WRITE TO YOUR MP - Ask how will our economy continue to function?

29/04/2012 09:35:49

Christopher Booker asks: The green mystery we must ask our MPs to explain. David Cameron, reiterating his claim to lead “the greenest government ever”, has again highlighted one of the great political mysteries of our time – one I would be grateful for my readers’ help in unravelling. Four years ago, our MPs voted almost unanimously for by far the most expensive law ever enacted by Parliament. According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), the Climate Change Act will cost us all up to £18 billion every year until 2050. It commits Britain, uniquely in the world, to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to only a fifth of what they were in 1990.

As we all know, emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels are inseparable from almost every economic activity of our civilisation. We rely on them for some 75 per cent of the electricity needed to provide us with almost all the necessities of life. Without CO2 we would not be able to light and heat our homes, power our computers, get money from cashpoints, buy food from shops. Our transport system would be paralysed.

Hence the mystery: how can we meet that obligation to cut our emissions of CO2 by 80 per cent in just 40 years? After six hours debating this in 2008, 463 MPs of all parties voted for it, only three against. But of the 50 MPs who spoke, not one showed the slightest interest in how the target might be met.

May I therefore ask as many of my readers as possible to write to their local MPs, asking how we can hope to achieve that four-fifths cut without virtually closing down our economy?

It won’t be enough to reply that, by then, we shall be able to generate almost all our electricity from “renewables”. However many windmills and solar panels we build, thanks to the vagaries of wind and sun, these could at best provide only a fraction of what is needed. Even if a few nuclear power stations somehow get built by then, they could be only a very partial answer. So how will our economy continue to function? That is what we want our MPs to tell us.

In fact there is another mystery they need to explain. It seems, according to Decc’s figures, that we are already miraculously on course to meet our target. In 1990, Britain supposedly emitted 590 million tons of CO2. But by 2011, according to Decc’s provisional figures, this had already been slashed to just 456 million, a drop of 23 per cent. The chief explanation Decc offers for this is the switch of many of our power stations, after 1991, from coal to gas, which is less carbon-intensive. But even this by 2007 had only helped us to cut CO2 by 8 per cent. By far the biggest drop – a further 15 per cent, so Decc claims – has been since 2008, when the Act came into force and we went into recession. Nevertheless, Decc would have us believe that in two of those years, 2009 and 2011, emissions fell by 50 and 40 million tons, respectively (though in 2010 they rose by 24 million).

How can our MPs explain such a staggering reduction? It may give the politically convenient impression that the Government is meeting its target but it is, frankly, quite implausible.

The MPs might also be reminded that Britain accounts for 1.6 per cent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions. China’s emissions increase by that much each year, and now amount to 25 per cent of the global total. So, finally, can our MPs explain why we should close down most of our economy when this will have so little effect on the supposed global problem? If readers would be good enough to send their MPs’ replies to me, c/o The Sunday Telegraph, I look forward to reporting them.

Telegraph 28 April 2012