Net Zero, that’s where our bank balances are headed on current trends. According to the OBR it will cost £1.4 trillion to complete Net Zero by 2050, that’s more than 3 times the cost of the COVID emergency, but obviously over a longer timescale.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s the full number as our governments ( of any hue ) seems to have an uncanny knack of underestimating both cost and timing. Think of the Millenium Dome, HS2, anything IT; I’m afraid the UK does not have a good record on this. The only constant seems to be it will cost more and take longer than we think. And for what ?
The UK is the 17th largest producer of CO2 worldwide making up 1% of the total and heading on a downward path. This is despite being the world’s 6th largest economy. We have got here by closing down heavy industries, moving work offshore and some progress on renewable energy generation.
Some of this reduction is simply sleight of hand, carbon still hits the planet whether it is made in a steel mill in south Wales or one in Guangdong. Consumption is consumption and its only if we don’t consume that there is a positive impact. Our insular view serves only to deceive ourselves. And that to me is what is happening at the macro level. Whichever way we look at it our Net Zerp efforts will be dwarfed by other economies hitting the growth path. So, if rising temperatures are what we are combatting it’s a lost war something even the IPCC has stated. The UK by itself can affect very little, temperatures will rise.
But we’re setting an example the rest of the world will follow our politicians state. Shall we consider that for a moment ?
China 29% of world emissions, I can’t honestly see them take the remotest interest, USA 14% we are more likely to follow them, India has 1.4 billion mouths to feed so different priorities, Russia – as if – 5% of emissions , Japan more than capable of doing their own thing. These five states account for 58% of global CO2, add in the 8% for the EU ( cannot see them following us either ) and at least two thirds of the world will be happily ignoring us. So, who is this leadership aimed at ? We are simply flattering ourselves that we matter, and except at the margins, we don’t.
And then of course there’s the reality climate change might have some benefits. . The UK is fortunate in its geography. A 1.5 degree rise will give us a temperature more akin to central France. We are not all going to die if we live in the new Dordogne, some aspects of climate change will be beneficial. We can develop our wine industry, fruit will taste super ripe like it does in Italy, heating bills will reduce, we can spend more time outside and be healthier as a result. We will adapt but not perish
But this does mean change. Wetter autumns and rising sea levels place stress on our communities and infrastructure, biodiversity will be a major concern. Of greater impact will be events elsewhere. Desertification in Africa or the Middle East will once again put people on the move and it’s hard to see how we can avoid its impacts. Global food stress may hit us too. But these are all events outside our control and where our Net Zero policies will have little impact. The question is are our politicians too heavily invested in Net Zero to change our path?
So let us stop and think. We are about to spend over £1.400.000.000,000. Is there a better way to spend it which directly benefits our country, our environment and our citizens ? I believe so. Between now and 2050 we should be directly addressing the needs of the UK and develop a new set of environmental priorities.
In Part 2 I’ll set out what I think these should be.