UNLIKE previous agreements, there does appear to be a consensus that the Paris climate change accord could mark a turning point in history when it comes to future policies on the environment.
Yet it remains to be seen whether the safeguards are sufficiently robust to guarantee compliance from the biggest world polluters, like China, if future rises in global temperatures are to be restricted.
And then there is Britain, where policy appears to being made on the hoof to suit the latest whims of David Cameron’s increasingly fractious backbenchers.
He finds himself in the position of having to defend the fact that Britain is spending more money on combating climate change in the developing world than building flood defences in those parts of Cumbria and Yorkshire that could not withstand the full fury and might of Storm Desmond.
Perhaps the most profound question is the one which Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has still to answer – will the Paris deal make it easier, or harder, for Britain to generate sufficient energy, and at affordable prices, to keep the lights burning?
After all, it is an irony of timing that the Paris deal precedes this week’s closure of Kellingley Colliery and major doubts about the viability of Yorkshire’s much vaunted White Rose carbon capture project which would have placed this region at the vanguard of clean-coal technology.
Given the extent to which China, amongst others, will continue to be dependent on coal, it surely makes sense for the Government to be at the forefront of such initiatives while also making this country less reliant on the import of fuel, a policy which is a contradiction of the good intentions of Paris.
As such, the Government now has a duty to set out how Paris will impact upon its energy strategy – and whether sufficient action is being taken to plan for the long-term when Mr Cameron seems so reluctant to take the tough decisions on Britain’s future infrastructure. After all, the most critical component of any long-term economic plan is a long-term energy plan that is viable.
PM’s Europe fudge: Cameron volte-face on welfare
ONE of David Cameron’s biggest problems on European Union reform is that he has form when it comes to U-turns. His “cast-iron guarantee” of a referendum on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was jettisoned as Tory policy; his ‘no ifs, no buts’ election pledge in 2010 to limit migration to the UK proved worthless and the Tory party is now hamstrung by the leader’s commitment, before entering 10 Downing Street, to block plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
It’s the same with reports that the PM is now prepared to compromise over new arrivals to the UK from the EU – and whether they should be forced to wait for four years before being entitled to benefits. Having said in his recent Chatham House policy speech that “we do need to secure arrangements that deliver on the objective set out in the Conservative Party manifesto to control migration from the European Union”, a volte-face now will make it even harder for the forthcoming referendum to be won by those who advocate Britain’s continued membership of this institution.
This climbdown suggests that Mr Cameron was far too timid with his original renegotiation demands. For, if he had been more ambitious at the outset, the PM might have had more room for manoeuvre. After all, the EU appears to need Britain more than this country needs Brussels.
Time to remember
AS THE last embers of Yorkshire’s coal industry begin to flicker, this county must never forget the sacrifices made by those pit workers who were killed in the line of duty. Proud men, only they knew the scale of the risks to their health and safety on every shift as they toiled in the most oppressive of conditions.
It is, therefore, right that next year’s 150th anniversary of the Oaks Colliery disaster in Barnsley is properly remembered. More than 380 miners and rescuers were killed in the worst mining tragedy in English history. With the full list of casualties never established, it is high time that this is rectified with some kind of permanent memorial.
To put this number in context, more people died at the colliery on December 12, 1866, than the number of British military personnel killed during the Falklands conflict of 1982. Ahead of this week’s poignant final shift at Kellingley Colliery, it is even more important that this county never forgets its mining heritage.