In about 12 weeks’ time (so I’m told) the UK will have a general election and, even this early, I’d have expected to be receiving a steady trickle of leaflets and flyers from all over the political spectrum through my front door. However, to date I’ve had just one leaflet, from Mary Macleod, the local Conservative candidate. Today I sent her an e-mail, enquiring about her views on some issues I think are rather important and here is what I wrote:
Dear Mary Macleod,
I am a Hounslow resident – and thus potentially one of your constituents, should you win the seat of Brentford and Isleworth in the general election in May this year. In your leaflet, which I received on 1st February, you highlight some of the issues on which you are campaigning; these include rebuilding the economy, job creation, rejecting a new runway at Heathrow and also a number of local matters. However, I would like to know your position on several other issues which to me would also appear to be of great significance and on which I believe all parties will be judged by the electorate during the next few months.
The first issue is climate change. For a long time we have been assured by the current government that man-made climate change is a clear and present danger and that tackling climate change is of the highest priority. Indeed all three main political parties in this country include greenhouse gas reduction and the transition to a low-carbon economy among their official aims.
But there is a problem with this stance. Firstly, as someone who has been following this subject over the last few years, it is clear to me that climate science is extremely contentious and uncertain; the scandalous developments that have taken place in the last couple of months have highlighted this. The “ClimateGate” files and e-mails have shown how a small group of climate scientists have abused (there really isn’t a milder word for it) the peer review process and engaged in very questionable activities, cynically promoting their own point of view and attempting to exclude the work of scientists not sharing their position. In the last few weeks, the most recent report of the IPCC has come under unprecedented scrutiny, revealing a litany of errors and dubious citations. Overall, our knowledge of the basic physics of greenhouse gases remains unchanged; however, it is the way that unproven positive feedbacks have been added to predict global average temperature rises of over 2 degrees this century and to give plausibility to alarming scenarios of extreme weather events, accelerated sea level rises and the creation of climate refugees in their hundreds of millions, that are being questioned by a growing number of people worldwide, including a great many reputable scientists.
There is also a question mark hanging over the calculations used in the drafting of the Climate Change Act of 2008. Peter Lilley MP has highlighted some of the issues associated with the Impact Assessment, showing how the costs to the country and to taxpayers have been greatly downplayed by the current government. Also, even accepting, for argument’s sake, the point of view that CO2 emissions are a problem, spending a large proportion of the UK’s GDP on CO2 reduction does not make much economic sense, given that the UK’s carbon emissions are some 2% (and shrinking) of the global total, and that the political influence of the UK on growing economies (and major greenhouse gas emitters) such as China, India and Brazil is minimal, as I think was demonstrated at the recent Copenhagen summit.
The second issue is energy policy. Based on the perceived need to reduce carbon emissions, all three main parties have thrown in their lot with renewable sources of electrical power and, in my opinion, not quite grasped the fact that we are probably facing an energy shortage in the near future, as the result of over a decade of inaction over building new power stations. There have been several warnings in recent years (e.g., Inenco and also the Business and Enterprise Committee in 2008) which have highlighted this problem; in addition, alternative sources of energy such as wind turbines are unlikely, in my view, to fill this gap over the next ten years. I think this country urgently needs a rational and pragmatic energy policy in order to address the matter.
This leads to my third issue – Europe. Currently the UK is a member of the EU, which is increasingly resembling a very expensive and undemocratic club of nations. The task of strengthening the British economy will I think be hampered by the cost of UK contributions to the EU (now running at over £4 billion a year) and by EU-enforced CO2 emission targets. There is also the matter of the European Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD), which sets an artificial deadline for the closure of ageing power stations (mostly coal-fired) in the UK over this coming decade (up to about a seventh of our total capacity), and which thus threatens to increase the possibility of power cuts and energy rationing in the years between now and 2020. There are some plausible arguments, surely, for suspending our membership of the EU and redefining the way we do business with our European neighbours; my view is that the next Prime Minister should at least make a firm re-commitment to a public referendum on EU membership.
I believe that these three issues – climate change, energy and Europe – are interlocked, and will have some bearing on that other very important issue – rebuilding the economy. I believe that the current Conservative policies, based as they are on a) the flawed perception that man-made global warming is an overwhelmingly serious and urgent problem, b) an emphasis on renewable energy and “decarbonisation”, at the expense of traditional and cheap carbon-based energy, and c) continued membership of the EU, may well lead to further economic stagnation, poverty and even social unrest. In my view, a rational look at climate change (as proposed by Lord Lawson, among others), a pragmatic energy strategy and a rethink of EU membership would help to restore a measure of prosperity, sanity and social cohesion to the UK.
I look forward to hearing about your position on these matters.
