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The ‘green crap’ hits its fans

Sorry, David Cameron - you're now stuck with the green policies you yourself advocated.

Ben Pile

Topics Science & Tech

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Last week, the Sun and the Daily Mail reported a Downing Street insider’s claims that David ‘vote-blue-go-green’ Cameron now wants to ‘get rid of all the green crap’. Whether this is true or not, rising energy prices, the sheer volume of environmentalists’ cant, the failure of global political processes and science’s deviation from the climate narrative, have caused the green brand to toxify over recent years. Gone are the days of hug-a-husky, when Britain’s three largest parties competed with each other to be the greenest.

Yet despite the parties acting as if it were a central concern of voters, climate change was never a popular issue. Politicians’ emphasis on climate change impressed only a narrow (albeit the most vocal, powerful and visible) and self-serving stratum of British society. Thus state agencies, state-dependent businesses, the third sector and much of the media bought into the green agenda wholesale, widening an already substantial gap between the public and the establishment. ‘Green crap’ has accumulated in this chasm, and has now breached it.

It is no coincidence that the Lib-Con coalition, which dubbed itself the ‘greenest government ever’, is also one of the weakest in history. Likewise, the preceding Labour government, having also struggled to define itself, went green. As that administration was coming to its end, senior Labour politicians were among those who pushed the hardest for a global response to climate change, calling for more commitment on climate issues from both the EU and for the UK. The then opposition parties – now the coalition – failed to oppose these poorly conceived political projects, instead complaining that they didn’t go far enough.

So it is no surprise that Cameron finds himself covered by green crap in this political farce. Climate-change policymaking has simply been too easy, with criticism ruled out from the outset as a Big Oil-funded climate change-denying conspiracy, leaving the green agenda unchecked. Such an irrational approach to formulating policy privileges irrational arguments, the consequences of which are felt throughout the economy. It is apparently only now, when the political consensus on climate change seems to be in its terminal stage, that Cameron has noticed the ‘green crap’.

So where does this leave Cameron? Can he ‘get rid of all the green crap’?

It seems unlikely that he can. Even if Cameron could persuade other ministers, MPs and lords to ignore the engorged green lobby, the UK has only limited freedom to change green policy. The global agreements and EU directives Cameron’s own party, and now government, has pushed for oblige the UK to meet a growing proportion of its energy demand from renewable sources, while reducing carbon emissions. The EU itself has committed a whopping 20 per cent of its budget to green projects. Dismantling the green agenda would mean dismantling a lot more besides.

The green agenda – the flow of green crap – unleashed by crisis-ridden UK politics has its own momentum, and will continue for some time. It will continue to produce failures that will likely become more spectacular as the full scale and reach of green policy becomes apparent, producing material effects such as a continuation of the entirely foreseeable rise in energy prices. ‘Green crap’ is not just some slight excess besetting an otherwise sensible suite of policies; it is a systemic rot. For decades, political institutions have been constructed outside of democratic control, and have been populated by technicians and technocrats who have zero connection with or concern for the public. To ‘get rid of all this green crap’ is a bigger job than simply making adjustments to energy policy, possibly saving the average consumer a tenner here or there.

Do we really think Cameron believed the green crap he peddled when he hugged those huskies, or when he proclaimed ‘vote blue go green’? Was he not aware of green crap when he went up on Greenpeace’s rooftops to sing about the virtues of solar power? And was he really committed to environmentalism when he announced a policy that would ultimately lead to the owners of solar panels being paid for the energy their panels produced at six times the market rate? A more obvious explanation for these events is that Cameron, like other politicians, found the green agenda and the approval of environmental NGOs expedient. After all, the substance of green ideas – crap though they are – is not really the issue here. What really needs to be understood is why the likes of Cameron have been so eager to absorb green ideas without question, and why they cannot challenge ‘green crap’ in public.

Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.

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Topics Science & Tech

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