Jump to content

The Times


Recommended Posts

  • 3 weeks later...

We can achieve Net Zero at a Net Profit

A guest editorial by The Rt. Hon James Manning MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Margaret Thatcher was one of the first world leaders to talk about humanity’s impact on the natural world; one of the earliest major figures to tackle the issue of climate change.

In so doing, she put the environment at the heart of the Conservative agenda.

And tackling climate change is inherently a conservative ideal. We conservatives believe in a solemn duty to pass on to the next generation of Britons a country stronger and a life better than that which we inherited from our forefathers. We believe in conserving what is good about our world and changing what is not. It was a Conservative government which introduced the first Clean Air Act.

And the issue is more pressing than ever. Already, global temperatures are rising. Our carbon emissions are unbalancing the delicate eco-system of our planet. The destruction that will be wrought if global climate change continues unchecked is almost impossible to contemplate. Recent headlines in the UK focus on the risk of flooding. The rise in sea levels means that many coastal communities around the world could be wiped out altogether.

Last week I visited Happisburgh in Norfolk,a place with a name the pronunciation of which, in the finest of British traditions, bears absolutely no resemblance to its spelling. There, houses which twenty years ago were twenty feet from the sea now sit at the edge of the cliff and are expected to fall into the ocean. This is the power of nature, at once nurturing and destructive. Like all great ladies, mother nature should not be provoked.

It is an essential proposition, now accepted by all major political parties, that the United Kingdom should pursue net zero carbon emissions. My party has set a policy of achieving this by 2050.

But often, people draw a false narrative that achieving net zero emissions means accepting net zero growth. This Malthusian proposition is demonstrably wrong.

Britain was the leader of the first industrial revolution, which for all its achievements - decimating global poverty, creating the modern nation state and society - regrettably fired the starting pistol on the global climate crisis we now see. It can be the leader of the next. And that next industrial revolution, powered by technology, will be the green revolution. More and more, green technology will come to dominate the developments we see in business and trade. People around the world are looking to protect the Earth. There is a real willingness to do better. And in many aspects, Britain is already leading the charge.

Achieving net zero at a net profit means harnessing the power of new technology to drive forwards the pursuit of green policy. It means developing the innovations which enable us to accelerate the economy through the transition to a more environmentally friendly way of life.

A couple of months ago I visited the headquarters of the London Electric Vehicle Company. I test drove the company’s new replacement for London’s fleet of iconic black cabs. The new vehicle is fully electric, producing zero carbon emissions. There I unveiled Conservative plans to create a £300 million fund to dramatically expand the availability of electric vehicle fast charging ports across the UK.

Policies like this are very simple, relatively cheap, and enormously effective. One of the biggest barriers that prevents people from transitioning away from petrol or diesel family cars to electric is the fear that they will be left stranded without power. We can sort that out - the government should.

I’d also put in place a £500 million fund to improve insulation in homes across the country. Good quality insulation makes homes warmer in the winter and, seemingly perversely, cooler in the summer. It reduces energy wastage and saves electricity. It is a pivotal component of our climate change battling arsenal.

And generating electricity needs to be greener too. That’s why the Conservatives would devote unprecedented funding to develop new green energy sources, powering an additional 10 million homes carbon free within 15 years.

We can go further still. Toyota recently unveiled a prototype hydrogen-powered car. That technology should be being developed and built in Britain. And we can make sure that it is: with generous tax incentives for companies investing in green research and development, and with the regulatory changes made possible by Brexit which will enable us to become a green technology superpower. Actually, Brexit brings a lot of opportunities on the environment. We can do more to reward conscientious farmers who look after the biodiversity of their land. We can make fishing more sustainable. Yesterday I attended a black tie dinner in Edinburgh; they served caviar farmed by KC Ethical Caviar, who are the only producers in the world to use a revolutionary no-harm process to help save the sturgeon from extinction. (Jokes about Nicola ill-advised.) That caviar is exclusively farmed in Britain. It’s an example of the kind of innovation we must reward.

And we must do more on the international stage too. The United States and China remain by far the biggest polluters, dwarfing the contribution of the rest of the world. One of the biggest things we can do is pursue international agreement to end subsidies for coal and fossil fuel electricity generation. And we should seek a new commitment of UN member states to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

There is no inheritance greater than our planet. I can’t remember who it was that said we don’t inherit the Earth from our parents; we borrow it from our grandchildren. The sentiment is as true now as it ever was.

Net Zero is a vital and eminently achievable goal. But it need not be at the cost of economic growth and prosperity. I reject wholly that assertion. Indeed, growth is an essential component of achieving net zero: it is only through innovation, investment and research that we can achieve our goals. A secure future for the environment requires a strong economy to drive it forwards. I have a plan for both.




Formerly Margot Redfearn MP

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Create New...