Peter Lilley on the Climate Change Bill: http://www.peterlilley.co.uk/article.aspx?id=14&ref=1401
Peter Lilley’s letter to Ed Miliband last year: http://www.peterlilley.co.uk/article.aspx?id=10&ref=1421
Wiki page which shows the UK’s share of worldwide CO2 emissions for 2007/08: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol
Business and Enterprise Committee Energy policy report: http://news.parliament.uk/2008/12/energy-policy-report/
News story re the Inenco energy shortfall warning: http://www.electric.co.uk/news/uk-to-face-an-energy-shortfall-1234230.html
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, of which Lord Lawson is Chairman of the Board of Trustees: http://www.thegwpf.org/
I have a reply, which arrived on 5th May 2010:
You make some extremely pertinent points in your email on climate change, energy security and the EU. Before I launch into my policies on all these issues I would like to point out my overall view. First, there are reasonable doubts on some of the climate change statistics, but, on the whole, the value of building a more energy efficient economy has both economic and social benefits for the country’s future. New energy efficient industries are developing and I want our country to lead in them. Also I want to live in a country which pollutes less and cares more about the environment people live in. Second, it is vital to plan ahead to develop a broad-based supply of low carbon energy to ensure that we are not over-dependent on any one source or supplier of energy, and to help meet our commitment to reducing emissions. Under a Conservative government, nuclear power will be part of the energy mix if it is economically viable. Third, the cross-border nature of developing policy on climate change and energy security requires us to ensure such policy is not created without a strong UK voice in those institutions, like the G20, UN and the EU, which are key stakeholders. Pulling out of Europe will not preclude us from applying the obligations agreed upon just as pulling out of the UN or NATO would not genuinely make our foreign and defence policy independent.
While we must never lose sight of the environmental imperative for carbon reduction, there is also a compelling economic case for going green. A more balanced economy must include a dynamic industrial change, challenging the dependency of our economy on carbon-based energy. Britain is uniquely well placed to be the world’s first low carbon economy. We already have the natural resources to generate wind and wave power, a skilled workforce trained in the energy industry, a high-tech manufacturing sector and a green financial centre in the City of London.
- By harnessing the power of markets and innovation, we can create the products and services that will transform our economy as well as protecting our planet.
- By using genuinely green taxes to change behaviour the use of fossil fuels can be reduced without increasing the cost of living.
- By diversifying our energy supply we can have cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy.
- By driving energy efficiency, we can reduce emissions and cut people’s bills.
- By renewing our national infrastructure, we will be helping our economy to compete as well as helping to improve the quality of life today and into the future.
By taking a leading role in tackling climate change, we will gain a head start on the green technologies of the future and help Britain to create new jobs in green industries. Whereas the green agenda has been seen as being about banning things, we see the transition to a low carbon economy as an opportunity to become world leaders in new fields, like carbon capture or green finance, so creating jobs and helping our economy.
The economic case for a Third Runway at Heathrow is far from proven, but the extra 222,000 flights a year that would come with a third runway – a 46 per cent increase on current levels – would make it much more difficult to meet the demanding targets our nation has set itself for reducing carbon emissions. However, the environmental concerns are not confined to climate change – the lives of thousands of people would be blighted by increased aircraft noise and pollution and the Environment Agency has warned of the risk of ‘increased morbidity and mortality’ if a third runway goes ahead (Environment Agency, Thames Region Response to DfT Heathrow Consultation, 2008). So we have repeatedly argued that instead of pushing blindly ahead with a third runway, we should focus on making Heathrow better, not bigger.
A Conservative government will make energy security a national security priority. To cover the period of immediate insecurity, a Conservative government will introduce a system of strategic oversight. Our National Security Council will co-ordinate the monitoring of our energy infrastructure – its capacity for fuel supply, fuel storage, power generation, transmission and distribution – with a view to improving its resilience. It would also monitor the foreign policy aspects of energy supply.A Conservative government will ensure that energy security is a Foreign Office priority. Action would include supporting greater co-ordination of European energy policy, discouraging bilateral deals with Russia, and developing better relations with energy supplier nations. We strongly support the efforts of the European Commission to improve competitiveness and to limit the power of the dominant European energy monopolies. At home we have been calling on the Government to make this a key negotiating priority at EU summits for several years. We would also ensure that the Foreign Office worked with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to explore the possibility of expanding and developing a fully integrated European energy grid. We will work with, and through, the EU to deliver a liberalised market, open to new entrants.
Please feel free to contact me with any further questions or concerns that you may have. I hope that I get the chance to meet you sometime soon and I look forward to fighting for the needs of the people who live in this constituency if I am fortunate enough to be elected.
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate