Sunak is right to stay away from COP27

By Paul Homewood



Rishi Sunak deserves one of those ‘climate champion’ badges they hand out at primary schools. Why? Because he is not going to fly to the COP27 summit in Egypt – thereby saving 1.65 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to the World Land Trust’s carbon calculator. So what if Ed Miliband thinks it is a failure of leadership? There is no point in any UK Prime Minister travelling to any more of these summits when the world’s largest carbon emitters have made it perfectly plain that they have no intention of copying Britain’s example. They will not be putting themselves under legal commitment to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050 or any other hard date.
Xi Jinping, whose country is responsible for a third of the world’s emissions, won’t be going. Joe Biden will be there to earn his brownie points, but we know what to expect after he turned up last year in Air Force One, took a cavalcade of 21 vehicles from Edinburgh airport and then appeared to fall asleep during the conference. He wouldn’t even sign a document committing the US to phase out coal power by 2030 – six years after Britain’s last coal-fired station will close.
Biden isn’t going to be legally committing to net zero any more than Donald Trump did. All he has done is make a non-binding pledge to reduce emissions by 50 per cent and signed a climate bill which is really just protectionism is disguise, for example offering bungs to buyers of US-made electric cars.
Even those countries which have followed Britain into making a legal commitment to net zero seem to be taking it a lot less seriously than we are. Sunak has just reversed Truss’ policy and reaffirmed the government’s moratorium on fracking, thereby depriving Britain of a much-needed opportunity to improve energy security. Germany, on the other hand, is about to bulldoze a wind farm in order to extend a massive open-cast coal mine. Never mind the country’s promise to achieve net zero by 2045, five years earlier than even Britain. That has gone by the wayside as German homes face a chilly winter. But Chancellor Olaf Scholz is going to COP27, so that’s alright then.
Britain is beginning to look increasingly isolated in its net zero fundamentalism. Only we really do look like we’re going to be silly enough to close down our industries, sacrifice our agriculture and pile taxes on the poor in the name of achieving a self-imposed target which will mean absolutely nothing if other countries do not follow suit. You can forget about the much-vaunted bonanza in ‘green jobs’ – the number of people employed in what the Office of National Statistics defines as the ‘low carbon and renewable energy economy’ hasn’t grown in a decade, and has actually fallen since 2018. It is China which is gaining the green jobs – not least because energy is cheaper there.
That’s why Rishi Sunak is quite right to stay away from COP27 and prioritise his efforts to salvage the public finances instead. At some point either he, or a subsequent PM, is going to have to admit that the legal commitment to net zero by 2050 is a hostage to fortune – and relax it before it causes untold damage to the economy. But I can understand why he wouldn’t want to do this in his first week in office.


October 29, 2022 at 08:13AM

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