Chris Huhne is reported in the Guardian as having decided to conduct an investigation into the extent to which the decision of Tory MEPs to oppose an increase in the EU’s emissions reduction targets from 20 to 30% by 2020 was influenced by fossil fuel lobbyists.
This shows a combination of naïveté and hubris — not to mention good old-fashioned downright ignorance — that almost beggars belief. But first, a short apologia. I was quoted, correctly, in the Guardian, as saying “So far as I am concerned, Chris Huhne can investigate whatever the hell he wants. I just wish he’d spend more time investigating the vast economic damage which his green policies are doing”. But when I Tweeted the Guardian link, I added “Two words for Mr. Huhne. S*d off”. Perhaps a contradiction?
Not really. I’d much rather Mr. Huhne spent as much time as possible investigating just about anything at all, so long as he spent less time promoting his deranged anti-growth environmental policies. But I was just a little bit piqued by his implicit assumption that he could sit in judgement on Conservative MEPs. We were elected to serve the interests of our constituents and our country — not the absurd prejudices of a Lib-Dem Minister. Hence my use of a mild expletive. But I am happy to apologise to those readers of a nervous disposition who may have been alarmed by it.
As our Tory MEP Leader Martin Callanan MEP has pointed out, our opposition to the proposed 30% target is long-standing, and is based on our assessment of the costs and benefits of such a move. It was not influenced by lobbyists of any kind. Indeed I have checked my list of lobbyist contacts for Jan/June this year (yes, a new piece of bureaucracy, I’m afraid) and I have not seen or heard from any fossil-fuel lobbyist whatever.
It is not my place to speak for my colleagues in the Conservative delegation, or in the wider ECR group. But I may, I hope, give my assessment of their views. I would say that the great majority agree with the position set out by Martin, that a new and draconian emissions reduction target, undertaken by Europe alone, and not followed by other major economic players, would do damage to our economies in Europe which would be entirely disproportionate to any potential mitigation of climate change, even if you accept the IPCC’s Great Carbon Myth. Meantime I personally, and a number of colleagues, share the view that the IPCC’s “scientific consensus” is neither (A) scientific; nor (B) a consensus, and therefore that emissions reductions in pursuit of climate mitigation are utterly futile.
Huhne’s implied assumption that Conservative MEPs would abandon a principled position as a result of lobbying by industry is not only absurd (as he ought to know, as a former MEP). It is also deeply insulting, and I for one am offended.
Absurd and insulting, but also downright ignorant. If he knew the first thing about the climate debate, he’d know he’s ten years out of date. These days, fossil fuel companies are much more likely to be lobbying for green initiatives than against. First, for PR reasons, as they seek to seize the zeitgeist of the times. But second, because they’ve become rent-seekers, with their heads firmly in the subsidy trough.
Huhne’s only fig-leaf of an excuse for his behaviour is to point out that the Coalition government (of which he is such a striking ornament) is committed to supporting the increase in the target to 30%. In a sense he is right. But just how committed? Of course I have not discussed this with other Ministers in the Coalition, but consider what George Osborne wrote in The Sunday Telegraph today: “When we’re faced with choices in government, we should always choose growth”. That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of Huhne’s anti-growth policies. It doesn’t sound like call to undermine the UK economy by giving us the most expensive electricity in the world.
Clearly Conservative Ministers, for presentational reasons, can’t easily abandon their support for the 30% target. But I rather fancy that Cameron and Osborne (and perhaps even Business Minister Vince Cable) may be privately glad that Tory MEPs got them off that particular hook, by helping to defeat the 30% target in Brussels.