MEPs put lunch before Climate Change

Vote on the Eickhout Report on emissions reductions postponed

Last Thursday (June 23rd) in a mini-plenary session in Brussels, the European parliament was due to vote on a proposal to increase the EU’s 2020 emissions reduction target from 20% to 30% — the Eickhout Report.  In London, the Coalition is committed to support the 30% figure (perhaps as a concession to the Lib-Dems).

Before the vote, those diligent folk at the Guardian — Fiona Harvey this time, not Leo Hickman — were on the e-mail to Tory MEPs asking how we were going to vote.  In fact we MEPs have always taken a pragmatic view of these issues.  Our current delegation leader Martin Callanan, a very sound man, sits on the environment committee, and as rapporteur was instrumental in getting a settlement on vehicle emissions which was tolerable to Rolls, Bentley, Jaguar and Land Rover.

My view is that I oppose all emissions restrictions.  Martin’s much more measured approach is that we are happy to support the 30% figure, just so long as the rest of the world gives the same commitment.  Until then, we vote NO.

The Guardian built up a story of a huge row between Cameron and his MEPs.  Downing Street enforcers were going to beat up on us.  But it didn’t look like that from our end.  There were a few amicable conversations with London in which each side understood the other’s position.

I had been asked to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics Show on this issue, and had to duck out of voting for ten minutes to do so (missing a key vote on EU financial regulation, as it happened) to talk on camera.  They had tried to get a Minister to speak for the 30% policy, but had to settle for Duncan Hames, Lib-Dem MP for Chippenham.

Did I oppose 30% because of economic concerns, or because I didn’t believe in man-made climate change? asked Andrew Neil.  “Actually”, I replied, “because it’s bad for the environment”.

A 30% emissions target would drive up energy prices in the EU.  Jobs and production and investment would move out of the EU, and into other jurisdictions with lower environmental standards.  We’d replace a ton of CO2 in the UK with two tons in China.  That would do no one any good — except the Chinese.

Hames replied that I was way behind the curve, as (he said) I didn’t know about the huge investment the Chinese were making in renewables.  Oh yes I do, Duncan!  I didn’t get chance to come back on that one, but Andrew Neil made the point anyway.  The Chinese are indeed putting a big investment into renewables — so that they can sell PV systems to the gullible West.  For their own use, they’re building a new coal-fired power station every week, and no nonsense about carbon capture and storage.

I pointed out that higher energy bills would drive a million more households into fuel poverty, and that pensioners would die — literally die of cold — because of our policies.  Hames flannelled on about something called “the green deal”, and insisted that energy prices were only going up because of global oil prices.  Again, Neil shot him down before I could get back.  “Global energy prices are going up, but renewables subsidies are driving them up even faster”.  Dead right.  Hames also tried to make a point about developing our green economy and creating green jobs, apparently unaware that a number of recent studies show that each “green job” destroys several real jobs in the real economy, and that green jobs tend to be short-lived.

Neil asked if I had been leant on by Downing Street enforcers.  I told him that I’d heard nothing from London, but would let him know if the position changed.  Then Joan Bakewell chipped in (she was there on a different topic).  Green policies were for the long term, she said, and we mustn’t be distracted by short-term impacts.  Paraphrase: if a few thousand more pensioners die of cold, it doesn’t matter too much.  And remember, Joan: if we don’t have a short term, we sure as hell won’t have a long term.

Joan Bakewell used to be the thinking man’s crumpet.  Now she seems to be the green zealot’s apologist.

I got back into the hemicycle in good time for the Eickhout Report.  But we’d been voting since noon (Brux time), and it was now 1:40.  Tummies were rumbling.  An MEP got up to propose that the rest of the day’s business be postponed to our next Strasbourg session (w/c July 3rd).  The acting President, as protocol demanded, put the proposal to defer to a vote of the House, and it was carried by two to one (we Conservatives, notwithstanding hunger, voted against).  So we wait until July for a result.

Good to see that the MEPs have a proper sense of priorities, and recognise that lunch is a far weightier matter than Climate Change.  And me?  I got straight into the car and started burning the diesel along the highway to Calais.

