The Wheels on the Bus are Falling Off

Imagine reading this on the first Friday of August, from a BBC political reporter citing an anonymous Whitehall source she calls “a long time observer of COP conferences”.

Two other names that pop up in conversations about the UK government and the upcoming conference are those of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – with claims the pair aren’t exuding enough of a sense of urgency.

The source close to COP preparations thinks it’s time for a (non mung bean) Boris Johnson speech in the run up to September’s United Nations General Assembly to set out a vision and to tell Whitehall to “get its finger out.”

But of course many will concede that it’s pretty hard to plan a major event during a pandemic.

Government insiders insist it is full steam ahead for the negotiations, at least, to happen in person.

That is seen as essential.

The UK has even offered to provide vaccines to delegates.

But the COP veteran believes there still a small chance it won’t happen at all if it gets to a point where other countries want more delay.

Let me say that bit again.

The COP veteran believes there [is] still a small chance it won’t happen at all if it gets to a point where other countries want more delay.

Is it possible that Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak aren’t too bothered about such a prospect? Why would that be? How about this in the Daily Mirror ten days before?

The UK’s ban on gas boilers could be pushed back five years due to backlash over the soaring cost of ‘net zero’ on households ahead of the COP26 climate conference this year.

Boris Johnson is said to be looking at delaying the ban on sales of gas boilers to 2040, in a move that would allow firms extra time to develop more affordable alternatives including cheaper hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps.

However, the push back could result in the UK falling behind on its net zero target of 2030.

Under plans, the public will be incentivised to buy an eco-friendly heat pump next time their boiler breaks down, but would be given extra time to buy one if they want to before the ban kicks in.

At present, a heat pump can set you back an eye-watering £14,000 with even minsters warning that these green measures could cost households £400billion on top of the eye-watering Covid bill.

That eponymously mirroring a polemic by rebel Tory MP Steve Baker in The Sun over two months before: The ‘Net Zero’ boiler ban will leave Britain’s poorest out in the cold.

The wheels on the bus are coming off. Pioneers like Ann Widdecombe (pictured) – one of only five MPs to vote against Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act in 2008 – are going to be vindicated. Not only beautiful but smart.

Humans as super-agents

Unlike the fairy-tale production of the Anthropocene, the tectonic shift I’m mooting will only take a few, albeit of rare courage. Because the facts are with us. And, as both quotes so far show, Covid is helping. (Not a choice we would have made, given the global suffering involved. But still a fact.)

Davey in the Telegraph, 7th August 2021

That cartoon from the prime minister’s house journal yesterday, under the headline Boris Johnson’s push for net zero plunged into chaos. (H/t Mark Hodgson.)

Something strange is going on

I don’t know about you but I’ve been pondering the strange alignment of three events this year: the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, the first time the UK has chaired that gathering for eight years, after it had to be cancelled in 2020, the release of AR6 WG1 globally tomorrow, again the first such report for eight years, and COP26, delayed a year by Covid, so also, like the G7, in the UK in 2021 (insofar as it happens). That’s the first time we’ve hosted a COP since that sainted series began in 1995. All that global attention. Just what our government wanted. Or perhaps not.

Still, such challenges bring out the best in some people. Our prime minister has anticipated the totality of the findings of AR6 in the last week, moving the goal posts in dramatic fashion while preserving the XR- and Carrie-approved means of strict Net Zero:

How seriously is the government taking the task of hosting this major climate conference?

Pretty seriously, the prime minister suggested today.

“We need to stop the world gaining another 1.5 degrees” he said.

“The risk of that is clear.

“The way to do that is for countries to move to net zero.

“We want to see an end to coal by 2030… we want to see the planting of millions and millions of trees around the world” he added.

That’s the BBC report from late Thursday again. Our target, we learn, is to stop the world gaining another 1.5 degrees. That’s three times easier – no probably a thousand times easier – than the old target of limiting ourselves to 1.5 degC from pre-industrial.

I’ve not done a substantive post on Cliscep since leaving the scene in March. So I thought I’d rejoin with a post that highlights one article from each month since. (Yesterday’s Telegraph piece with the Davey cartoon makes it two for August but life is seldom neat when wheels are falling off out-of-control buses-come-juggernauts.)

My selection for April is Richard Lindzen’s talk entitled The Imaginary Climate Crisis: How can we Change the Message?

Lindzen finishes:

Our task is to show the relevant people the overall stupidity of this issue rather than punching away at details. In focusing on the details, we are merely trying to showcase our own specialties. My use of the word ‘merely’ is probably unjustified; the details can, in fact, be scientifically important. However, we are not considering either our target audience or the intrinsic absurdity of the issue. It is likely that we have to capitalize on the insecurity of the educated elite and make them look silly instead of superior and virtuous. We must remember that they are impervious to real science unless it is reduced to their level. When it is reduced to their level, it is imperative that we, at least, retain veracity. Whether we are capable of effectively doing this is an open question.

I would argue that our prime minister has helped greatly in the last week by showing how absurd the whole thing is, that he can get the official message so wrong and not even be corrected, let alone mocked. Except of course on Cliscep.

“The greatest challenge of the post-war era”

That wasn’t the phrase that came to George Monbiot on Saturday:

But it was the prime minister’s in June, quoted in a Telegraph article just before the G7 summit began with the feelgood title Exclusive: Queen to honour Kate Bingham with a damehood. There’s no mention of climate at all. It’s all about the Covid crisis and the UK response:

Kate Bingham, 55, is to be rewarded with the honour for her unpaid work leading the UK Vaccines Taskforce and obtaining access to millions of doses of six different coronavirus jabs.

On Saturday, the 40-millionth patient received their first Covid jab. Her damehood is expected to be among a host of honours for “heroes” of the pandemic response, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list next weekend.

The disclosure comes as the Prime Minister, who appointed Ms Bingham to the Vaccines Taskforce last May, prepares to use his role as host of this year’s G7 summit, to urge leaders to commit to “vaccinating the world” by the end of next year.

Mr Johnson will seek “concrete commitments” from the US, French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Canadian leaders, which UK officials hope to unveil, along with a major rise in British vaccine donations, during the summit in Cornwall.

While some 1.5 billion Covid vaccine doses have been administered globally, only around one per cent of them have been delivered in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Mr Johnson said: “Next week the leaders of the world’s greatest democracies will gather at an historic moment for our countries and for the planet.

“The world is looking to us to rise to the greatest challenge of the post-war era: defeating Covid and leading a global recovery driven by our shared values.

“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history.

“I’m calling on my fellow G7 leaders to join us to end this terrible pandemic and pledge we will never allow the devastation wreaked by Covid to happen again.”

Boris Johnson is not perhaps as stupid as the previous section might seem to imply. This is the agenda he wanted to be central at the St Ives summit, which of course generously gave a lot of locals Covid-19. The climate elite fought back. “Our crisis is bigger than yours,” they said.

But many MPs, like Steve Baker, know that’s not how most ordinary UK voters see things. All we need is some courage, from both politicians and journalists. It’s hardly too much to ask.

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August 8, 2021 at 06:24PM

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