Not everything in the Tory party is rotten and irredeemable. There was good old Owen Paterson in the papers yesterday with his squirrel traps. There’s Gove, sticking it to the eco-loons by removing global warming junk science teaching from the curriculum. And then there’s this utterly magnificent performance by Peter Lilley in a climate change debate at Westminster Hall last week, up against two of his more bubonic colleagues Tim “Trougher” Yeo and Greg “so utterly crap he doesn’t even merit a nickname” Barker. Lilley was participating in his new role as a member of the Climate Change Committee, which he was able to infiltrate by means of a secret ballot. I recommend you read the full Hansard transcript. It is, as they say, *popcorn*.
Here is Lilley on the various COP (Conference of the Parties) meetings staged around the world at venues like Copenhagen, Durban, Cancun, Doha etc. (But never Eastbourne, I notice):
As the debate progresses, Lilley’s contempt for his colleagues on the Climate Change Committee becomes palpable. (“I am overwhelmed by my Right Hon. friend’s eloquence and verbosity” he tells Barker at one point) He describes them as “united in lunacy” – and not unreasonably so. Whether it’s Labour’s Luciana Berger boasting about a wind farm she once saw in Tanzania or an extinct frog she just looked up on the internet, or Greg Barker having the gall to invoke the late Baroness Thatcher in order to justify taking “unpopular” measures to deal with climate change, or Tim Yeo praising emissions trading schemes in California, it’s like being privy to a debate in a parallel universe where the main goal is to make the most stupid, wrongheaded, irrelevant argument you can in order to win. This is the bubble our politicians inhabit – and Lilley has just given it an almighty gregbarker with his pin.
I’ll leave you with Lilley’s demolition of Tim Yeo’s patronising arguments Britain can somehow team up with China to combat Climate Change. It’s long. But it’s good. Well done Peter! You’re a bloody hero. And when Cameron is defenestrated there’s definitely going to be a place for you – as Energy Minister at the very least I hope – in the UKIP/RealConservative Coalition government.
Criminologists have observed that the victims of confidence tricksters are often willing—indeed, eager—to believe the story to which they fall victim, and the more absurd, fantastic or fabulous the story, the more willing they are to believe it. The report is an example of a confidence trick that has been willingly absorbed by the Government and members of the Committee. It contains all the characteristics necessary for the sort of fairy tale in which one wants to believe: it has a faraway country, mysterious powers that we attribute to ourselves, and pots of gold—green gold—at the end of the rainbow.
The first delusion affirmed by the report is the delusion of power. It is a strange hangover from liberal imperialism that the British intellectual classes believe that they can still dominate the world—that the world is anxious to hear from them, and will jump to attention at their every word and follow their every command. Take the opening words of the report:
“China is central to global efforts to tackle climate change”—
true, but it continues, and I ask Members to savour these words—
“and should be at the heart of HMG’s climate change mitigation strategy.”
What imperialist arrogance and what delusions of grandeur that the United Kingdom, a nation of 65 million people off the coast of Europe, could somehow direct, guide or in any substantive way influence the policies of the largest nation in the world, with 1.3 billion people, on the other side of the globe.
How are we to achieve that remarkable feat? The summary refers to
“our leadership role in China”.
Members should also savour those words. I read about the change of leadership in China last year, but I did not realise that that involved the replacement of Xi Jin Ping by “Greg Bar Ker” and “Ed Da Vey”—they apparently now have a leadership role in China to which the Chinese are now anxious to respond. The report states that, sadly, our
“leadership role in China is being undermined by our ‘image’…The UK’s image is also tarnished by the reputation of being ‘all talk and no action’.”
I wish it were all talk and no action in this country. When people who do not like windmills—I quite like them—look across our countryside and find that they blight the horizon, they wish there was more talk and less action. When people pay their household bills, they wish there was more talk and less action. Abroad, however, the word has apparently got out that we do not really mean what we say. I do not know how that has happened, but it will apparently be made worse if we do not inflict more problems on ourselves, because the report states:
“Slowing the pace of decarbonisation at home could undermine…the credibility of UK leadership on climate change.”