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6 Responses to MEPs put lunch before Climate Change

  1. Well done Roger! I have just sent for your book and I’ve just got word via the Artists Against Wind Farms that, “a renewable energy man who has worked in Denmark, who was invited to speak by the Green Party, said that he thought within 3 years large wind turbines would be dead as an issue, as it is being realised that they achieve nothing.”
    Also I spent the morning of the 23rd June in London attending the Westminster Forum on the Green Investment Bank. They were even more clueless than I expected.
    There are still great doubts about the funding and what the green bank should be about. They estimate it will need £500billion from the private sector to be added to the £3billion taken from the public, and are worried that green will be a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, fad rather than a long-term policy. All of the ‘snake oil salesmen’ were doing their best to put on a show’. But it was all hype/spin and wishful thinking. In the real business world they would have been torn to shreds – but this isn’t reality is it? No, it’s taxpayers monopoly cash, which doesn’t count.
    But they did admit there is a big question mark over the flag ship policy – the ‘Green Deal’. The project on such a massive sale – 26 million homes to meet the carbon budget targets for energy efficiency are impossible to reach re. manpower, resources and timescale. 
    I mean a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation would tell you that.  They also said their research showed that the public would reject the ‘Green Deal’ because the home loans needed of £10 -15,000 to insulate homes would be too expensive with interests at 8% or even 0%!! And would not result in any saving in energy bills. So a real folly with so much egg on their faces. 
    Luciana Berger MP (who was dressed in a very expensive cocktail party dress) was chairperson, and most of carbonista and green cronies were there, including Lord Oxburgh, but I got a few comments in such as my comment to Mark Prisk MP: “History tell us that the Government is not good at picking winners – but it sure can pick looser. Like alternative energy.
    In fact, alternative energy stocks ranked 39th out of 39 industrial sectors examined by the FT in 2010 and they fell by a staggering 52.3 per cent over the course of the year. Alternative energy is the worst investment possible. We oppose the Green Investment Bank. Don’t throw £3billion of public money at this high risk venture!”
    And, “There is a great deal of uncertainty and a lack of trust in the IPCC – which is proving to be a highly politicise organisation, which draws no lines of distinction between the science and environmental activism.
    The need to decarbonise the economy in short order and the lack of unbiased evidence that wind and solar can meet our energy needs has to be debated in a more open and balanced way.
    For example the John Muir Trust’ Report on “wind farms research concludes that they are not a fit and proper solutions to: the perceived need to cut carbon emissions, the growing demand for energy security, and will have significant human and environmental and economic impacts.”
    As it stands the public has been left out of the loop – we have been shut out – on such a major issue of decarbonisation and wind and solar the public must be consulted. There has been no referendum on these matters.
    Gas from shale would be a better alternative to wind, because it is low in cost and in CO2 and would solve the problem, of fuel poverty – let’s not forget the 30,000 excess winter deaths last year.”
    Was it worth getting up so early to go to London and £27 rail fare? I’m not so sure.

    BTW have you seen this?

    TPA POLL on the Green Investment Bank 44% support cancelling plans to give £3billion of our cash to the Green (Crony) Investment Bank and 33% of the public opposed the GIB all together.


    Now there were about 150 of the carbonista at this meeting and me – but where were the other representatives of the 44% of the public that don’t want the Green Investment Bank? We really need more sceptics/climate realists/economic realists to show up, stand up and be counted.

  2. Jonathan Ward says:

    To save myself too much time, I’ll just re-post a comment earlier in the week to another article you wrote, which stands true here. It seems evidence based policy or rhetoric is something you wish to adhere too, especially when talking about China and renewables:
    You make a lot of references to what China is doing – but only to their coal power generation. You might want to have a look at -an interesting discussion on the challenges facing China to be ‘green’ and their ambitions. They currently have around 10% of their energy from renewable sources, whereas I believe the figure in the UK is around 6.5%. – the figures here show that China too has a similar target to the EU and UK, and actually does have by far the largest renewables capacity in the world ( They are also starting to embrace electric car production and trying to further expand their renewable industry to cover more on heating and other sources of power consumption. The rationale seems to be reducing dependency on dwindling internal resources and dependency on foreign resources where possible, as well as reducing emissions, improving air quality and stimulating an internal market.

    “Smart guys, those Chinese.”

    As for the other points, they’re just so generalising and full of hype.

    The Green Deal, which you dismiss, is about reducing bills in homes, and getting people into employment, through measures such as improved heating, insulation, energy metering and so on.

    How is that destined to leave people in the cold?

