told MPs that decarbonising the country would set Britain back by between 1 and 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. However subsequent analyses by parties as diverse as Net Zero Watch and the management consultancy McKinsey suggest that the true figure is between five and ten times higher. 

How did the CCC get it so wrong? Was there no quality control? It’s the chairman’s job to ask awkward questions of the executive, and although the CCC spent years trying to keep its calculations a secret, when the Information Tribunal eventually ordered their publication it became possible to see that any competent person who had looked at the figures even briefly would have had questions to ask.

For example, there was allegedly a huge net benefit from switching private transport to electric vehicles – a negative cost, in other words. This was, on the face of it, astonishing, because things that bring huge economic benefits tend to happen naturally, as consumers take advantages of the cost savings on offer.  

Digging a little further would have revealed that the alleged benefit arose because the CCC was assuming that the price of EVs had fallen precipitously. In fact, the committee said, it was already possible to buy one for just £11,000, far less than its petrol equivalent. Try that one on at your local Tesla dealer! 

Similarly, questions might have been asked about the robustness of the CCC’s electricity system design, and what might happen on windless days. For example, would our European neighbours really be able to provide us with so many gigawatts of power? After all, they have been busy closing down their coal-fired and nuclear power stations for years now. Another flaw in the design – that the number of windless days assumed each year was a fraction of the number seen in reality – was harder to spot, but again indicates that the CCC has not been doing its job properly. 

These are the type of practical questions that an engineer, a scientist or an economist – or at least someone not blinded by eco-dogma – might ask, but it is clear that the Net Zero costing was never seriously challenged internally.  

The reasons for the failure are unclear. It could be incompetence, bias, or something worse. Lord Deben’s astonishing conflicts of interest have hit the headlines ever since his appointment – first his chairmanship of a company involved in wind farm installations, and then the revelation that his private company has an astonishing array of clients that would benefit from decarbonisation policies.  

Of course, as is normal on these occasions, a clean bill of health was issued. But the appointment of an obscure Treasury official as the CCC’s chief executive, on a remuneration package worth over £300,000 per year, only adds to the nagging sense that all is not as it should be. 

Such concerns are allowed to go unaddressed when Gaia is involved, and this is just one way in which the dominance of green ideologues in public life has become a serious threat to our way of life.  

The rot extends further than dodgy appointments to policy committees. The bureaucracy is awash with eco-zealots, parliamentary committees refuse to hear from anyone else, the media ignore the naysayers. The results of this groupthink have been disastrous, and we have careered headlong towards an economic abyss with our energy security and national security in tatters. 

From what we have seen so far, we can expect no change from Chris Skidmore’s review. It will simply condemn more people to cold and dark and poverty and misery.  

The only glimmer of hope is that Lord Deben will shortly be stepping down from his role, so there is at least a chance for the Augean stables that is the Climate Change Committee to get a much-needed deep clean. The country desperately needs someone who will look at the numbers, who will question everything, and who will favour the public interest over the producer interest. 

But don’t hold your breath. Expect another green ideologue. 

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Andrew Montford
Andrew Montford
Andrew Montford is the Director of Net Zero Watch. He can be found on Twitter at @adissentient.

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