Following the prime minister’s u-turns on net zero targets, our co-director Andy O’Brien makes clear the direction we need to go from here.
In the prime minister’s recent climate targets U-turn speech he frequently mentioned honesty and transparency. But much of what he said was far from that.
His main argument was that much of the cost of the net-zero transition shouldn’t be borne by hard-working families. What he didn’t say, however, was that government policy and mis-use of funds over the past decade have already made energy costs far more expensive for them than they should be.
Have you ever wondered why there’s virtually no solar panels on new-build housing? Because in 2015 the government killed off the previous government’s plan to make new homes carbon neutral from 2016. The direct result of that is homes are still being built today to poor energy efficiency standards. They’re cold and expensive to heat, with few solar panels. Gas boilers are standard too, with heat pumps a rarity – much of Europe is way ahead of us on this.
It’s all about priorities. All this time the government should have been spending significant money on energy efficiency and supporting renewables and energy storage, but instead it pays the fossil fuel industry billions of pounds a year through tax breaks and subsidies – then rides to the aid of the public, saying it shouldn’t have to bear the costs of the net-zero transition. Not very honest.
It’s not often mentioned that most of the funding for net-zero will come from commercial and institutional investment, not government investment. The government has two main jobs here:
- To provide policies that kickstart the new technologies, help them grow, and reduce their costs.
The price of TVs, computers and mobile phones all dropped dramatically when they were adopted at scale, and the same thing has already happened with solar panels and wind turbines. The government knows all this, and the support packages it provided earlier for electric vehicles and currently for heat pumps are helping those technologies follow the same cost reduction path as they become more widespread. So why not celebrate this success story?
- Provide funding to enable local authorities, the commercial sector and the community sector to co-ordinate large-scale low-carbon rollouts.
The government record on this is woeful, and this has been repeatedly flagged by its own Climate Change Committee, which is seriously concerned that we’re on track to miss our 2030 emissions targets.
But rather than re-divert those fossil fuel subsidies into supporting local authorities, the government is choosing to create a culture war around climate change because it thinks this will help it win the next general election.
But people of all political persuasions want immediate action on climate change, and they’re sick of being lied to.
It’s not a vote winner.