    As for “unaware that a number of recent studies show that each “green job” destroys several real jobs ” I have only seen one study, and I have seen other studies that suggest the opposite. For a start, why do you brandish this word Green as if you were Jeremy Clarkson in politics (and reinforce that image by finishing off with how you will burn diesel on the road)? You know full well that the environmental sector comprises such, needed, positions as asbestos surveying an removal, restoring contaminated land, flood risk protection, recycling, air pollution, conservation, waterways protection. Are you suggesting they are short-lived? Needless jobs? There are a lot of people in your constituency who contribute a lot through environmental and ‘green’ jobs, and you appear to be doing them a gross-disservice, including those who have been working hard to build resilience to weather impacts through climate change programmes. That saves money.

    Perhaps you simply meant Green jobs as those being just directly related to two areas of interest to you – climate change and renewable technologies (although from previous blogs it seems you benefit from Feed in Tariffs, so that seems to be a strange position to take).

    As for your paraphrasing of Joan Bakewell, it seems a little crude to be suggesting that, and quite a low attack. If you look at the subsidies issue, you also know full well, nuclear would not be in our energy mix were it not for massive, truly massive, state support, insurance guarantees, top-ups and subsidies (look at British Energy a few years ago when it went private and had to come cap in hand). Look also at how Chris Huhne is having to dodge the subsidy issue on nuclear. Those subsidies will also push bills for the public, but perhaps through a loss of other services if it is not added to the direct costs of energy.

    Perhaps your argument should be against the method of subsidy investment then?

    • How is the green deal destined to leave people in the cold? Oh Jonathan, Jonathan! Because the green deal won’t deliver (see the comment by Fay Kelly-Tuncay above), while higher energy prices and increased fuel poverty are here and now. That’s how!

  3. Problems with the ‘Green Deal’.
    As I mentioned the scale of the green deal is in doubt. About 14m households would need to be insulated in the first phase of the policy. Retrofitting 14m homes by 2020 amounts to over 1.7m a year, or about 4,800 homes a day! That will be a massive step change, which would require an extraordinary ramping up of the supply chain and the training of engineers.

    Germany, for example carried out only about 100,000 retrofits a year under its similar programme.
    Now let’s look at the costs. For the ‘green deal’ to work it has to be financially attractive and householders must be “hassle free” when installing insulation.

    The ‘green deal’ will only work for consumers if they are presented with low-cost loans.

    So, how much money could households save under the green deal? The answer is NONE!

    Energy price hikes (due to wind farmers, solar and nuclear), inflation due to CO2 taxes, and the types of retrofit undertaken and the state of the house involved, ( older properties – higher costs) make the ‘green deal’ even more economically unrealistic.

    The think tank “E3G’s analysis suggests that even by taking conservative assumptions about future prices, and optimistic assumptions about how well the energy efficiency retrofits will work, taking on a green deal loan at commercial rates does not make financial sense for most households.
Ingrid Holmes, author of the E3G report, gives an example of a basic investment scenario in which a whole house retrofit costing £11,000 delivered 50% energy savings and loan repayments were spread over 25 years. “Our analysis indicates that for the average household, the economics of green deal investments as currently planned do not stack up for the rational investor.”

    The annual energy bill for an average household was calculated at £1,029 a year, meaning a good retrofit would save just over £500 a year. But this is not enough to cover the costs of borrowing £11,000 or more at anything other than a heavily subsidised rate of interest of around 2%, at today’s energy prices.

    Holmes calculated that a £15,000 loan offered at 0% interest and that delivered a 50% energy saving would result in energy bills lower by nearly £2,500 over 25 years, but the same loan offered at 2% interest would result in a loss to the householder of more than £1,700 over 25 years.

    The figures get even worse if a more realistic estimate of the potential energy savings is used. A £15,000 loan, even if offered at 0% interest, that delivered a 35% energy saving offered would result in a £2,777 loss over 25 years.
At more commercial rates of 8% or more, the economics of these energy-saving projects would be “unmanageable”.

    SEE 19th May 2011, The Guardian

    We have to live in the real world and put people on low-fixed incomes first.

    According to Ofgem decarbonising electricity will add another £600 to our electricity bills by 2020! Fuel poverty is best tackled in the short to medium term by lowering energy costs and that means getting rid of the Climate Change Act, carbon dioxide emissions reductions targets – which are meaningless if other countries don’t follow – and expensive wind farms, which have to be backed up by gas and coal power stations. It is just plain stupid to pay double the costs for energy!

    As it stands the only ones to benefit from this decarbonisation policy madness are rich landowners with wind farms and the green elite.

    • Or to put it briefly for Jonathan’s benefit: savings on energy costs from domestic insulation will be small, and it will take years for the Green Deal to reach those who need it — if it ever does. Meantime price hikes are here and now, and will overwhelm any Green Deal savings.

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