Telegraph article: An unaccountable net zero elite has seized control of Britain

This article was first published in the Telegraph

‘Liz is the Grinch who wants to stop Christmas!’

That was the response in Cabinet from Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, to my eleventh-hour attempts to ditch COP26, the UN climate change conference that the UK was bidding to host in 2020.

It was late 2018 and I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, charged with keeping a tight grip on public spending. With an estimated price tag of over £200 million, I strongly questioned whether organising this jamboree should be a priority for the Government.

Had I believed the conference was likely to make any difference, I might have been more sympathetic. But I could see no prospect of that. World leaders would fly in on private jets to pontificate about the environment and reaffirm their aspirations to reduce emissions, while the biggest culprits would continue to do nothing. More than anything, bidding for COP26 was about appeasing the green lobby by making a grand gesture aimed at gaining short-term popularity without changing the fundamentals. It was environmental virtue signalling, with the taxpayer picking up the hefty bill.

But the rest of the Cabinet was in the grip of climate fever. When they weren’t posing for selfies with Greta Thunberg, they were busy trying to ban wood-burning stoves and plastic straws. After David Cameron’s ‘hug a husky’ phase, we’d done nothing to reverse Labour’s statist climate change policies. By the end of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government in 2019, we had committed ourselves to binding climate change targets with very little discussion of the consequences.

We have dumped costs on families with no regard for whether they can afford them and we have failed to plan for the long term. Meanwhile, there is little discernible impact on overall environmental outcomes. Many programmes, such as the switch from petrol to diesel in cars or the use of electric vehicles, have either harmed the environment in other ways or empowered our polluting adversaries elsewhere in the world by making us dependent on imported gas and coal and Chinese solar panels.

There are also ludicrous claims that pursuing a net zero agenda will boost the economy and drive growth. This is patently not true and wishful thinking. Additional environmental regulations have already hampered growth. For example, the National Grid estimates a cost of £3 trillion for decarbonising the electricity system.

The zealous drive to net zero is undeniably making business less competitive, hitting taxpayers through the cost of additional subsidies and hiking energy bills for consumers and industry alike, all of which is acting as a drag on economic growth.

The Climate Change Committee was established by the 2008 Climate Change Act passed by the Labour government, legislation that has not been reversed or reformed by the Conservatives. In our haste to not be seen as on the wrong side of history, we failed to make conservative arguments for environmental improvement – arguments centred on property rights, individual and family endeavours and the free market. Instead, we empowered our ideological opponents and accepted much of their extremist agenda.

Britain should aim to be energy independent by 2040 using oil and gas as well as nuclear and renewables. We are in an excellent position to become a net energy exporter, given the amount of sea by which we are surrounded where offshore wind farms can be located, as well as our expertise in nuclear power. The use of North Sea oil and gas is crucial, so there needs to be investment in that too. There also should be fracking in the UK. We are in the ludicrous position of importing fracked gas from the US that has been liquefied to -180˚C but refusing to frack ourselves. Meanwhile, Brits are paying twice as much for their energy as Americans.

The number one threat to the environment and our freedom and security is the rise of authoritarian regimes and the decline of democracy. Therefore, we need to cancel failed multilateral structures and work with allies that share our values. We should abolish the Climate Change Act and instead adopt a new Climate Freedom Act that enables rather than dictates technology.

We should protect our environment by protecting property rights and allowing enterprise to develop new green technologies. We should call out the green lobby’s brazen anti-capitalist agenda. They are the extremists in today’s politics and should be labelled as such. They say they want to reduce carbon but oppose nuclear power. They say they want less pesticide use but oppose genetic modification. They organise their protests on iPhones, devices that came into existence through free markets.

We also have to wrest back control of environmental policy from the legions of bureaucrats. Ultimately, these decisions should be made by politicians who have to answer to the people.

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