Net zero tokenism

The UK, as grumpy has written before, seeks to be seen as a global leader in reducing carbon emissions. This is fine, as long as everyone clearly understands that it’s merely an exercise in showing that a relatively small country can do this.

However, the fact is that any action by the UK will have no material effect on climate change. Zero. Zip. None. So to that end, other than the ‘feel good’ demonstrator element, the exercise as things stand in the world, is utterly pointless.

According to EU figures, the UK didn’t produce 98.98% of world emissions in 2017. Yes, the UK’s contribution was 1.02% globally. If the UK produced 0% tomorrow it would have absolutely no material effect whatsoever on the climate change process. It’s best contribution would be, with others, to persuade the top 10 carbon produces to head to net zero. Diplomacy, not heat pumps, is what is required now.

Just four countries produce 55% of emissions, and none of them will be anywhere near net zero by 2040. The USA, no longer a member of the Paris Accord, has in fact been removing regulations which limit emissions for the past 4 years. Even with a new administration, could one imagine that the USA could, for example, introduce a ban on new gasoline powered cars and vans b y 2030 – or even 10 years later? Fantasy.

The issue here for plans for a ‘Green Economy’ is that they are very unlikely to result in lower costs for the average household – in fact, it is likely that house costs, heating bills, electricity costs, and transport costs will all rise significantly. Since all current political parties are committed to this path, the eventual outcome must be rising taxes, wage inflation and hence reactive price inflation. We’ve been here before. The wish to be ‘world leading’ in climate actions will in fact detract from our competitiveness globally.

Grumpy believes the UK has a promising future outside the EU. But there is a hangover in the DNA of the UK from our colonial past of ruling a quarter of the world’s land area, which shows in the inevitable political references to ‘world beating’ this and ‘world class’ that. The wish to be a nuclear power, and (announced by Boris) the largest military in Europe all shows this throwback mentality embedded in the political classes and probably in the Civil Service.

The UK does have world level assets in key areas, particularly research and innovation (although not in the exploitation of same). Having no natural resources to speak of, and too high labour costs to be in low tech manufacturing, the future has to be in services based on distinctive competences, coupled with high tech manufacturing associated with those.