The second delusion is about China’s decarbonisation policy. The British intelligentsia has always been capable of convincing itself that China is a paragon of whatever is the current fashionable virtue. When I was at Cambridge, Professor Joan Robinson used to dress in a Mao suit and teach us that China had shown us a new economic model that we could all follow. Now it is doing the same on climate change. The report states:
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“China has set out some of the most ambitious decarbonisation plans in the world.”
Yet, it also states that,
“half the growth in energy-related emissions from now until 2030 will come from China.”
Half of that growth will come from the country that is pursuing the most ambitious decarbonisation policy in the world, and by 2030
“China could account for half of the world’s emissions.”
I submit that those two views are incompatible. Either China is pursuing the most ambitious decarbonisation policy in the world, in which case one assumes that it will decarbonise—or at least match our skills in reducing, or preventing the growth in, carbon emissions—or it will not.
Why is that rosy view of China’s emissions policies peddled? The British public have to be convinced that China’s emissions are under control. The report admits:
“The UK’s emissions reduction efforts are negligible compared with emissions increases elsewhere.”
In 2011, the increase in emissions from China exceeded the UK’s total emissions by 200 million tonnes. The device used in the report to convince us all that the Chinese are pursuing an ambitious decarbonisation policy is, first, to glide from talking about reducing emissions to talking about reducing emissions growth, which is not quite the same thing, and secondly, to equate reduction in carbon intensity with cutting carbon emissions, which is not the same thing at all.
Like any sensible country, China of course wants more economic output from every tonne of fuel or joule of energy used. It enjoyed steady reductions in carbon intensity until the beginning of this century—not that it had any particular plan for CO2 reductions; it just used energy more efficiently each year—but for some reason that stopped early in this century, and it now has plans to return to the same path of increasing energy efficiency each year. Despite such increasing energy efficiency, however, it will experience major rises in energy use and carbon emissions.
The third delusion is the prospect of green jobs in the UK resulting from exports to China. That prospect depends on the UK inflicting on itself severe and ambitious measures to decarbonise the UK economy. The report states:
“Slowing the pace of decarbonisation at home could undermine our low-carbon businesses and the export opportunities for this sector”.
What are the opportunities? The report states that the
“inquiry identified three sectors where…the UK has an established lead”.
What are they? The first is the oil and gas sector. It is true that we have expertise in oil and gas, but I would not have thought of it as a typical green sector. Indeed, the report states that,
“British expertise could help to ensure that”
Chinese resources are used
“in the most sustainable way possible. The UK’s own emissions profile has been improved by the ‘switch to gas’ and…a similar switch could be achieved in China, reducing emissions between 50% and 70%. Significant potential for gas development lies in the exploitation of unconventional resources.”
The report mentions shale gas in China, but not much encouragement has been given to that in this country, where we have had an 18-month moratorium and no drilling so far. None the less, the Committee’s report, which the Government have endorsed, believes:
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“UK skills in the emerging market for unconventional ‘shale’ gas could help China to diversify its energy mix away from coal.”
Anything further from reality than the suggestion that we, who have held back shale gas development in this country and who—as we are told by the Committee, which has carried out an investigation—lack the expertise and will take a long time to develop our own resources, if they are there, can nevertheless help the Chinese to do so and then count that as a green export, would seem to me to be pretty bizarre.
The second sector is low-carbon buildings, primarily their design. That is fair enough. Let us send a few designers and architects over there and get the Chinese to pay their fees, but it will not revolutionise the British economy.
Interestingly, the third sector is carbon capture and storage. We are actually paying the Chinese to help them to develop the technology, and the report says that they already have a plant up and running. The idea that somehow the result is going to be us exporting carbon capture and storage technology to them when we are helping them develop a technology in which they are already further ahead than we are is bizarre.