The environment and its hard economics in climate change struggle – Bernard Ingham

WITH a bit of luck and continued good vaccine management this really will be the UK’s Environment Year. I hope to celebrate my birthday on June 21 by reconnecting with the great outdoors in spite of my limited mobility.

By then, we should all be free to roam the countryside without the attentions of drones and other methods of policing a lockdown.

But long before we get to that milestone a remarkable environmental programme is celebrating its first 20 years this very day. It is the Eden educational project near St Austell in Cornwall where, under great domes erected in an old claypit, there are thousands of plants and the world’s largest indoor rainforest.

This communal effort is spreading knowledge about the inter-dependence of man and plants and hopes to create an Eden of the North in Morecambe.

Does Drax power station represent double standards when it comes to environmental policy? Photo: Simon Hulme.

While it has been developing the UN has been holding annual environmental (COP) summits and the next, COP 26, will open in Glasgow on November 1 under UK presidency.

The rush is on to impress the world with the UK’s environmental virtue to encourage the rest. Yet, even if we did nothing this year, we would be something of a beacon in combatting climate change.

We certainly don’t lack targets for reducing carbon emissions and securing a carbon-zero economy, whatever that means, by 2050. One of the world’s problems is that governments are only too ready to signal their virtue by binding themselves to global objectives while doing nothing about it of any real consequence.

A very cold winter on the Continent and in North America has brought no respite from warnings of a rising global temperature and consequential extreme weather events. Yet the UN has been holding COPs since 1995.

There's still a reluctance for families to switch to electric cars.

This is not surprising. It would be a brave – some would say foolhardy – government that did anything to damage its economy, especially now after the ravages of Covid.

Just look at the way the EU’s failed vaccination policy has crumbled in the face of national desperation to inoculate its citizens.

China and India are building more coal-fired power stations as well as clean nuclear plants.

Germany supposedly one of the “greener” nations, is closing its nuclear power stations, burning more dirty brown coal and building a gas pipeline from Russia which crazily means importing CO2 while putting its industry at the mercy of an expansive Russia.

Boris Johnson wants 2021 to be remembered for his environment and climate change agenda, but will this prove to be the case? Sir Bernard Ingham poses the question.

We are not without our contradictions. Why, here in Yorkshire, Drax power station is smokily burning subsidised imported wood chips that somehow are regarded as “green”.

The Government also seems to be running a mile from sanctioning a new coal mine in Cumbria to produce coking coal for the steel industry that would otherwise have to be imported.

Where’s the logic – and the reduction in CO2 emissions?

Not surprisingly a politically correct Joe Biden has reversed President Trump’s withdrawal from the global environmental scene and intends to create millions of “green” jobs just as Boris Johnson intends to “build Britain greener”. We shall see if they do.

They will find it easier if they can demonstrate conclusively the economic return from environmentalism instead of dire predictions of an uninhabitable planet.

There have been too many mistakes so far on the road with advice here in the UK on first the environmental benefits of diesel vehicles, and now doubts whether hybrids are as clean as the petrol cars they are supposed to supplant en route to all-electric motors.

With only seven months to go to 
COP 26, our approach is all targets and 
no indication how they will be met and the PM obsessed with building thousands of unreliable offshore wind turbines.

Can he honestly say, hand on heart, there will be no power cuts as a result when not much is being done to replace coal, gas and oil? Indeed, there is now talk of ending North Sea oil exploration licensing.

I am all in favour of cleaning up the atmosphere for health as well as environmental reasons along with litter, plastics and other pollutants affecting human and wildlife. But economics cannot be ignored.

The Eden project is said to have brought £1bn into Cornwall. How many billions would an economic “green” policy bring by eliminating pollution and rubbish and re-wilding and reconciling man with nature?

We need a cold look at the issue before Glasgow from a hard-headed commission and not the usual environmental fanatics. The time is long overdue for a co-ordinated approach to environment and energy policy that makes economic sense.

Don’t hold your breath.

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