Protests by Extinction Rebellion’s seemingly inexhaustible army of activists made plenty of headlines last week. They say politicians are out of touch with climate reality. But what do they want, and can ministers realistically make it happen? Let’s consider XR’s three core demands: for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress; and to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. If Mrs May regularly referred to a “climate crisis” or “climate emergency”, that might fill their wish that the government should “tell the truth”. A citizens’ assembly looks unlikely, especially during the current constitutional mayhem of Brexit. And the third objective of cutting CO2 emissions to almost zero by 2025 is surely unachievable. So, if not all this, then what? This weekend, I asked environmentalists on Twitter for their suggestions about what ministers can do to show XR they mean business. Here – in no particular order – is my summary of some of the responses, with my own micro-analysis along the way: Cancel Heathrow; make home insulation a National Infrastructure Priority; deliver an EV charging network; stop tax breaks for oil & gas; bring back onshore wind;
BBC 23rd April 2019 read more »
Stephen King HSBC’s senior economic adviser and author of Grave New World: Now is the time to switch to renewable power and put a tragedy behind us. Dame Emma Thompson perfectly encapsulates the challenges associated with man-made climate change. She doubtless cares enormously about the future of our planet, yet appears to enjoy a lifestyle that, at times, is not entirely consistent with our planet’s long-term health. Jetting in from Los Angeles to join the Extinction Rebellion protest – and admitting that she was “far too old” to travel economy – might seem like a strange act of rebellion. Her problem is a version of the tragedy of the commons. The original “tragedy” was overuse of common grazing land. It cost the individual herder nothing to add a couple more cows to the pastureland and, if no one else emulated his “free rider” behaviour, no real harm would be done. If everyone, however, was a free rider, the pastureland would be destroyed and eventually all the cows would die. Similarly, while our individual flights do little damage to the environment, our collective actions may be rather more threatening. Today, renewables account for less than 4 per cent of global energy consumption. Replacing oil with, say, solar, however, is only the beginning. Our transport systems need to be electrified, a process that will happen only if grid capacity is massively expanded. And batteries have to become much more commonly used, not only in phones and laptops but also in homes, such that renewable energy can be stored to be employed when and where it is most needed. Doing all that requires imagination, leadership, international co-ordination and, yes, money. And with borrowing costs at absurdly low levels, the opportunity to act is right here, right now.
Times 23rd April 2019 read more »
William Hague: No one sits up to listen more than I do when a 16 year old activist takes the stage, in this case the climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg speaking on Sunday to Extinction Rebellion protestors in London. After all, I was that age when, 42 years ago, I caused a stir by telling the Conservative conference to roll back socialism. Like her, I was a teenager who believed I should get involved in a vital cause, and fight for something crucial for decades ahead. There, the similarities end. In my case, many of my contemporaries at school would have disagreed with me, and most would not have cared. In her case, huge numbers of young people support her message, and the issues she raises have become the prime political concern of activists of her generation. While I was concerned that left wing ideas were destroying opportunity, she and many more are motivated by the growing awareness that the whole of humanity is starting to devastate the planet. It is time to recognise that these young activists are indeed focused on the right issue. The solutions presented by protestors in London or by Green parties around the world may be ill thought-out, but the analysis is now hard to gainsay. The film presented by Sir David Attenborough last week was compelling in its argument that there is perhaps only a decade left to avert the greatest threat Earth has faced in thousands of years.
Telegraph 22nd April 2019 read more »