Why Extinction Rebellion must be resisted in climate clamour – Bernard Ingham

HARDLY a day goes by without hearing ideas for new taxes to improve our health, if not our pockets. Salt, sugar and snack taxes are the latest.

Germany's devastating floods have prompted fresh calls for action on climate change.
Germany's devastating floods have prompted fresh calls for action on climate change.

I’m surprised ex-Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, did not dream up a cuddle tax. But then perhaps not.

Almost as regularly as the test and trace app pings you into isolation, pressure groups call for more spending on their pet ideas.

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It does not yet seem to have sunk in that we have already borrowed a cool £300bn to cope with the pandemic, leaving a budget deficit twice that bequeathed by Gordon Brown in 2010.

Boris Johnson is due to host the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.

That, you will recall, brought what was rather airily called 10 years of austerity before Covid struck.

Heaven only knows what the next decade is going to bring.

So far it has been very short on common sense, though the Cabinet is now encouragingly at odds over a new anti-CO2 infrastructure statement.

If the realists do not prevail, it is going to be very long on spending money we have yet to earn with the national debt spiralling above £2 trillion (thousand billion).

Germany's devastating floods have prompted fresh calls for action on climate change.

I have a sense of foreboding about events in Glasgow in November when the 26th UN climate change circus (COP 26) comes to town, leaving clouds of CO2 behind it as dignitaries and campaigners fly in by the thousand.

After all, it will be chaired by our Prime Minister who loves to be loved, has grandiose ideas and precious little financial constraint in his make-up.

All the pressure is on, including heatwaves in Seattle and Lapland and floods in Germany and the Low Countries, to produce what will be hailed as a positive outcome.

The only trouble is that the developing countries – as 100 of them have already made clear – expect the West to pay for it at a time when we have felt it necessary to cut our international aid programme.

In short, the atmospherics before the UN conference are as unrealistic as the policies past gatherings have engendered. If Glasgow is to perform any useful service, it will have to induce a new sense of responsibility and proportion.

Britain has no need to apologise for its record.

As the producer of only around one per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, it has done more than most to clean up its act.

Germany, for example, has no room to talk. It has sought to phase out clean nuclear power in favour of wind and solar but is burning dirty brown coal to provide some cover for their unreliability and is now outrageously building a gas pipeline from Russia, thereby weakening the West’s ability to keep the Communists at bay.

Incidentally, Glasgow could usefully call for an audit of Chinese economic colonisation of the developing world in the form of CO2-producuing power stations.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the post-Covid recovery will raise global electricity output by around five per cent this year and again next year, and that about 50 per cent of it will be generated by fossil fuels, threatening to push C02 emissions from power stations to record levels next year.

On this basis, climate campaigners will claim that tackling global warming has never been more urgent.

Politicians can only argue that, while that may be so, their prime responsibility is to ensure that the world recovers economically from Covid-19 in order to meet the cost of creating a zero-carbon world.

While they are at it – assuming they ever get round to it – they could also usefully point out that the time has now come to produce costed policies that can achieve their objective.

So far most existing policies, including Britain’s, are pie in the sky.

The UK Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility has just calculated that hitting our climate change targets will cost – wait for it – £1.4 trillion and add £469bn to our mountain of debt.

These are the economics of the mad house, especially when we haven’t a clue whether there will be enough clean electricity to replace gas boilers and gas-guzzling cars.

We are flying on a wing and a prayer with a minimal clean nuclear power building programme and optimistic (and uncosted) talk about hydrogen, batteries and nuclear fusion which some scientists would have us believe is no longer 40 years away.

The moral of my tale is clear: let’s bring a sense of sober realism to the world this year instead of forever being driven by the irresponsible likes of Extinction Rebellion.

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