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Sunak’s Net Zero ‘U-turn’ – or is it?

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Rishi Sunak’s ‘U-turn’ on green policies has led the news headlines for the last three days. Whether he will flip-flop once again – or even by the time this is published – is anyone’s guess. At the time of writing the BBC has just reported that the Prime Minister is insisting not only that the UK will still hit Net Zero by 2050, and also that he is not ignoring the advice of the Climate Change Committee. Yesterday on Twitter, the independent researcher, writer and sceptic of environmentalism, Ben Pile, brilliantly set out the limitations but also the significance of Sunak’s original announcement. We reproduce it below with his kind permission.

Rishi Sunak’s ‘watering down’ of certain Net Zero targets is the first time that the green policy agenda has had ANY scrutiny of any consequence, despite many failures, starting with the ruinously expensive Renewable Obligation, extending into the totally failed Contracts for Difference (CFD) scheme which allowed wind farm developers to lie to achieve planning consent over rival generators and technologies.

Not one part of the green policy agenda has lived up to any promise to deliver good to the British public. It was the mildest possible reversal. It is in fact an attempt to SAVE Net Zero, not roll it back. Complaints that it has left Britain without an ‘industrial policy’ or has left ‘investors’ without ‘confidence’ are for the birds. It has put the UK in the same policy position as the EU (more on which in a bit), and there is no evidence of green policies having delivered any significant industrial development to these shores. No green jobs. No green growth. No green industrial revolution. Not even a Britishvolt.

It is a farce. Politicians, who know nothing of the subject, have been misled into believing that strong climate targets encourage domestic manufacturing. That is a lie. The main beneficiary of UK and EU climate laws has been China, of course, which benefits from cheaper energy prices (among other things) precisely because China does not have energy policies like ours. Strict targets are not industrial policy. Nobody was looking to develop ‘Gigafactories’ in the UK for the fact of the UK having the earliest ICE car sales ban. It’s a nonsense.

Sunak has taken stock of the simplest elements of green policy failure:

1. No politician has any clue how to realise Net Zero targets. To understand this, you need to drill down into the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) advice to Parliament, and advice from wonks and academics to the CCC itself. They speak more candidly the deeper you investigate. The promises of upsides are simply lies. There are no drop-in replacements for the things that make our lifestyles today. That is why the CCC told Parliament that up to 62 per cent of emissions reduction is going to come from ‘behaviour change’, which is to say that Net Zero requires government to use the criminal law and price mechanisms to regulate what people can do. That is what Sunak means when he says that previous governments have not been straight with the public. It is fact.

2. The green lobby has LONG promised lower prices and greater energy security but has failed to deliver. There have been many claims that the costs of wind power have fallen based on low ‘strike prices’ offered by wind farm developers since the CfD scheme was introduced in 2017. None of those miraculous strike prices has been achieved. The wind farm developers simply reneged on them. They were never going to take them up. They calculated that they would never have to. This came to the crunch in the latest auction, when the government removed the wind farm operators’ ability to walk away from the contract – they called the wind sector’s bluff. No bids were offered. The major promise of renewable energy has been utterly debunked by the green lobby’s own actions.

3. Behind the scenes, the failure of both global and national climate policy has been known for a long time – since the 2015 Paris Agreement (PA) at the latest. The PA is not in fact a ‘global agreement’; it allows countries to determine their own commitment. And all that has done in turn is reignite the talking point that beset global climate policymaking in the 1990s and 2000s: the ‘free rider’ problem. Some emerging one-time ‘developing’ economies are now booming, whereas much of the West/G7 is stagnant and facing deindustrialisation, precisely as critics of climate policy had argued, decades ago. This is why there has been so much emphasis since the PA on LOCAL government, such as LTNs/ULEZ/CAZs, using ‘air pollution’ as a proxy battle in the climate war. This was encouraged by central government, which accelerated this fake ‘localism’ during lockdowns by making large grants available to local authorities to restrict private car use. Sunak has seen the robust response to this in London, in Wales, and in cities that have adopted them, and has realised that the public has been setting down its own red lines. The green agenda is now visible to all and politically toxic.

