Friday, April 19, 2024
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Why Net Zero is nonsense: a briefing document for opponents


I’M increasingly alarmed at how all the UK’s major political parties are committed to the Net Zero policy. If implemented, it will have appalling consequences for the economy and for most people, few of whom understand the quite simple issues involved. I have therefore put together a ‘briefing document’ which marshals three arguments that I hope may contribute to curtailing the policy before it’s too late.

1. It’s unachievable. Many vehicles and machines (used for example in agriculture, heavy transportation, commercial shipping and aviation, mining and construction) and products (eg concrete, steel, plastics, fertiliser, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, paints, adhesives and asphalt) essential to our lives and wellbeing require the combustion of fossil fuels or are made from oil derivatives, and there are no easily deployable, commercially viable alternatives. The complex engineering, reliability and cost challenges of establishing a Net Zero grid and the vast scale of what’s involved (immense amounts of material and space are required because the ‘energy density’ of wind and sun is so low) make it most unlikely that the UK could generate sufficient renewable electricity for current needs, let alone for the mandated electric vehicles and heat pumps. In any case, the UK doesn’t have enough technical managers, engineers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and other tradespeople (probably over a million) to do the many tasks that would be essential to achieve Net Zero.

2. It would be socially and economically disastrous because: (a) the UK’s all-renewable energy project doesn’t include a fully costed engineering plan for the provision of comprehensive grid-scale back-up when there’s little or no wind or sun, so millions of people, especially the poor and vulnerable, would be put at serious personal risk (including death) from electricity blackouts; (b) our crippled economy would be tipped deeper into decline by enormous additional costs and energy unavailability, further blighting our poor industrial productivity; (c) China essentially controls the supply of materials (in particular so-called rare earths) needed for renewables, so the UK would increase its already dangerous dependence on it, putting our energy and overall security at serious risk, and (d) the vast mining and mineral processing operations required for renewables would have appalling environmental and human consequences affecting in particular fragile ecosystems and some of the world’s poorest people – not least as a result of Chinese  human rights abuses.

3. Above all, it’s pointless. Most major non-Western countries – the source of more than 75 per cent of CO2 emissions and home to 84 per cent of humanity – don’t regard emissions reduction as a priority and, either exempt from or ignoring any obligation to reduce their emissions, are focused instead on economic and social development, poverty eradication and energy security. As a result, global emissions are increasing and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future whatever the UK (the source of less than 1 per cent of global emissions) may or may not do. It therefore makes absolutely no sense for Britain to pursue this unachievable and disastrous policy.

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Robin Guenier
Robin Guenier
Now retired, Robin Guenier has had a varied career as a legal adviser, business executive, writer, speaker and business consultant.

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