by | Dec 1, 2008

Last week, the UK’s Climate Change Bill was passed, and became the Climate Change Act.

Today, the Climate Change Committee published it’s report, Building a low-carbon economy – the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change.

The committee were asked to give their advice to parliament before the publication of the report. That advice was that the UK should commit itself to reducing its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Almost without question, MPs in the House of Commons accepted the advice.

Yet the MPs could not have been aware of the basis for the advice, because it came before the publication of the report. How could the Climate Change Committee’s reasoning been understood by MPs in sufficient detail to commit themselves to nearly half a century of policy?

It cannot have been.

MPs have taken the advice of the Committee with no scrutiny of the CCC itself, its member’s interests, or the substance of its advice.

Also beginning today was The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland.

There is something fishy about the timing of these three events.

The CCC was conceived of just a year and a month ago. It was not formed until the beginning of the year, and did not start work until the Spring, possibly even the Summer. In less than 9 months, it arrived at a decision based on ‘facts’ about what the next 43 years of energy policy in the UK ought to be, behind closed doors, unaccountably, and without scrutiny. In spite of the ‘thousands of the world’s best scientists’, and the efforts of many many more all working in collaboration with economists, scientists, and other experts from all over the world, never before has any definitive policy been formulated from ‘the science’.

But suddenly, just 8 people, comprising just one climate scientist, one ecologist, and a handful of economists, were able to organise ‘the facts’ into unchallengeable, objectively sound, and robust policy recommendation.

In other words, where democratic processes have been unable to produce a political consensus on policy, in spite of ‘the facts’ represented by ‘the scientific consensus’, undemocratic, unaccountable bodies don’t fail. No surprises here. (That’s not a criticism of democracy, incidentally)

The point of all this is that the UK Government’s need to have successfully created a a strong climate law, in place by now, December the 1st 2008, is owed, not to the Government’s commitment to ‘saving the planet’, nor even the UK population, but to the designs its members have on being ‘world leaders’.

That is to say that the ‘climate crisis’ turns one of the least popular Governments ever into planet-saving superheroes. But if it couldn’t even sort out a Climate Change Act at home, how could it ever strike a pose on the World Stage, this week, in Poland?

There was only one problem for the Government – democracy. It needed to get its costume – the Climate Change Act – ready for this fancy-dress party. But as we pointed out, the other parties threatened to upstage the Labour Government at home, by committing themselves to greater emissions cuts than they had proposed. They wanted to be the superheroes.

Enter the CCC to save the hour. Not for the planet, but for the Government. In return, they and their associates will be entitled to the carbon markets that the Climate Change Act will create.

That is why, on the first of December, 2008, the UK has a Climate Change Act, a pointless and damaging document called Building a low-carbon economy, and a Government posturing in Poland. And that is why your future just got a little dimmer.

The real crisis, as we have said before, is not in the sky. It is at the heart of British politics.


  1. Carbon Pride

    On Radio 4 I was listening to them ‘admitting’ the fuel bills would be going up as they try to power the country on farts – enter the superhero of the greens… Loft insulation to the rescue!
    Now putting in Loft insulation is great of course, but, it was already a cure for the recession I thought? My point is you can’t magic away problems with yet more Loft insulation – you can’t keep adding more insulation to your loft every time heating goes up – I mean aren’t Lofts “finite” and insulation a “limited resource” and won’t it get stuffy what was temperatures escalating???

  2. George Carty

    Is environmentalism so popular with the public-sector middle-class chattering classes, because they can use it to generate more tax revenue to augment their salaries?

    That’s why they support AGW theory (as a pretext for carbon taxes), while opposing nuclear power (in order to ensure that the actual effect of said carbon taxes is to raise revenue rather than to actually reduce CO2 emissions)?

  3. Editors


    Our criticism isn’t about taxes, nor the public sector as such.

    The Climate change bill doesn’t – as far as our criticism of it is concerned so far – create taxes. It creates a market, which is exploited by (parts of) the private sector. It is frequently a criticism of the environmental movement that it represents a continuation of the Left, but the market is a substantial part of the UK Government’s approach to ‘solving the climate crisis’. That’s not consistent with much of the Left. As we argue elsewhere, (link forthcoming) the UK Government’s strategy is a de facto privatisation of the atmosphere.

    The Government are well aware that the public is cynical of Green taxes.

    Regarding your point about public sector workers angling for more tax. Whilst this may have a ring of truth about it, there is a far more fundamental issue here. That is that environmentalism doesn’t merely provide the public sector with a ruse for more sustenance in the form of taxes, it also provides them with a raison d’etre. That is to say that the vacuity of the Government (and the same goes for the opposition parties) is hidden behind the urgency of environmental panic. It gives otherwise directionless institutions moral purpose and legitimacy.

  4. Alex Cull

    Last month I wrote a letter to my MP re the Climate Change Bill asking why there appears to have been only minimal debate before such a far-reaching commitment was made; no reply yet, but I’ll be interested to read it when it comes.

    Re “green jobs”, such as all the frantic decarbonisation work George is calling for – beyond a certain point, doesn’t that fall prey to the “broken window” fallacy in economics?

    On another note – Poznan. For such an allegedly crucial, make-or-break event, the media are being rather quiet about it. I haven’t seen anything about it on the TV news, or on the front page of any newspaper or news website. Anyone?

  5. Eric Anderson

    Great post. Thanks for keeping on top of this and getting the facts out.

  6. Dave Gardner

    On the mystery of why MPs voted for an increase from a 60% cut to an 80% cut by 2050, that may have something to do with the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Steve Webb. About six months ago, Webb organised a campaign by Green bloggers to get people to turn up in MP constituency surgeries to cajole their MP into wanting an 80% cut. This Guardian article describes the campaign:

  7. geoff chambers

    I followed up Dave Gardner’s reference to the article by LibDem MP Steve Webb. He gives links to several of his Ten Green Bloggers who helped organise the campaign to persuade MPs to vote for the 80%. One is cartoonist Tom Fishburne, who has an article on HIS blog, which elicited just one response:

    Tom Hi !
    The EU and Stavros Dimas want to make it known that we fully support this brilliant idea of rallying support for slashing Climate Change and reversing it by as much as possible as soon as possible! We’re with you all the way !!
    Come visit Commissioner Dimas’ Blog soon and let him know what you think as well !
    Cheers Bye for now and best of luck :))

    Isn’t there something a bit odd about a Euro Commissioner (apolitical civil servant, and all that) supporting an internal political campaign to influence a vote in the British Parliament? Just asking.

  8. Alex Cull

    Re the Steve Webb article in the Guardian, the commentator batz put it succinctly:

    “So, you freely admit that you don’t get people turning up at your surgery to talk about climate change so you’ve come up with an ingenious wheeze to give the impression to other MPs that there is such a groundswell of public concern.

    I’m assuming that if a pro-life, anti-immigration, or pro-BNP group used the same mechanism that you are proposing then you’d be happy with that?”

    Batz is correct in my opinion: there is not much sign of a groundswell of popular concern re costly CO2 cutting measures. House repossessions: yes. Carbon dioxide: no.


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