4. Despite claims that other countries are steaming ahead with boiler bans, car bans, heat pumps, and championing Net Zero policies, especially in Europe, they are in fact creating deep schisms between and within EU member states. Auto manufacturers in Germany are warning that they cannot compete with Chinese rivals. Germany, struggling to find energy, itself is racing towards deindustrialisation, threatening the economic foundations of the Union. Its boiler ban, advanced by psychopathic Greens, threatens to destabilise its own political centre of gravity, with a huge surge of interest in the Alternative for Germany party, now biting on the heels of the Christian Democratic Union in the polls. This risks not only the destabilisation of Europe, but geopolitical schism which could ultimately undermine Nato. Poland is pushing back against EU climate targets. The Netherlands, having overextended its green agenda, looks set to oust its political establishment at the November election following the growth of the BBB movement, and the even newer New Social Contract party. There is the obvious polarisation of French politics, which needs no repetition here. And there is the case of Sweden’s new right-of-centre government abandoning its Net Zero targets in favour of a technology-first approach. Sunak can see all this green policy failure everywhere that green blobbers point to, while claiming such chaos is success.

5. ESG is failing. Former BoE governor Mark Carney, who just this week ranted against Liz Truss, disgraced his former office. Carney was appointed by Boris Johnson to lead the the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which claimed to have aligned financial institutions with $130trillion AUM. Vanguard and BlackRock seem to be reversing out of the Alliance. And a number of major insurance firms, including Munich Re and Zurich too, have joined the backlash. And Sunak knows about markets.

6. Ukraine, Russia, and the realignment of geopolitics. Who really believes that Western diplomats now have any chance of bringing Russia, China, and India into the Net Zero suicide pact? The drawbridge is up. And the G20 meeting saw Modi humiliate the entire green movement. Sunak offered the climate fund £1.6billion – roughly speaking, a quid per Indian. And as many Indians said, ‘What?!! We’re going to the Moon, mate!’

Sunak can see all of these problems. And none of them is going to be solved by banning petrol and diesel car sales in 2030, or by banning boilers. The world is a fundamentally different place now, post-Brexit, post-Covid, post-Russia-Ukraine, after 15 years of Climate Change Act failures, and the deindustrialisation of the West. All that carrying on with Net Zero as usual will do is, far from strengthening Britain’s position on the ‘world stage’, further undermine our economy and industries, and political stability. Nobody else, except countries facing equivalent problems, perhaps, cares about our degenerate political class’s ideological fantasies. Global climate policy is collapsing as global politics shifts, whereas the basis for the UK’s draconian domestic climate policy agenda was ALWAYS global political institutions: the EU & UN etc, not domestic popular support. It’s not 2008 any more. Neither the ROW nor the UK public are as tolerant of being pushed around. And utopian, technocratic, supranational political ambitions look like so much cynical build-back-better bullshit that simply do not wash.

The histrionics that are now the counterpoint to Sunak’s mildest possible Net Zero flip-flop are the chorus of an extremely small, but extremely noisy and over-indulged part of British society which has got far too used to not being slapped down by reality, and, like spoilt infants, they are determined to find the boundaries of their behaviour. They are utterly deranged by ideology, and incapable of allowing their claims to be tested by simple arithmetic. They speak glibly in the most superficial terms about things they know nothing about: how the world must be organised; how the entire economy will be powered; how ordinary people’s lives will be managed. They lie. They try to tell people that banning things and imposing expensive restrictions will make them better off, make them safer and ‘create jobs’. From bottomless bank accounts, they commission idiot wonks at remote think tanks to produce glossy ideological bunk.

Sunak could not have done less to correct this mess. But what he has done is a good thing. And it includes setting a trap for the eco-catastrophists. The more they howl and wail, the more they will expose their utter contempt for ordinary people. It is not in Sunak’s gift, even if he wanted it, to reverse the entire sorry policy agenda. Too much stands in his way. But every scream and tantrum from the blobbers will bring that possibility closer to him or a successor because no person with a functioning brain believes that banning the boiler later, rather than earlier, is a bad thing. And so the blobbers are set to out themselves, for the duration of this controversy, as brainless ideological zombies. Long may it continue.

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Ben Pile
Ben Pile
Ben Pile is a researcher, writer, blogger. Sceptical of environmentalism. For science, against scientism. https://twitter.com/clim8resistance

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