A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

David Cameron: our latest ecotoff makes a naive start on Kyoto.....

At Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday (December 7), the new, fresh-faced Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable David William Donald Cameron, MP, Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford, might have wounded Mr. Blair over education policy, but he was lamentably naive over climate change and the Kyoto Protocol, allowing Mr. Blair ample opportunity to present him with a seminar on the realities of international climate-change negotiations (a seminar which frankly could have been found on 'EnviroSpin'). Cameron's limp questions demonstrated a worrying lack of experience with respect to the hard facts and knocks of foreign policy.

Here is the Hansard transcript of the parliamentary exchange taken from the official '10 Downing Street' Web Site:
"Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The Montreal climate change conference is taking place this week. We support the goal of a new Kyoto-style treaty that will tackle carbon emissions. Earlier this year the Prime Minister said that he had been changing his thinking on the issue. Can he set out his new thinking? In particular, is he still committed to a proper successor to Kyoto based on clear targets and including all the major carbon-producing countries of the world?

The Prime Minister: Yes, I most certainly am committed to that. The reason it is important that we change our thinking on the matter is that I do not believe that the successor to Kyoto can work unless it has not just the United States involved in such targets and such a framework, but India and China, because they are the major emerging economies of the world. In China, for example, one power station is being built every week or every two weeks. Therefore, unless we manage to get a comprehensive framework that also involves India and China, it will not be of much use to us. I entirely agree that the issue is immensely important. That is one of the reasons, of course, why we passed the climate change levy. I hope the Hon. Gentleman's question indicates that he will support us on that, too.

Mr. Cameron: I am grateful for the Prime Minister's answer. His Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in advance of Montreal: 'Without mechanisms in the form of compulsory action, such as targets to cut emissions, existing and new technologies will never be rolled out on the scale we need', and I agree with that. The Prime Minister said last month that people get 'very nervous and very worried' about this approach, and that we need a 'better, more sensitive set of mechanisms'.

Will he confirm that he still genuinely agrees with what his Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said?

The Prime Minister: I just said in answer to the previous question that it is important that we get binding targets. Emerging economies will want those to be sensitive to the needs of their economic growth, but one of the important issues that was not part of Kyoto but needs to be part of a new protocol is technology transfer. As we develop the research that allows us to have clean energy, we need to share that research and that technology with others. I am sorry‚ - I was pointing my finger; I would not want that to break up the new consensus. It is important not merely that we say how much we care about climate change, but that we take the action necessary. Therefore, it will be no use the Hon. Gentleman's saying that he supports the aim unless he also supports the climate change levy, the renewables obligation and the extra investment that we put into energy efficiency. If he is prepared to have a consensus on that basis, I welcome it."

You may also listen to, and watch, this exchange here [you will need either Windows Media Player or Real Player to do so; the exchange is well into Question Time].

As I have written on many occasions before, Mr. Blair's climate-change stance has been honed by real-world politics, and it may be summarized as follows:

(a) a clear recognition that no country in the world, and most certainly not a UK under Mr. Blair (nor, for that matter, one under Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer), will ever contemplate sacrificing economic growth. Blair knows that this is especially the case in the US, as well as in the emerging giants of China and India. What he is actually saying is: "Hey, you Greens; get real!" The recent politics and economics of Germany stand as a stark warning in this respect;

(b) a full understanding that any moves on climate-change political policy (for which read 'energy policy') must be truly international, for any unilateral action will leave an economy weak and exposed;

(c) the promotion of dialogue, especially with the countries of the developing world, not the neo-colonial imposition of European ecohype;

(d) a carefully-orchestrated set of moves to facilitate the inevitable re-introduction of nuclear power in the UK;

(e) a balanced approach which leaves no scientific option out of consideration, from the deep geological storage of carbon to every possible alternative technological source of energy. He has no time whatsoever for the utopian brigade who demand dramatic 'back-to-nature' life-style changes. There will be no turning the clock back;

(f) a clear rejection of the environmentalist and extreme 'Green' agendas of 'contract and converge' and hair-shirt politics; and,

(g) a recognition that technology transfer to the developing world has to be the way forward.

Despite, therefore, Mr. Blair's seeming focus on climate change, the agenda is not in the least environmentalist. It is, at heart, about future energy needs. In UK political terms, Blair is proving, yet again, to be as astute as ever.

In stark contrast, Mr. Cameron appears to be deeply naive and to be adopting a 'socialistic' and unilateral climate-change policy that is sheer madness for the Conservative Party. By 2020, the UK will be consuming less than 1.5% of world energy (not, of course, because of reductions in the UK, but because of the phenomenal growth in energy use in the developing world, especially in Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia). Any unilateral actions in the UK of the type seemingly envisaged by Cameron will therefore be totally meaningless in both energy and emission terms; but worse, if they add significant costs and restrictions to industry and commerce, they could prove devastating for British competitiveness. This is not the Conservative way. As we have already seen, Blair is all too aware of the problem.

Mr. Cameron still has much to learn and to think through. He cannot deliver such naive stuff on climate change, while at the same time declaring that he will build more roads and focus on increasing UK competitiveness.

I fear Mr. Cameron has been listening far too much for his own good to a small group of trendy Notting Hill ecotoffs [see my earlier post: 'The Etonian environmentalist mafia exposed'].

Philip, disappointed by the naivete. Out-greening the dire Lib-Dems will do nothing for anybody. A moment for morning coffee and the papers, where newspapers like The Times are wisely taking Mr. Cameron to task over this matter. I look for some hard-nosed thinking in the future.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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